A Creative Use of Game Mechanics

This is first phrase that gets uttered anytime players use a bug or exploit to bypass difficult obstacles. But as the complexity of games increase it is increasingly important to take a look at the mechanics themselves.


For a long timer I’ve wanted do a series taking a closer look at modern game design, its evolution from the 8 and 16-bit days up to now. There was a time not too long ago where I was scared to write about gaming, I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously, because “Hey, only kids play games” or “Games are just a waste of time.” Well fuck that.

According to NPD group, video game revenue (not including hardware sales) in the U.S. totaled 14.8 billion dollars meanwhile domestic box office recorded a new record with 10.84 billion. There is also the ever expanding range of game players, with an average age of 37 with 42% being female. All I’m trying to say is that video games are just as big as any other form of entertainment, and it would be silly to think otherwise.


As far as being a waste of time, think about it for a second, anything that is generally considered fun is a waste of time. Now there will be some people saying that lawyers enjoy a heated debate during courtroom proceedings or a doctor who is enthralled by the newest developments in medical technology, but is gaming really any different than spending your free time shopping, watching movies, or reading a book? I think you should have pride in what you do, where it is your work or just a hobby. Getting back to those doctors, researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that surgeons who played video games made 37% fewer mistakes and took 27% less time to complete tasks compared to those that did not. There is also well known claim that gamers have the reaction time of pilots, claims that have been substantiated by researchers from the University of Essex who also found gamers having below average fitness levels as well, not really a surprise there either.


I firmly believe that gaming can keep people mentally sharp. There is a much deeper cognitive interaction between gamers and their game compared to more passive forms of entertainment like TV, movies and music. I’m not trying to say that people can’t be introspective about their medium, but video games are interactive by default, and often challenge the thinking and problem solving abilities of its players.


Then there is always the subject of whether games can be art. By almost any definition of art, games hold up well compared to music and film. I think this question is up there with questions like “Should homosexuals be allowed to marry?” or in baseball “Should umpires be replaced with robots and instant replay to officiate the game?” and finally “Are video games art?” Yes, Yes and Yes. If you believe otherwise you are just plain wrong. There really is no defense for the opposition besides the meek idea that “things didn’t use to be like that,” and 30 years from now people will think it silly the way these things are done today. And despite many of the great essays Roger Ebert has done, don’t even get me started on the not once, but two times he dismissed the art of video games.


And finally there is the effect that video games can have upon their audience. There are inspiring stories that come from our relation ship with games such as Greg Miller’s Playing Through the Pain, the quiet melancholy experience of Journey, or the explosive tension of Daigo’s full parry also known as Evo Moment #37.

The real topic at hand is the gameplay or method through which games are able to impart these feelings to their players. I’m going to stay away from narrative decisions like Aerith’s death or the Snake/Raiden switcheroo and focus more on game play trends past, future and present. Also, because I don’t want to be seen as just a critic I will attempt to offer my own solutions when possible. I want to highlight and illustrate some of the leaders in game design like Ryan “Morello” Scott at Riot Games or David Sirlin.

Look forward to upcoming topics such as: Balance with Identity, Unified Game Theory and The Myth of World PvP.