So I was sitting here thinking about “what games are like” and about how they reward players. Psychological characteristics of games and all the like. Most action games appeal in two ways right now: “good job!” for killing someone, and through the (supposed) male instinct of putting yourself over someone else.(in the case of multiplayer of course)
Regardless of the particulars in execution, I think it stands that action games reward the player for killing and fighting. That’s probably a big reason why they’re labeled ‘action’ games, after all!
I’m not ready to claim my side on the whole, “should games be about fighting/violence” debate, but I am ready to strike an interesting point.
The epitome of action games which reward violence. CREDIT: G4TV
What if you made a game that involved fighting, violence, etc. but that was not the point of the game? The player would not be glorified for it. The action would be part of the plot, just like basically 100% of literature with violence involved. I’m not saying violence in games is bad, I’m just entertaining this different approach.
Imagine a Metroid or Castlevania where the real focus was on advancing the story. You would traverse levels overcoming enemies, certainly, but the enemies would only be present as a challenge to advance the story, rather than dedicated punching bags.
A great example of this type of game is Sword & Sworcery EP by the Superbrothers. CREDIT: IGN, obviously
One merit of this idea is that it indeed makes more sense if you’re trying to cast the player in the shoes of the protagonist. Unless the protagonist is a blood-thirsty marauder, they’re probably more focused on resolving the current conflict within the story. In a cliché example, “oh no my girlfriend has been kidnapped, I must save her!”, the hero is probably more focused on getting his girlfriend back.
Oh that Castlevania! CREDIT: Gameaxis
The idea of this type of game is that there are no level-up mechanics, no serious emphasis on fighting at all.(that is, unless it plays a role in the story.) Again, the player isn’t rewarded for fighting or killing; it’s simply there because that is your story. Your story, o’rly?
This approach to creating the game demands a different method, of course. Now you must design your game around your story, instead of designing a story around your set of game mechanics. In this type of game, the story is king.
You might be screaming “visual novel!” right now, but that’s not the idea.
Visual novels, while great, they’re not what I’m getting at exactly. CREDIT: astatalk.com
The idea is to create a game which isn’t about rewarding the player for violence or drudgery upon others. It’s a game which is story-focused, but still retains it’s game-like aspects, such as in Zelda or Castlevania, and does not leave itself as a sequence of cutscenes or interactive “quick-time” events.
I’m not saying I’m the first to think this up—I’m not. But these are my musings on the idea. I’m very interested in taking this approach for my next game. What do you think?