Video games have been experimenting with minimalist narratives for a while now. But sometimes those narratives don’t quite work out as intended. In this essay I’ll explore some aspects of minimalist writing to provide a few ideas on how to better craft narratives that steer away from writing too much.
Writing stories is hard, and one problem that we can run into is “overwriting,” or going a bit too far in our prose. In this essay I’ll examine the issue of overwriting in more detail and explain why it causes issues for a game’s narrative.
For people who play video games a lot, it can be common to run into games we don’t like. But how often do we keep playing those games once we realize we aren’t having fun? I offer a defense of playing bad games as a way of helping us to build up critical skills.
Depending on what games we play, we might have encountered the concept of “grinding,” repeating a task over and over to accomplish a goal. Even though grinding is annoying, it is worthwhile to examine it more closely to ask why grinding exists, and how it might be made better for players.
Difficult games are easy enough to find, and there are a lot of players who like them. And yet, it’s also easy to find people who use these games and their difficulty as a test of who is a “real” player. In this essay I explore why that gatekeeping mentality is harmful for the video game community as a whole.
It’s easy to come up with examples of games that are difficult or tough. But when we talk about difficulty, what does it actually mean for a game to be difficult? In this essay we’ll look at different forms of difficulty in games, and analyze what makes particular challenges fair and unfair.
Sometimes we talk about games in terms of the intent behind them. Perhaps a part of the game isn’t fun, but the designers made it that way. But is that a good explanation? In this essay I argue that the intent behind a system should not be relied upon for deciding whether a video game’s systems are good or bad.
Video games need to be able to quickly and clearly tell you what to do next, so that you know where you should go. But what happens if a game doesn’t have that clear sense of direction, especially when it’s most important?
Bullet hell games are designed to be tough, but at what point do they become too tough? Using the example of Returnal, I explore how bullet hells are supposed to work and how they can go wrong.
Making good moral choices in video games is complex, and it’s easy to fall back on the simplistic. But when we rely on simple ideas, we lose the power that makes moral choices worth presenting in video games.