Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Elements of Game Design

All games are based upon fundamental elements, the key things being content, background and rules; these building blocks are what set the foundation to all games, breaking up the overall game into these categories:

  • Character (who, or what you play as)
  • Setting (the world the game is contained within)
  • Motivation (the reason to keep playing)
  • Threat (The enemies and obstacles you face)
  • Reward (what you get out of playing, the payoff)
  • Music (sets the tone, ambience and mood)

We are aware of these things throughout all games by comparing both older and more recent titles, and by doing so we see the key features are evident in all. 

A game such as Pac Man has all of the things mentioned, you play as Pac Man a yellow, cheese-like guy, its set inside what is essentially a maze, the motivation is to obtain and beat the high score, The threat are the Ghosts that chase you, when you die you are visually rewarded with the little death animation of Pac Man, and the music builds up as you play creating tension. If you compare all of these things to games of today you can see that their clear to see, regardless of how complicated a games mechanics are in today’s market. 
A key change in factor to games today is immersion. As soon as games made the transition from 2D to 3D, the extra dimension gave people the feeling that they were actually in the game instead of just in control of a sprite they were watching on screen. With the introduction of 3d brought with it the 3rd person shooter, and even though 2D games had utilised viewing a game from the perspective of the player before, being able to move within the game world around you took it to the new level, and games such as Golden eye, Call of Duty and FEAR  (amongst numerous others) gave players the chance to dive straight in, making the sense of escapism an even greater element in videogames. 

Another thing that continues to be pushed further and further is interactivity in games; From the earliest examples of sonic tapping his foot when you stand him still for long periods of time to show his impatience, up to modern games where you can literally walk down a New York street and have passing pedestrians swear at you when you barge into them… ways and methods have always tried to be implemented, to allow the player the experience of immersion and to make them feel like the world they are buying into is moving and living around them as they play. 
Its not just how graphically realistic and true to its real world counterpart a game is that helps in immersing the player into a world though, otherwise games such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Mario, Pokemon and Zelda wouldn’t have become so popular. With games such as these people tend to empathise with the characters and worlds more than they would with a more realistic game, such as Call Of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. I think this relates back to the point I brought up before about escapism; a large majority of gamers play games to escape the stress of the real world, and regardless of how realistic a game is, being able to do extraordinary things and disassociate themselves from real world events is what people look for. With games that are set further from the real world the easier it is to become lost in it, and with most of the games I mentioned in this category, they are so well made with all of the elements needed that they engage their audience and allow them to believe the setting and characters they are playing as, regardless of how obscure they are in design.

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