What Should Be the Standard of a Game? Game Design Theory

Steam LibI’m bored, staring at my Steam library–271 games, big titles, small games, combined together.

Which makes me start to think, what is the standard of a game? We always love to label each one of the games on market, writing reviews, rating up etc. Sometimes, the reputation of a game becomes somehow a standard to determine whether a game is good or bad.

However, the current gaming market is extremely diversified, which leaves many gaming standards inapplicable onto other genres.

So we come to think of that–what should be a good game?

I think it’s always a two end stick. On the left, it’s the folks insist a good game is a game that focuses on fun, entertainment. The right, is the people vowing for a more artistic game style, things that pursue the beauty of creativity.

It’s interesting, at the end. We always wonder what should be a game, and what defines a game? There are too many answers for it. The game’s definition itself is a blurry line.

After all, it’s not only the market is extremely diversified, it’s the customers, the audience, are various various groups of people.

But there is this seemingly universal advocacy for what should be a better game, the two major voices on how a game most appeals to a people. On the extreme each side, it’s either being as artistic and creative as possible, or being as simple, as fun as blood-pumping as possible. These are the major experiences players have had in most of the games on market.


Flow Zone

I bought blockbusters, still do. One thing is that I don’t have much time to spend specifically on indie and small games, have time to appreciate them. The other grayer aspect is that I’d rather enjoy the fast food of 3A production.

Fast Food Mentality, I believe many people have the same impulse. Hence the reason why Call of Duty produces its title each year and there are still many people buying it, although everyone in the industry is condemning its lowering quality. Just like fast food, we clearly know that it’s junk but we still like to eat it.

I think the Fast Food Mentality has brought out the other side of the stick, the fun and simple, the fast food reaction. But there really isn’t anything wrong with this design though. On first thought, aren’t we supposed to enjoy games? If so, what other better options would there be? Games should be fun.

The flow of a gameIn Game Design, people like to discuss the flow of a game. The frustration counter enjoyment ratio. And with the game progressing, the ratio is constantly in a dynamic adjustment.

Every game is a new mode for every new player. A player needs to have introduction to the game so that the game can begin. We call it the rules of a game. Your poker, your Monopoly, even the simple guessing game. With certain rules, the activity thus can become a game. Not the literal sense rule.

The common progression and the difficulty we’ve seen in most of the blockbusters have been applied the fun standard. To try to be as easy as possible, to be entertaining, that players wouldn’t find it frustrating not even a bit in their whole playthrough. Namingly, many big publishers (Ubisoft, EA, 2K etc.) do this, simply don’t want to upset the players and create games that can sell better. But we don’t know, this is not the golden rule, and this we will get to it later.

The Flow Zone is the dynamic flow area that influences the game’s difficulty progression. Normally, a game would slowly increase its level difficulty while the game is pacing towards the end. The Flow Zone is the zone that controls this whole process so that the increase and decrease of difficulty wouldn’t create much frustration meanwhile keeping it entertaining.

And another “normally”, the blockbusters we played, for example, the recent years 3A titles: Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Deus Ex: Mankind divided or some other Ubisoft games you can think of. Joking. All of these games share the similar symptom–they all have a rather flat flow line. Like AC Unity probably doesn’t even have a flow zone, the whole game stays the same all the way from beginning to end. There are no difficulty inside these games, they are designed very “flatly” for the vast majority of video game consumers. They try to make them feel bit bland, flat, easy, simple, superhero-like.

I mean, concepts and all that are all good. Being a superhero isn’t the problem, who don’t want to be a superhero? The problem lies within the game design. How designers work the levels, the maps, the reward system and others.


Hard Games

Dark Souls, it’s already a meme game because of its popularity. Why is it popular? To oversimplify it: it’s hard, it’s god damn hard. And people find something that they have long lost in their gaming experience.

In the early days of gaming, games were intentionally designed hard. One thing is everything was so rudimentary, players didn’t have many choices lining up in front of them. Two is that designers were still exploring and trying to find the best exhilarating experience for players. Those Nintendo cartridge consoles, PlayStation 1 and Xbox. These ancient relics have brought so much fun to players that time.

Current industry had already found the way of player psychology, consumer psychology. They understand what kind of games sell best, there’s that amorphous line that represents most players’ interest.

Things have been bogged down since this finding. And beware that Japanese games are very different from Western games.

However, with Dark Souls, studios have seemed to find a way to satisfy players that urgently lack newer elements in games.

This Dark Souls style trend has been around new coming games for quite some time.

The market has already bred a big group of hardcore players, those who love to challenge the dim and wit from developers and love to receive new challenges. Repetitive things don’t apply to them and they don’t like it either.

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