We all like a good game, but what exactly makes a game “good?”
Games are designed to suite all tastes for every kind of gamer. Whether you like rich developed story lines or going down corridors shooting the heads off of the bad guys, there’s something for you. Of course, a one sided game doesn’t sit well with most gamers. A game needs to have aspects of every good thing the developers can possibly fit into it.
So what elements do make a game good? Whether you’ve realized it or not, your favorite game probably has each of the following: Organized plot, developed characters, unique atmosphere and replayability.
From when we were in middle school or earlier, we all know that a narrative has a beginning, middle and end. In terms of video games, “beginning” is often a word used to describe “first middle” and “end” often means “cliffhanger.” After all, how many times have you been thrown into combat on the first level of a game? And of course many games don’t work as a standalone story because the developer and publisher hope to continue the franchise. This is one of the good aspects that the medium of gaming has introduced. Games often aren’t held to the same linear forms of story telling that many other forms of media are. They don’t have to work as a stand-alone to be successful and the player can be thrown into action with any introduction.
A great example of this is BioShock. Although there are many other games that portray this, I will use BioShock as my prime example. At the beginning of the game you are given a very brief and vague introduction to your history. It’s certainly not enough info to know anything conclusive about yourself and before you know it, you’re tossed into the middle of the ocean. From that point on you gradually find out where you came from, what your purpose is, etc. and even so, your knowledge is constantly being shifted by new information.
Relationships are a driving force in reality for many people whether that be your friends, your spouse, your kids or even your business associates. These relationships keep us thinking and allow us to form opinions about each other and about relating situations. Character development is something we see more of as games are continuously being put on the shelves and it’s just another way to make the game more interesting and more realistic.
Having a one-man army may be fun for a while. After all, Master Chief and Duke Nukem are pretty cool people and get the job done but it’s hard to relate to them. It’s easier for most people to relate to the average, co-dependant and curious person who constantly wants to find out more. I will use Half-Life 2 as a prime example.
Gordon Freeman is like a blank slate. He shows no emotions, he doesn’t speak, he has no uniqueness about him. All we know in his past. Many people believe this is because Gordon Freeman is supposed to be us. That’s right, Gordon is the man or woman sitting in front of the screen. Our thoughts are his thoughts, our actions are his actions. This allows us to control his relationship with others and take them anyway we want. As we meet and get to know the main cast, we learn to love them as friends. Barney is the guy who makes us smile, Dr. Kliener is the man who fascinates us, Alyx is the woman who gives us friendship, Eli is the older, wiser and fatherly one. We don’t just see this as we play the game, we can actually feel it with our emotions.
Atmosphere is like glue to the plot line. It puts together every aspect of the story in a way that makes sense. After all, it would be quite odd to see a knight in shining armor chasing an orc down the corridor of an intergalactic space station while children’s music is playing in the background. The knight and orc often are exclusive to fantasy while a space station could be considered to relate to science fiction. Of course this isn’t always the case but it’s what’s seen most often.
In the world of Mass Effect exists a structure called the Citadel that is often used as a commons area for the gamer. The Citadel is a home to nearly every known species in the universe. That includes the Salarians, Asari, Krogan, Human, etc. It is clearly a vital place in the plot and therefore needs to instantly represent the style of the game.
The developers chose to make the game have a technologically advanced appeal yet have it be sleek, clean and simple. The Citadel reflects all those qualities and gives the gamer and idea of what places they will be experiencing throughout the duration of the game. In addition to this, the music crafts a coinciding atmosphere.
Paying $50, $60 or even more for a game is a good amount of money, so it better be worth it. This is called cost versus value. You must realize how much value the game has to you in ratio of its cost. Some games I have been playing almost consistently for years such as Morrowind, Pikmin 2 and Guild Wars. These games always have more to explore in them and the experience never seems to get old. Some games survive through the years on user-generated content, allow a degree of open ended gameplay or content is updated by the developers. No matter how it’s done, gamers will always want a long lasting game.
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