Mysteries can be fun and engaging, and hold a lot of promise when a player can be the main character. Yet, so many games that offer mysteries end up falling short. Where do they go wrong? In this essay I will be looking at some ways in which games that hold the promise of a mystery end up not making good on that promise.
Author Archives: drmabian
Watch Where You’re Going
Have you ever struggled with a camera in a game? Ever been unsure where you’re going relative to the rest of the world? This brief essay covers some basic issues of camera orientation in games and why they cause such annoyance for players.
The “collectathon” as a game genre has always been a bit weird. And attempts to capture the old spirit of collectathons in modern games have fallen short, sometimes in a big way. I use this essay to examine a few different entries in the genre to investigate what a collectathon is and what makes them fun…or annoying.
On Storytelling: Narrative across Media
Video game stories can often be so big that they can’t be contained in a single game. We need a whole series of games. Or maybe even games and books and movies. But how does trying to tell a single cohesive story in this way affect the actual narrative(s) that we get?
On Storytelling: Interaction and Player Knowledge
What makes a story that is unique to video games? We usually focus on the player’s ability to shape the narrative. But this essay will explore how a different form of interaction – the player’s understanding of systems – can lead to a unique storytelling experience.
On Storytelling: Play, Don’t Show
Cutscenes in video games often get a lot of complaints. And sometimes games use cutscenes when they shouldn’t. But how should we think about the rule for when a cutscene is valuable versus not valuable for storytelling?
What happens when a game doesn’t really help you feel motivated to play it? What can games do to help players feel engaged? In this essay I explore how sometimes developers can miss the core question of why a player should want to keep playing their game.
Talking about Games: The Sequel Paradox
Sequels are everywhere. And just like with anything else, we like to engage in criticism of sequels. But what does it mean to properly compare a sequel to its predecessor, and what kinds of pitfalls can we fall into when trying to critique sequels in particular?
On Storytelling: Narratives through Teamwork
When we experience narratives in games, we tend to experience them alone. We can share that solitary experience with others, but the original process of engaging with the story is something we do on our own. But what happens to the narrative as a concept when a game requires us to collaborate with others to construct the story?
The Insurmountable Challenge
Video games often hand us challenges, some of them significantly more difficult than others. But when do those challenges go too far? How do we determine what makes a good versus a bad challenge in a game?