The Infamous Noob

August 15, 2010

Believing in Magic

Filed under: Design, Games, Real Life — infamousnoob @ 7:27 pm

What makes a game transform from numbers and letters on bits of paper and cardboard into something that has a dedicated and fanatical following? I think it can be boiled down to a belief in something magical. If a game (or anything for that matter) can draw you into its world and be self-consistent enough that it always makes sense, then you believe it.

I think this extends beyond the realm of games and into everyday things. People (in the U.S. at least) associate certain events with monumental changes in life: high school graduation, college graduation,¬†marriage, new jobs, having kids, etc. In reality, however, these events don’t necessarily cause a change in lifestyle. But because there’s this expectation that things will magically change, we unconsciously work to shape them into what we expect.

This belief is what keeps the game world turning. As long as there is an expectation that certain things will happen, and that expectation is never directly contradicted, then people are happy. For example, if your game allows every player to win as long as they do an arbitrary amount of trivial things, then as long as there is an available path to win, they won’t care if they actually do. This is particularly evident in MMOs. Everyone has the opportunity to be an “endgame” player, but most aren’t. They know how to be one, and the pieces are all available, but they simply don’t utilize them. The same is true of single player games that people just don’t get around to finishing.

Immersion is the key to keeping an active player base. Create a world that is complete in every way, and as long as it’s consistent, it will be popular.

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