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Game Over:Spontaneous Gaming - Games haven gotten predictable and lack spontaneity. Player choices and random events that hurt or help the player will ensure the longevity of a game by continuing the immersion of the fantasy for longer than normal.

Christopher Skurzewski, Blogger

September 1, 2016

5 Min Read

This morning as I sat down to my laptop with a cup of a coffee and a smoke I found myself staring blankly at my screen. I asked myself, what I need to do to make my game feel “Complete”.


By that I mean, we play games to get high scores, finish a story or to compete against others.

For years my mindset when it comes to gaming has drastically changed. MMO’s and story driven games seem to lack something that I had a hard time identifying.


But today I can say for certain that it is this phrase “To what end?”


Everyone has a different reason for playing games, whether it’s to pass time while at work or waiting for something or someone. Others play because they enjoy the challenge. Some people play because it allows them to live out a virtual fantasy that they never would have an option of living in real life.


Which brings this more into a question of philosophy than gaming. Why do we play? What makes us continue playing?When it’s over or we lose, why do we play it again?


Much like the questions of the universe these have plagued my mind. If I’m going to make a game, I don’t want it to be a sandbox game where the player has no goals. While that can be fun, it almost mimics real life more than we realize. We ultimately have the option to do what we want in life to a degree, but “to what end”?


MMO’s go on forever with no end in sight. My major issue with no-end game scenarios is that often times it leads to complacency. By that I mean the player becomes attached and invested to their character and gear. Not only that but it rarely creates spontaneous events that happen in real life - whether to help or hinder you. Without spontaneity it’s not really as interesting or immersive once the formula used is figured out. Once you see behind the curtain you know that the world your character is in, is all a sham.


I don’t want to play in a world where I come to realize the end result is my character has absolutely no influence on the world in which I play. There is no effect or result to that of the characters actions other than personal injury perhaps or loss of gear and stats.


I believe a new type of gaming will appear in the future one that allows us to change the way we play our favorite games. I imagine that we will have long lasting effects because of the actions our characters make that influence the world in which you are playing(Think about Fallout 3 and NPC reactions based on your choices).


I imagine the that at one point media will be like movies and those old school books(Flip to page 18 to go into the mummy’s tomb or flip to page 46 to nuke it) that will require decision making to get a good ending to your satisfaction.


Perhaps we will “Play/Control” the characters in a movie that will allow us to achieve multiple different story endings while at the same time giving the player the reason to replay the movie/game more than once to experience the maximum possible scenarios that exist(if there is a maximum).


Just like life, the fate of your character will be in your own hands. With that life you will choose to do things that might kill you or perhaps save the world? But before that happens do you fall in love with your beautiful co-star/character or do you act like a jerk and maroon them on a desolated planet with no chance of survival? The potential is limitless.


While these ideas are interesting it still does little to answer my question of how to create the feeling of being “in control” while playing my game. All games are set up with a limited number of responses allowing for a limited amount of scenario’s for the player to experience. To me this is a very limited version of an immersive fantasy. Which is why I struggle to find a way to embrace a player's interest.


I don’t want to make a game that is so formula based that it allows for most minds to identify it and ruin the mystery of my “magic trick”. I want to keep the illusion as long as possible, forcing the player to make choices that are both good and bad.


We need to give the player choices that will permanently reside throughout the narrative of the game. This will give the player more of a feeling that they matter and that their choices have consequences much like real life.


So perhaps our games shouldn’t be dictated by that of the developers idea of what a suitable ending for a game is, but perhaps leave that decision up to the player.


One great example of an random event that I will always remember, was when my newbie character was attacked and killed by the Lizard/Rat men invasion in Ultima Online(T2A). Things like that really peaked my interest and I didn’t mind losing all my stuff because ………. Hey that’s life and it’s unpredictable.(At least it was to my newbie self having no clue what was going on or when it would happen).


So I’ll sit here drinking my coffee and smoking, thinking about the long term aspects of my game beyond point and click mechanics for gratification or grinding for levels and gear. Instead I’ll think of new ways to shake up my character’s narrative and put their fate in their own hands.


I need more coffee…….grrr

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