The importance of choice

In Brief

  • The more choices a game offers the player, the more the player can create an individual way of playing (For example: an individual route through a space).
  • This makes the game enjoyable, as the player feels that s/he is really playing the game, as opposed to blindly following the designer's wishes.

Constraints on player freedom

Video games are highly structured experiences, as the game designer possesses a strong level of control over the player’s actions.

For example, in the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic can use his spin attack to tear apart objects. However, the move can only destroy objects that the designer has deemed as destructible. The player can crush open robots, but cannot cut down palm trees in the Green Hill Zone.

These constraints derive from the technical and practical difficulties of creating a game that can account for every possible choice. They also derive from design reasons. Although players often heavily desire the freedom to do anything, they become lost and frustrated when presented with this freedom as there are too many choices for them to take.

Faking freedom

Despite the limitations placed on player freedoms, research shows that player primarily enjoy game due to the freedom they provide. This contradiction can be explained by the methods in which videogames ‘fake’ freedom by providing enough options to allow the player to feel that s/he has made a unique choice. This hides the presence of the designer as it prevents the player from feeling that s/he is blindly following the designer’s ‘script’.

Games with a significant level of choice allow authorship of the game to be shared between player and designer. As Rouse (2005) argues, this provides a feeling of empowerment that can make a gaming experience highly memorable.

The importance of choice to the Sonic games

Choice is especially important to Sonic games, as their speedy nature can cause the player to feel that s/he is simply being propelled forwards without having any control over the experience. Choice allows a Sonic title to be not just a game but a real adventure. Without it, a Sonic game isn’t that different from a movie.


References
Rouse, R. (2005) Game Design—Theory & Practice. (2nd edition – Electronic Edition).
USA: Wordware Publishing, Inc


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