Jacqi & Mass Effect
I really enjoy watching my wife play Mass Effect and other video games. She believes what the game tells her.
If a character says “We’re running out of time, we need to get out of here,” she’ll drop everything and sprint to the door.
If a big enemy that looks tough appears, she’ll retreat and hide and hesitate to attack it.
On the other hand, I have so much experience with games, I’m always looking behind the scenes. I know that, no matter how much people shout and the screen shakes, I’m not in any rush for time unless there’s a timer on the screen. If a big enemy appears, it doesn’t matter; they’re going to be different from other enemies, but they’ll still be in the same power range. Both situations don’t get my adrenaline pumping like they should.
My advice to designers is to throw in unusual situations every now and then to shake up jaded gamers. Give us fights that we can’t win. Give us dialog that we actually need to listen to. Give us situations both where the obvious solution is the right one, and the obvious solution is inefficient. Help us rebuild that suspension of disbelief, so that we can actually fear our enemies and rejoice in our victories again.
In this sense, old games had more going for them regarding emergent behavior. If I’m playing Doom, I open a door, and a horde of demons turns toward me, it’s possible that I just don’t have enough ammunition to win. The demons aren’t being sent out in waves designed to give me enough time to reload and recharge my shields in between; if I attract too much attention or don’t kill them efficiently, I will be overrun. That isn’t to say that old games are harder; just that they respond more directly and clearly to my decisions.