Skip to main content

The Dangers of Safe Gaming

Lately, I ran across a thread in The Escapist Magazine forums: "Most suicidal moment in gaming that actually worked." Therein, the poster proposed that people compile a list of awesome game experiences which they did something suicidal but it actually worked.

On the surface, that sounds wicked cool. However, a little deeper than that, I realized there's a major fault in the premise. The thing is, there's no such thing as "suicidal but actually worked" in a game. Games offer a virtual environment for you to pretty much experiment and find all sorts of crazy things that work.

Thus, if you sit down to your gaming session wearing one of these...

... you've probably missed the point of computer gaming. There's no risk to you in playing the game, so go nuts - experiment - for the love of God: have fun.

I should probably read more books on game design, because I keep bringing up Raph Koster's Theory of Fun as it's one of the few good books on game design I read. However, in Raph Koster's Theory of Fun it is outlined that he believes fun comes from learning. That's fine, but lets take that a little further:

"If gaming is learning, what do gamers learn?"

I'm not going to go all Jack Thompson on you and say they learn to jack cars or shoot people -- anyone who blurts that out when caught red-handed is probably looking for an excuse. Either that or they're completely bereft of the ability to think for themselves, in which case we should be glad that they found Grand Theft Auto before Scientology found them.

What games teach you is a bit more subtle. Human intelligence is all about finding the path of least resistance to obtain something they want. That's exactly the appeal of fun - you're learning how to get what you want. Game designers often underestimate the power of this, and it can lead to some genuinely unexpected lessons learned.

We probably won't have much use for the lessons we learn in games in real life. However, how likely are we to apply the lessons we learn in games to other games? I would say that the odds are very high, and we can see evidence everywhere.

Maybe what happened the case of this forum thread was that the player played a lot of games where goofing off and screwing around just gets his personae killed. You know the type - a game in which you must quicksave constantly because a step in the wrong direction is instant death through no fault of the player.

Theoretically, he then carries this as a lesson he learned to games he plays in the future. All of sudden, screwing around becomes a very bad thing. His finger is on the quicksave key at all times as he cautiously tries to play the game as he imagine the developer, in their strange logic, must have intended. He's not even going to try to deviate from this path, because he's learned that all other paths lead to death.

Congratulations you lousy game designer, you traumatized the player into being too afraid to play games to the best of their ability.

A well-designed game shouldn't teach players to be scared of playing. It should teach them to play the game in such way as to find the ideal kind of fun that best suits the design. So, in in conclusion: I'd like to see more games that reward players for taking risks.

(I'm not immune. I have to wonder how much of my discontent with games is due to the crappy lessons I learned from other games.)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empyrion Vrs Space Engineers: A Different Kind Of Space Race

In my quest for more compelling virtual worlds, I have been watching Empyrion: Galactic Survival a lot this bizarro weekend, mostly via the Angry Joe Show twitch stream.  What I have concluded from my observations is Empyrion is following in Space Engineers' shadow, but it is nevertheless threatening the elder game due to a greater feature set (the modding scene notwithstanding).

Empyrion is made in Unity, whereas Space Engineers is built on a custom engine.  While this does put Empyrion at a disadvantage when it comes to conceptual flexibility, its developers nevertheless have a substantial advantage when it comes to adding features due to a savings of time spent that would have gone into developing their own engine.  Examples include:
Planets.  Empyrion already has planets and space to explore between them, whereas in Space Engineers planets are in the works but still awhile away (so you just have asteroid fields to scavenge).Enemies.  Space Engineers' survival mode boasts onl…

Resonant Induction Really Grinds My Gears... In A Good Way

From about 2pm yesterday until 8pm today, I've been dabbling with my latest custom mod mix for Minecraft 1.6.4, which is this time very much Universal Electricity focused.
Aside from the usual GUI enhancers and Somnia, the primary contenders in this mix were:
Calclavia Core - Of course: this is the base of the Universal Electricity system.Resonant Induction - This seems to be largely focused on increasingly more advanced methods of refining ores divided across 4 ages of technological progression.  It also includes some really cool things such as assembly lines.  I'll primarily be talking about just a few blocks out of this mod today.Atomic Science - A mod dedicated to generating more of those lovely universal electricity volts via the power of splitting the atom.  Build your own nuclear reactor!  Deal with nuclear meltdowns!  You maniac!ICBM - A mod dedicated to generating more destruction using those lovely universal electricity volts (and more than a little gunpowder), it cer…

Sometimes, The Cat Skins You

The formula for cat girls is simple enough: young girls are cute, cats are cute, so young girls who are also cats are cute times two, right?  ... Cat Planet Cuties (a.k.a Asobi ni Iku yo) does not stop there, it includes girls with guns, nudifying weaponry, and even failed romantic comedy that shows lots of skin.  Cat's out of the bag: Cat Planet Cuties is basically straight up wish fulfillment.

The overall plot is pretty simple.  The Catians are a race so advanced that they have not changed in over 70,000 years.  They discover Earth, a planet whose people have uncanny resemblances, right down to speaking the same language!  Desiring an escape from their cultural stagnation, they rename their own planet from Earth to Catia and dispatch a scout to assess the viability of first contact with this new Earth inhabited by humans.  High jinks ensue.

Other than an excuse to see some fun sci-fi devices, the plot sucks. Let me count the ways:
Kio Kakazu - The male center of our harem, a 1…