Great Expectations

Lately I’ve been mulling over the idea that games contain hidden transactions. No, not monetary transactions, but the idea that games contain lots of miniature contracts between the game (or designer) and the player.

From a player’s perspective:

  • If I open this treasure chest, I will receive an item.
  • Killing enemies or monsters should reward me or otherwise help me to achieve a goal.
  • Rewards should be comparable to the effort I put in.
  • If there is a puzzle or goal, then there should be a way for me to legally complete it.
  • If I press a button or toggle a switch, something should happen.

Those are some fairly common high-level design expectations that players have. (There are obviously many others, and more-specific ones as well) If the player finds that their expectations are not met (the contract is broken) they may feel frustrated, angry, or even betrayed. If the player consistently opens treasure chests and receives no items or kills monsters and receives no experience, then the game designer has obviously not kept up his end of the bargain!

I think that game designers have a certain degree of responsibility to uphold these expectations, or if they do not, to provide obvious alternate contracts.

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2 Responses to “Great Expectations”

  1. wc says:

    You clearly have yet to play Lost Odessey. They entertain this notion for a while, they decide you’ve gotten enough levels for this particular zone and pull the rug out from under you. The whole thing actually feels kinda arbitrary too creating some really weird difficulty curves.

  2. mrflippy says:

    No, I haven’t played Lost Odyssey. I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at though. My main point is summed up in the last paragraph. If that’s really how you feel about Lost Odyssey, then the developers failed to provide you a consistent experience.

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