Game Design | Acting instead of reacting

 

Can’t remember the exact source where I first heard of this, but I still feel like it is one of the main things to keep in mind when designing a game or even an app in general. 

 

QTE
If you remember Quick-Time-Events - a decent tool to make player feel engaged in a cutscene. It still appears in many games, but after Fahrenheit, Cold Rain, that other one, and now The Telltale series, I still see QTEs here and there, but only when there’s no better way to improve interactivity.

 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
In general, the more player feels like he is simply reacting to what is happening, rather than making things happen, the more disconnected he is from the experience. The new Doom(2017) and Doom 3 were brought as examples. Where in Doom 3 you would react to monsters jumping at you, in the new one, they went back to the roots of the original, and most of your time is now spent running at the enemy.
I have even a better example: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The fact that no more Stalker game is being developed is a super sad thing to me. And there is nothing quite like it out there. A survival horror - plenty of those, an RPGs - take your peak, an atmospheric game - anyone who can design a level is making one, a realistic shooter(attempted) - a fair share of those. But what about a combination of those genres, which Stalker was - a gloomy place with shady characters and dark places. But the most crucial part of it, to me, was the freedom. And not just freedom to go wherever you want and do whatever you want: that freedom is overrated. But the freedom to make a mistake. A decision to rush into a place, unequipped, unprepared, and meet your inevitable demise.  So while shooting and combat in Stalker can often fall under the category of "Reacting", especially when a assaulted by one of those invisible bloodsuckers, the overall gameplay is acting, making a decision and following through with it.

 

THE FALLACY 

The reason to remind yourself about encouraging action instead of forcing a reacting is because reaction design is effective, and we would often fall back to it if there are no better options. But it is only effective in a short run. A player will get engaged while dodging stuff, hitting a button at a right time, and few will put a goal to set a record score, but most will move on, to them it will be just a small exercise they attempted once. But giving a player a more complex task, that requires planning and time investment, could scare him off right away. 

 

My Mom 

My mom plays Gardenscape. As a hardcore gamer I tried to introduce her to better options. And I was proud to see her play Resident Evil 7.

And she has put ridiculous amount of time into Puzzle Forge 2. But "match three" games had their hold, and when there is no me with my gaming laptop, she returns to lining up fruits. I asked her, why does she like those games. The answer was: music, visuals, they are not stressful, you can pick it up and play any time. While it's easy to explain all this by saying that she is a casual gamer and all, but it may be wrong. We are used to intense stressful games, but that stress comes from the need to always be ready, always be prepared to react. 

 

This article may need a part two to further explore the concept. 

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