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.