Seeking an experience – games need to deliver

Posted: January 13, 2012 in Spontaniac
Tags: , , , ,

I have been reading some books about Game Design and it’s really interesting how slow the evolution of games has been.  Don’t get me wrong, the technology now at the designers fingertips enables the creation of truly stunning graphics, but the actual ‘experience’ is largely the same  – with a few exceptions.  This can’t just be because designers want to play it safe.  Surely, like with other technology such as 3D, the focus of the designer, or filmmaker, is how best to use the technology at their fingertips to create a visceral extravaganza, rather than a compelling and engaging ‘experience’ in itself.

want to play?

Want to play?

As Jesse Schell put it in ‘The Art of Game Design’ – without the experience the game is worthless.   I find the word ‘experience’ a rather interesting one as it is used often in the world of digital as a catch-all for some form of design objective: i.e. we need to design the user experience for this website.  But from a human perspective, an experience is something truly unique; something that cannot be shared; something based on ‘feelings’ that stir from within.  For example, I’ve seen so many movies that have truly moved me and stirred emotions and feelings from within that I would class them as an experience: same goes for concerts.  I’ve travelled and stood looking out across beautiful landscapes that have made the hairs on my neck stand up. Now they were experiences!  I’ve been on nights out with friends where random events occur that result in magical memories that will never be repeated. But have I played a game that matches any of these?  The answer is maybe yes, but the ones that stick in my mind were with friends, face to face, in some form of social context and the experiences wasn’t necessarily the game itself.  Personally, I’ve found modern videogames impressive and entertaining, but not memorable.  Yes, each is an experience in the sense that everything is an experience, but not one that I can think of has evoked many feelings – positive or negative.   Of course, many would disagree, but as I said early, experiences are truly unique so all those people can b*****r off 🙂

What modern games do provide is escapism and fantasy.  They also have become more social in the digital sense, which to some adds an important dimension.  At least in a game you can feel directly involved, something that is much harder to do with films and books – where one must rely on the power of imagination in order to step outside the linear story.

To create games that deliver a real ‘experience’, the designers must attack our senses to provoke those feelings that help form lasting memories.  That has to be the goal.  Using our understanding of the game design techniques that motivate and excite us and applying these in the real world is a good starting point. Thanks to the conversion of the Internet, film, mobile and geo-location services to name a few, blurring the line between the digital and physical worlds now provides us with a truly unique opportunity to create new experiences that deliver that goal.  These truly are exciting times.

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