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Feature: 'Game Feel - The Secret Ingredient'

Game designer and lecturer Steve Swink <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2322/game_feel_the_secret_ingredient.php">takes a close look</a> at the "overlooked phenomenon" of game feel, referencing titles such as Super Mario 64, Zuma, and Donkey

Leigh Alexander, Contributor

November 23, 2007

2 Min Read

However you describe it, it’s hard to deny that the sensation of controlling a digital object is one of the most powerful -- and overlooked -- phenomena ever to emerge from the intersection of people and computers, says Flashbang Studios' Steve Swink. In this latest Gamasutra-exclusive feature, Swink examines "game feel," what it really means and how it's created. Swink breaks down "game feel" into six categories -- Input, response, context, polish, metaphor and rules, and uses Super Mario 64 as a highlight example to explain how each of the factors come into play, and how designers can incorporate them: "If Mario has nothing to interact with, the fact that he has these acrobatic abilities is meaningless. Without a wall, there can be no wall kick. At the most pragmatic level, the placement of objects in the world is just another set of variables against which to balance movement speed, jump height, and all the other parameters that define motion. In game feel terms, constraints define sensation. If objects are packed in, spaced tightly relative to the avatar’s motion, the game will feel clumsy and oppressive, causing anxiety and frustration. As objects get spaced further apart, the feel becomes increasingly trivialized, making tuning unimportant and numbing thoughtless joy into thoughtless boredom (most Massively Multiplayer Online games suffer from this phenomenon to some degree.) For this reason, it’s a good idea to build some kind of test environment as you create the system of variables you’ll eventually tune into good game feel. This is the Magic Garden of game feel: if you can make it exceedingly pleasurable to interact with the game at this most basic level you’ve got a superb foundation for enjoyable gameplay." Discussing polish, Swink explains how small details can provide deeper cues to the way objects interact: "When prototyping, I like to list these cues out and sort them in order of importance to the physical impression that should be conveyed. As an example, consider the goal of making a game that feels squishy. This is a good place to start because to say that something is squishy implies visuals, sounds, tactile sensation. It provides a great benchmark: if something is squishy, it will deform in a certain way, like a water balloon or silly putty." You can now read the full feature, which features Swink's in-depth from a designer's perspective on the multifaceted and nuanced issue of creating a game that feels just right (no reg. required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

About the Author(s)

Leigh Alexander


Leigh Alexander is Editor At Large for Gamasutra and the site's former News Director. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Slate, Paste, Kill Screen, GamePro and numerous other publications. She also blogs regularly about gaming and internet culture at her Sexy Videogameland site. [NOTE: Edited 10/02/2014, this feature-linked bio was outdated.]

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