What Makes Games so Appealing?
What Makes Games so Appealing?
This is a question that never comes up in my presentations:
“What makes games so appealing?”
Usually people already know the answer. So, they don’t ask the question.
Lots of people have different reasons why they play games: because they like the characters or the story. Because they want to escape from their everyday lives (if only for a few minutes). Some like the challenge that games provide while other people like socializing around games.
But another reason that makes so appealing? It’s because they are constantly changing
Games have come a long way. They arose from the ground, to the mantle, and eventually to the table. They evolved from bits of stone and wood, to carved pieces, tiles, and hexagons. Now they exist on multiple devices. Everything from computers and consoles, to smart phone and tablets.
Games open up lots of discussion points.
I speak about how people play them. How users consume how. How designers create them, and how history remembers them.
Sid Meier indicated that a game is a “series of interesting choices.”
That has been my experience with games. In fact, you might have created a broken game if one choice is consistently better than the others. If that is the case, then why make any other choice? And, if you can’t make any other choices, then why offer any choices at all?
Of course, there are many thousands of games for individuals to play and enjoy. Playing games are how we primarily interact with them. But not all games are for all people.
I remember playing tic-tac-toe in my childhood. That game was an interesting one for my young mind as I tried to outsmart my family in order to win. But over time, I discovered the pattern and realized that it was no longer a game to me. The choices left were no longer interesting.
Have games evolved past the point of pattern recognition to rely on interesting choices once again?
Yes and no.
Think about Dance Dance Revolution. What are the interesting choices there? There are buttons you must hit and steps you must take. But the game rewards you for only making the correct choices at the correct time. So, what are the choices here? To step or not to step?
On its face Dance Dance Revolution doesn’t appear to offer any interesting choices. You either step or you don’t. But the game, the process, is still enjoyable. It would have to be in order for it to have been such a popular game.
If DDR tells us anything it is that a game can still be fun even if it appears to lack a series of interesting choices. That game, that interactive experience, still existed. It still captivated and engaged legions of fans.
So, if game design is only about creating a series of interesting choices, then we might be going down a dark path.
Rather, games have changed. Games have evolved by innovating. Designers took something that might have been previously considered dull and made them interesting. New games make these experiences novel again.
Take for example the series of wildly popular simulators: Train Simulator, Truck Simulator, and Flight Simulator. In order for these titles to succeed they want to be as true to the source materials as possible. That is to be as realistic a simulator as possible. But how can these be fun?
To others these games are occupations that one does in order to earn a living. But these games are live examples of innovation. The designers have taken something previously unengaging and turned them into a game.
Maybe the most popular example of this is “The Sims.” In the Sims you act as an all knowing and all seeing being: controlling the lives of your individual sims. How has this become a popular game? Isn’t controlling a life… what we do everyday?
So, what makes games so appealing?
Is it because of choices? Is it because of realistic experiences? Is it because you can become a god over simulations of everyday people?
I think that games are so appealing because they continue to innovate and change.
Games are as much a reflection of ourselves and our society as any other medium.
Games will continue to grow to adapt. They will change to the different ways we consume content, interface with our world, connect with others, and socialize with our peers.
Games have evolved before. They can keep changing.
That is what makes games interesting to me.
Juul, J. (n.d.). Just what is it that makes Computer Games so Different, so Appealing? Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://www.jesperjuul.net/text/justwhatisit.html