January 2, 2012

What makes games addicting?

I have found it very rare that I can­not switch of the com­put­er. You could prob­a­bly argue that I just have great self con­trol, but I would like to think at least for me there have to be very spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics to a game for it to be con­sid­ered addict­ing. I am by no means a human behav­ior sci­en­tist, but these are the things that make me glued to the com­put­er screen.

Por­tal 2

It has has all been done. There are always bit­ter bored peo­ple in the world who say every­thing has already been done before. With games, a lot of the time a new game comes out and real­ly it is just a re-inter­pre­ta­tion of an old theme. Just like in the movies how hol­ly­wood keeps re-doing old movies (come on seri­ous­ly, a new Foot­loose?) the same thing hap­pens in games. How­ev­er, there are some uni­vers­es, ideas and game­play mechan­ics that pop up brand new and squeal­ing. Por­tal, although tied to the Half Life uni­verse has a humor very unique to the game. The gun in Por­tal is also unique to the game.
Atten­tion to detail is one of the things that makes or breaks a game in my opin­ion. This does­n’t mean I expect every game to be a huge sand­box world where the lore goes in to sev­er­al books after the game is released. I want the game, in what­ev­er genre it is, to have a spe­cial atten­tion to all the lit­tle things. Not just tex­tures and func­tion­al­i­ty but atten­tion to char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and con­sis­ten­cy with such devel­op­ment.
Left 4 Dead (Ok I know I am fawn­ing over Valve here) may not be an orig­i­nal idea, zom­bies have been around in gam­ing for quite a while now. What makes it stand out, com­pared to every oth­er zom­bie shoot­er is the atten­tion to detail in the maps. The game is actu­al­ly lim­it­ed. There are only a few maps, only a few dif­fer­ent modes of game play and only a few dif­fi­cul­ty lev­els. The rea­son I can play it over and over again is because with­in those maps I can find some­thing new every time that I play. The writ­ing on the walls is one of my favorite treats, it real­ly makes the game come to life. You can imag­ine your­self writ­ing some­thing on the wall dur­ing an apoc­a­lypse hop­ing that your loved ones will read it.
Say what you want about World of War­craft, but the game has some seri­ous depth to it. On the sur­face you see ‘kill x amount of x crea­tures to get x amount of xp’ but if you real­ly pay atten­tion to the dif­fer­ent areas, the sto­ries the npc char­ac­ters tell and the back sto­ries of all of the races you find the rea­son that World of War­craft is such a cap­ti­vat­ing game.
Drag­on Age: Ori­gins is anoth­er exam­ple of a game that has a great amount of lore and depth behind it. Drag­on Age 2 was a sor­ry, lazy attempt to repli­cate that (don’t get me start­ed on that game)


Have you ever played a game where you don’t even have to pay atten­tion to kill all of the basic mon­sters? Then maybe you should stop play­ing on easy! If you are not play­ing on easy then you might have a bor­ing game on your hands. Games have to be beat­able but require some sort of skill or excite­ment. The hap­py chem­i­cals your brain makes when you get excit­ed after bag­ging a drag­on is addic­tive. Every time you jump in Dead Space and that rush of adren­a­line hap­pens, it is addict­ing. Also the desire to know what hap­pens next is crit­i­cal. The sto­ry­line has to have a few twists in it, or at least big choic­es for you to make. That does­n’t mean every game has to be an rpg either, it just means that pop­u­lar to con­trary belief, suc­cess­ful games have a plot. Noth­ing is more bor­ing that a game that has no sto­ry for you to fol­low.
I am picky as hell. It is very rare that I fin­ish a game in a time­ly fash­ion. If I don’t like a game, I won’t fin­ish it (unless I’m expect­ed to review it) and even then if I don’t deem it worth fin­ish­ing I will just write a review say­ing that. I like games that have a cer­tain artis­tic feel, vis­cer­al com­bat, nice good gory parts and a high replay val­ue. It is hard for small­er com­pa­nies to cre­ate games with a huge explorable world and a huge cin­e­mat­ic sound track but that is prob­a­bly why I’m not always inter­est­ed in indie games. I’m just hard to please, I expect a lot from big­ger gam­ing com­pa­nies.


  1. AiR - January 2, 2012 7:08 pm

    I think you for­got about game­play. Tho your points of inter­est are fair i think alot of peo­ple are intrigued by the game­play itself. Imo u can have all the stuff above but have a ter­ri­ble game if the game­play is not fun. Pret­ty huge open game where ur actions are lim­it­ed is worth­less. But a graph­icly chal­lenged game with no sto­ry or lore but great game­play still makes a good game. Just my two cents about your shal­low view into games

  2. Foxx - January 4, 2012 1:03 am

    I want to feel like I’m in the movies in a game,and I want to be enter­tained. I did neglect actu­al game play in this and I apol­o­gize, but I still stand with the fact that I tend to enjoy games from big­ger com­pa­nies more than indie games. This is just my opin­ion obvi­ous­ly and I do not expect all to bow down to me. To me the sto­ry is what I like in games, or some sort of for­ward pro­gres­sion. I would be ter­ri­bly bored with a game that played well but there was noth­ing behind it to explain what you were actu­al­ly doing and why.

  3. AiR - January 6, 2012 2:35 pm

    u shall bow!!

  4. ScrotusKilmystr - January 7, 2012 4:57 pm

    these are all good points and game play is cer­tain­ly a fac­tor but there’s some­thing to be said for the sim­ple plat­former game when you just need to turn off the brain and have some fun try­ing to get that last coin or pill or glowy thing high up in the cor­ner that you just can’t reach
    Also, I’m total­ly with you on expect­ing more from big name com­pa­nies they expect top dol­lar for their prod­uct so we should expect top qual­i­ty from them… there’s noth­ing worse than get­ting a game, play­ing it then find­ing out it’s a total turd…


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