In a new Gamasutra feature
, Xbox Live Arcade Team designer and producer Scott Brodie delves into the necessity of truth in game design -- where it is and where it needs to go.
In this excerpt, Brodie notes that games already reflect many truths, often in ways that have become so rote as to be taken for granted -- but if the medium is to break beyond its traditional stereotypes, it must seek out new truths:
"If we want truth in games, our task is to integrate rules into game systems so that they reveal something truthful about how the world works. Before we explore how to craft rules in this way, it is useful first to recognize how current design trends have caused truth in games to be obscured.
"The problem is not that games are lacking truth; in fact, many popular games and mechanics already derive their fun from underlying truths.
"Take for example everyone's favorite gaming trope: the health bar representing a value ranging from 0 to 100. By representing health as a simple, quantifiable number, designers have allowed players of all ages to build metaphors that help them understand a basic yet important concept: survival.
"Interactions with a health bar show us that our health can deteriorate, that we can heal over time if we allow ourselves to rest after damage is taken, that sustaining enough damage can lead to death, etc.
"Survival is a fundamental concept all humans have to master, though modern advances have thankfully made these lessons less immediately applicable to our everyday lives.
"The trouble here is two-fold. At an industry level, it seems we only make games about survival. The primary genre of survival games, the shooter, sees hundreds of new entries released each year and at the core of each is some sort of simple health metaphor.
"Occasionally new games come along that define new health paradigms, and some of those even shed light onto more subtle truths about survival (for example, compare Metal Gear Solid 1 to MGS3; each explores survival, but the latter explores an array of more detailed truths by allowing players to damage and heal individual limbs).
"But ultimately these games end up exploring the same narrow band of truth, making the industry as a whole look uninspired and adolescent by comparison to other popular art forms. We could be exploring a broader set of truths."
The full four-page feature, including numerous examples and parallels to other forms, is now available to read on Gamasutra