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Defining the power of imagination in games

In a new feature, writer and researcher Jason Tocci discusses why games appeal to players, and in his section on imagination, he explains the differences and similarities between Skyrim and Mass Effect.

April 19, 2012

1 Min Read

In a new feature, writer and researcher Jason Tocci discusses why games appeal to players, and in his section on imagination, he explains the differences and similarities between Skyrim and Mass Effect. "Imagination refers to practices of pretend, with particular regard to storytelling and simulation. Related appeals include spectatorship ("watching" stories), directorship ("making" stories), roleplaying (pretending to take on another kind of identity), and exploration (pretending to exist within a pretend landscape)," writes Tocci. On Skyrim, he writes, "There's room for roleplaying -- many players generate quite a bit of back story and additional context for their characters -- but the game itself doesn't really ask players to do this, at least not directly." "In contrast, Mass Effect offers less in the way of exploration, giving players a more linear path to explore, but it more directly guides roleplaying and focuses more on spectatorship, with cinematic cutscenes and clearly defined personality options for the protagonist," writes Tocci. In the article, Tocci argues that identifying player types is not as useful as determining how games appeal to people. "Models of player personality and demographics are very attractive in their elegant simplicity," he writes. "Nevertheless, it may be more productive to describe engagement with games according to a variety of approaches to play itself." "Players exhibit different preferences and behaviors with different games or in different social contexts, which makes it problematic to claim that anything so fixed as personality or an inherent 'type' is at the root of enjoyment." The full feature, in which he examines five different types of appeal, is live now on Gamasutra.

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