Thursday, 28 February 2013

Game Design: From Pong to Next Gen

Game design references the dynamics and mechanics of a game, whether that game be a board game, card game, video game or sport. The dynamics and mechanics are often the reason people play games and what they base their overall opinion of the game on. After looking into game design it is easy to see the different mechanics aren’t only present in video games, but even things such as twitch games ( one of my personal favourite styles of PC game, where the speed of play and the reaction speed is at the heart of the game) are present in card games such as Snap. This was very surprising as I hadn’t really considered comparing the dynamics of tabletop and physical games with the dynamics of video games.

This adds even more strength to my love of Magic: The Gathering, as a card game what I hadn’t realised about it is that it can incorporate almost every different gameplay mechanic within the same game. You choose how you build your deck and how you want to play the game; playing against others using different play styles. This makes the game even more dynamic as variety, preparation and skill pay off, tactics and play styles are incredibly different across the board of players. This realisation also adds to my arguments that esports and card games should have a similar status to that of football and other such sports (esports are essentially video games played in a competitive way with tournaments, pro players and world cups similar to physical sports).

Image found here.

Playing a great deal more Magic: The Gathering than video games nowadays I have reached the realisation that the game design between video games and tabletop games of any kind is incredibly similar. However there are a couple of things that differ immersion and company being the primary examples that I can come up with.

Immersion is often considered the defining feature of video games; graphics, realism, senses are continually being used as the selling points for new games. Often these new games are using an archetypal game design which has been around for years and years. This barrage on the senses, often beautiful and incredibly well put together, can’t be compared to tabletop games which offer a similar depth of immersion but not necessarily the same style of immersion. Where video games offer sensory immersion many tabletop games offer a more cerebral immersion. I find that I play Magic competitively and I’m completely immersed in what the other person may be thinking and playing in order to better prepare myself and plan my reaction. Along with the difference in immersion styles the two styles of games which are so closely linked in terms of game design have differences in that tabletop games are almost entirely multiplayer with the requirement of knowing others who share the same idea where video games don’t require anyone but yourself and sometimes a connection to the internet.

Image found here.

The game design for any game is an essential component to creating something appealing, this is where games such as Quake III arena and Counter-Strike: Source (Global  Offensive more recently) do so well. In terms of the visuals both games do very little they don’t try and be visually stunning but instead try to combine an immersive environment with a developed and technical game design, because of this both games are played often in esport tournaments. On the other end of the scale games like the Elder Scrolls series and Dungeons and Dragons require a great deal of game design and thought to successfully create a viable separate universe. All of this thought into the psychology of the player has to be worked out before the game can be made as without designing how the game interacts with the player, there is no game. Game Design, this understanding of the player, is what is so important to differentiate between games and films. I personally feel that game design has become more and more developed over time because designers have had the chance to study and try to understand how people play games. Having said this their results haven't dramatically improved or changed per say. With more advanced technology and a better understanding of psychology designers can be more and more ambitious with the details of the game design. Games however retain the same fundamentals which can be traced far back in the history of humanity's games. Awesome article on quake and its influence on game design over here.

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