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Educating players to experience

Educating players to experience
« on: February 10, 2010, 10:23:48 am »

An interesting problem has risen during the testing of our upcoming game and although not that common so far, a few testers have been guilty of it.

The problem is that players play the game as "game" and instead of experience it, think of it in very rule-like terms. For example, they save on items that are intended to be used in case they need them later and are thinking in terms like "the darkness level needed in order to hide". What this means is that they are trying to take apart the mechanics during the game and then try to abuse them. This can be very hurtful for the immersion and especially regarding the suspension of disbelief when dealing with death and failure.

I know that Tale of Tales have gotten a bit of this, with comments like "what use are these flowers I can pick up?". Some players simply cannot see that some interaction can have intrinsic value and need some kind of game rule related boost. It is a bit like reading ahead in a book to see if a character dies and then complaining about there being no suspense.

Should one try to educate the players to play other kinds of games? Or should the attitude be "screw em"? I am all for education, but not sure how to do it, especially since it could mean exposing your tricks (eg "you cannot really die so just imagine you can"). The problem has not been so bad for us, since we still have many "gamey" aspects, but the further from normal gameplay one goes, this problem most likely get larger.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 10:30:02 am by Thomas »
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Re: Educating players to experience
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2010, 11:23:29 am »

We've run into this problem quite a few times with our work at Tale of Tales. Even when we remove all gameplay, gamers are still inclined to rush through in an attempt to "beat the game". They don't seem to realize that the experience is about the walking itself and not about the goal you're walking towards. We haven't really found a way to direct this properly.

Collecting the flowers in The Path was sort of an ironic gesture to illustrate how playing The Path as a game was pointless. But it was also a system to lead players deeper into the forest. Not all players appreciated this. But the discussions between players who did and those who didn't often worked as a self-help therapy. Wink

We tend to put a lot of effort into slowing players down, in an attempt to force them to savour the moment. But that doesn't always work either. They often start complaining about "bad controls" when we don't allow them to efficiently get from point A to point B, etc.

In my experience, females are a lot better at this than males! Women and girls tend to investigate a lot more and observe and interpret things more actively. In general, they are a much more grateful audience, I think. So how do we teach boys how to play like girls? Smiley

When we send review copies of our games to journalists, we often accompany them with some warning in the message: "don't play this as a game, take your time, stop playing and think about the game, if you force the game you won't enjoy it", etc. This does seem to work. So maybe this can be done with players too? Gamers may often act stupid but they are often quite intelligent. Maybe if you just tell them ahead of time that they should take in the moment-to-moment experience instead of trying to "beat the game"?

Horror games are kind of easier than others because you can do a lot of illogical things and it just adds to the narrative of fear. You could simply remove items from the inventory after some time, e.g. so they are forced to use the items or lose them. Or you could increase their score/reward if they take their time in a level (though this would only affect people who play for points).

It's a big problem when addressing the gamers audience. I hope some other people have some good ideas about this.
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