A post on altdevblogaday got me thinking so I’ll post my reply here as well;
(for the post itself visit: Why do we restrict content?)
Dara Obriain is one of my favorite comedians, along with Dylan Moran (those two couldn’t be more different if they tried though when it comes to technology :D).
I think a big issue with games at the moment is that Content is viewed with a capital C. It becomes an isolated event within the game and used as a dangling carrot in front of players to bait them into sinking more time into the game. And it’s a cheap carrot as well, a lazy way to introduce “rewards” for playing. The main problem with it is that it has become a stand-alone occurrence to the extent of not only losing touch with the context of the world but also of severely breaking the immersion that the world is supposed to provide. Case in point, and something which annoys me to no end, having to find secret “items” in the game world in order to unlock concept art and what-not. There is no reason and no excuse to have this in the game, I’ve paid good money to play the game and view the artwork (and if you don’t want me to view the artwork don’t supply it) why do I need to hunt for fake items or spend time away from the actual game [inside the game] to find these things???
Solving this problem should begin with understanding the context of the game and removing all external and irrelevant content away from the world. The second step is to open this content for users to peruse; this include things like concept art, music tracks and what not. The third step should be, as you’ve mentioned, the balancing of gameplay and the crafting of mechanics which support the game’s narrative content (note, narrative and story are different but both require content to be presented).
Dara’s example of Guitar Hero (or was it Rock Band, I can’t remember) is a good one. To me, for example, the way the tracks were laid out as progression seemed somewhat arbitrary and I suspect I’m not the only one since the ease of performing one track would vary from individual to individual. A good solution for this could have been having all tracks unlocked and players choosing which ones to play at which venue (this could have been expended quite easily into a more strategic and engaging gameplay choices for players). Another is to assign a monetary [in-game] value for the tracks and letting players buy and customize their own track list.
Wow, this reply is much longer than I expected, hope it isn’t too boring.. And for an encore I’ll leave with these words. Look at books and films, both allow us to skip parts and/or see the end. This is not a bad thing, books are no less engaging because I can look at the end chapter and see what happens, neither are films. The good ones simply make the journey worthwhile and even the bad ones allow me to see the story through (with a few skipped chapters). I see no reason why games should be different; if I bought a game and found the mechanics dreary why shouldn’t I be allowed to see the story externally (bad or good whatever, at least I’ll get some of my money’s worth), it’s hardly my fault that the gameplay is broken, is it?
“Hear me now, Oh thou bleak and unbearable world, Thou art base and debauched as can be;”