Game Expression: Why do we ‘Play’?

The Nintendo booth at this year’s New York Comic-Con was home to a variety of video games, from Pikmin 3 to the Wonderful 100. Would it surprise anyone that one of Nintendo’s product marketers had a lot to say about how games should be designed?

I chatted briefly with J.C. Rodrigo, product marketer at Nintendo of America, about his position and (of course) about games.

If I may pose a question to all of you game developers reading this: why do you play games? It’s a simple question but with a lot of purpose behind it. In fact, that it took me a while to answer the question Mr. Rodrigo posed.

Don’t video games make us feel a certain way? Mr. Rodrigo explained that if a game doesn’t allow you to feel an emotion, it ultimately fails at being a game. Upon saying this, we proceeded to list all of our favorite games and came to realize that each game has a certain feeling to it.

Games, as Rodrigo puts it, are like food. Some are spicy and exciting, while others are bland and tasteless. Looking at some games of today, let’s take some examples.

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Imagine a scene where you’re playing Farmville on your Facebook while playing Call of Duty at the same time. Farmville, is of course, bland, as it was made with the intention of milking you dry of your time and money. Call of Duty does this, too, but Call of Duty does something that Farmville doesn’t.

Farmville isn’t a fun game, or it doesn’t give the feeling of fun. It’s mindless clicking and waiting. I’ll explain why in a future Indie Game Thing, but the short version of why Farmville gets away with doing this is because of there’s some sort of reward that we, as the guinea pig in this situation, are inclined to receive. We don’t particular feel anything from receiving said item but we are on a schedule to get our reward in Farmville.

Going back to Call of Duty, without calling it mindless violence, it, in fact, does make you feel something. As modern fantasies go, Call of Duty makes you feel like the go-to guy in the army who can take down terrorists and change world history as we know it. Call of Duty will always make you feel rewarded for all of your murdering with new perks and kill streaks. In death, the game even comes with deathstreaks to help those who are a bit slow with spatial awareness.

Zynga tanked while the Call of Duty franchise has consistently stayed on top of the sales charts. As J. Rodrigo put it, games need feeling, as without having some emotional desire to continue playing, people will stop.

Good games express a sort of incentive to the player. Some good games make you feel terrible, while other good games can also make you feel amazing. All in all, If a game doesn’t allow you to feel, it probably isn’t worth your time.

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About Matthew Maravilla 71 Articles
A game designer/developer who's only trying to make sense of all of the things he's doing through writing about those things or just plain doing them.

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