This article comes a day late because… I’m not going to offer an excuse. You’re just going to have to live with the mystery.
I assume that most of us who have played games have at one point (at least) come across a non-playable character that we became attached to. But sometimes we don’t become attached to characters who the game makers want us to get attached to, and sometimes we get more attached than we are supposed to. While quality narrative can do wonders for making a character appealing, I have found that players often base their connections on the mechanics of the character instead (and this sometimes causes problems).
Today we are going to play pretend. We will pretend to be in the process of developing a game with the goal of being worth a particular price tag. Since we are ambitious, we want to be just like the AAAs and charge a hefty $60 for our game. But we are also familiar with the hours-to-dollars assessment people use to judge if the game provided enough entertainment to be worth the pricetag. If we use the price of a new DVD as a measuring stick we can guess that our players will want their entertainment on a 10:1 ratio ($20 = 2 hours of entertainment), so for our $60 price we’ll need to provide six hours of game time. That can be a lofty task for a single player game, so today’s article will be delving into the wonderful world of design mechanics/strategies to extend game time (for better or for worse).
As the title says, games are art. I begin with this because I have gone through multiple false starts in getting this argument going. While I believe most other gamers would agree with me, making this topic seem rather pointless, I have also noticed that a good deal of the rest of the world still does not acknowledge games as an artistic medium. The debate over the artistic merit of games was quite loud years ago when Roger Ebert declared, “Games can never be art.” and since it has quieted down. Unfortunately I think the quiet only really occurred because the only people speaking were gamers. Well, that’s still going to be true today, but perhaps I can at least outline my argument well enough that if a non-gamer comes across it they can begin to understand what this medium means to us.