What do players really value in a video game? Is it the story, or is it character creation? Or is it the type of players that a game attracts? While the answer varies from player to player, there are common opinions that seem to outdo all other responses.
As it turns out, players want games that feel smooth, present a great story, and stick in your mind, making them want to replay it over and over again. Design and content are of the utmost importance to players.
But let’s take a look at the reasons why, shall we?
Mechanics & Interactivity
Better known as the rules set in place for the player, so that he/she can interact with the game world and therefore, experience poor, or exciting gameplay. Take Tetris for example, for the sake of simplicity. In Tetris, there’s mobility, rotation of pieces, a randomizer (the next piece is chosen randomly by the game itself), and of course, there’s a scoring system. Those are the Tetris game mechanics, and by using these mechanics, players interact with the pieces, and experience gameplay.
And according to a poll on GameSpot forums, this is the single most important thing to players. This is what they value most, because in the end, that’s what they spend their entire time doing – interacting with the game world, and experiencing either terrible, or fantastic, gameplay. This means that developers should be spending most of their time ensuring that the game mechanics are both exciting, and sustainable over time.
The minute that mechanics seem broken, or unreliable, players take to forums to bash. But consider this: they paid for a game and expected professionals to complete a fully-functioning game. When they don’t feel like that is the case, they are entitled to complain, just like any unsatisfied customer at a restaurant.
Story & Presentation
Coming in second, but not too far off from mechanics (2% difference), is story and presentation. When we talk story, we’re specifically talking about all writing content relating to the game, including but not limited to narrative, wall content, pick ups, overall story plot, etc. As for presentation, that is how the game presents the story, and how it’s reflected in everything from the HUD design, to the score you set everything to.
Too many times developers wait to write the story until the end, and design everything upfront. When this is done, it feels like the story is half-way done, left in a poor state, with no presence in any of the design. However, when you have a game that hires writers upfront, the game is (or should be) designed along the lines of the story, and vice versa.
For instance, consider FromSoftware‘s Bloodborne. Yes, Dark Souls 3 already released, but…everyone remembers Bloodborne, and tends to love it, or a the very least, enjoy the overall concept behind the game. It’s interesting to note how FromSoftware interlaces everything with story so well, that it can go unnoticed to players looking to just go from action to action, with no substance or meaning behind it all. But the story is there, in item descriptions, in the type of items found, on the walls, and even as the characters themselves. Tucked away in cutscenes are hints and glimmers of the past, as well as things to come.
When players feel like the story has a strong presence in the game, and is echoed in everything from the music, to the color of the menus, they feel like they’re playing a well-done, completely thought out game.
Replay Value & Lasting Appeal
Coming in as the third most valued element in video games, comes replay value and lasting appeal. It makes sense, considering everyone wants to play that game that’s so addicting, they want to replay it again the minute it’s done. The credits roll, and players are left with that sense of sadness over the fact that it’s over, but along with it, there’s a sense of accomplishment, or reward. Those are the games that stick with players, in their minds. The games they bring up in conversation over coffee and distantly describe as “good times.” Those are the games developers need to focus on making more often.
Too many times, games are made too lengthy, making it a hassle to beat a second, let alone a third time. In other instances, the game mechanics are broken, or the story doesn’t draw players in. Perhaps the NPCs are annoying, or the actions got repetitive. Whatever the case, there are many things that can lower a game’s replay value, all of which make the players feel cheated out of their experience.
This comes in fourth, technically tied with replay value with a whopping 17% each. It may not seem like too many players, but 17% out of the few who participated in the poll sheds some light on the matter. Consider that 59% of Americans alone play games, and you could have quite a few thousand people voting for replay value and design.
But why? Why is design so important to players? Surely if a game features mechanics and a compelling story, they’ll play it, right?
Sure, but design is what makes it all look pretty, and ties a neat bow on the package. The way levels are designed to ensure easily flowing gameplay. The way the menus mimic something meaningful in the game. Even how the characters look, and whether or not they reflect their personalities accurately.
Players shell out the money, but expect quality games to come out of it. Without sales, players are paying up to $63 after tax, per game. When they say they value mechanics, story, replay value, and design, they mean they want a complete, interesting, and compelling gaming experience.
This means that developers have a high standard to live up to, and which lately, they’ve been falling short on. All the marketing that gives the plot and gameplay elements away? They take away from the surprise of the first unveiling a player should experience when playing the game. Subjecting to wants rather than needs during development makes games late to launch, or incomplete at launch, which is worse.
Where are developers’ priorities being placed? And why aren’t they being focused on the aspects of gaming that make players happy?