Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 5, 2011
According to the CRPG Addict,
If I were to boil it all down, it would come down to this: You use your imagination, and invest yourself into the game. Although as he suggests, a lot of that depends upon how well the game allows you to do that. I might suggest, alternatively, is you get out of it what you put into it, with a multiplier provided by the game. A good game has a high multiplier value. A crappy game approaches zero.
I read Scott McCloud’s acclaimed book, Understanding Comics, a few years ago and it really opened my eyes to things. The most powerful concept I learned was how more abstract art can be more compelling, as it allows the reader / viewer to project themselves onto the page. A detailed, more realistic character comes with baggage. A more abstract, cartoony character is more of a blank slate, compelling the reader to fill in the details – usually on a subconscious level.
I think that applies equally to games. Thus the continued success of the “silent hero” archetype in RPGs.
And I think it was easier in some older games than in the newer ones. Especially now with near photo-realistic graphics where designers are so focused on making everything visual. In the old days, we could see plain ol’ tile graphics and imagine that we’re in the middle of a busy, bustling town, streets clogged with vendors and townspeople. We understood the graphics to be as much symbolic as literal. Now, however, we’re led to believe that if it’s not on the screen, it’s not in the scene. It’s a more passive way to play, and as cool as the graphics are today (we were, after all, waiting decades for them to get to this level), they can’t compare to a vivid imagination.
That’s what those fans of ASCII roguelikes keep trying to tell us, after all…
And that’s not to say I’m willing to dump my video card anytime soon, either. Or that I’m going to start playing RPGs with quite the intensity of “creating my own narrative” as the CRPG Addict.
But I’m definitely keen on the core idea here: A good RPG should allow for this, and allow for “non-optimal” play. It should make you feel (relatively) safe to explore, that a single wrong thing said to an NPC won’t cripple their hope of completing the game successfully. There should be room to “fill in the blanks” with your imagination. And in the rush to streamline the interface, don’t go quite so nuts with optimizing out so many of the player’s options.
As commenters wanted to remind me on Monday, there’s more than one way to play a game.
Filed Under: Design, General - Comments: 8 Comments to Read