It’s not easy planning for player interaction when you don’t have a clue what sort of interaction the player’s going to want. Gamers come in so many flavors: some seek 100% completion, some speedrun, others hunt for glitches and Easter eggs, and, of course, some just want to play and see what happens. Game designers have to be prepared for each and every one of these players, even if they’re only catering to one or two of these play styles.
There are two broad directions game designers can choose to go in as they set up the rules for their game’s level design, gameplay, story structure, and characters. At one end of this scale is game design that limits the player, setting up boundaries within all these elements of design so that all players receive more or less the same, coherent experience of what the game’s like.
At the other end of the scale, game designers can choose instead to encourage the player. They can throw away all boundaries and tell the player to run wild, with only a few basic rules that give the game structure. Each approach comes with its own risks and rewards, and most games tend to fall somewhere in the middle on this scale. Games that slide too far towards either extreme are more likely to fail spectacularly … or perhaps make game design history.
As you may have noticed, I kind of love Star Wars and pretty much all affiliated video games. So, this one goes out to two of my favorite female characters: the Jedi Exile and Juno Eclipse.
Let’s start with the Jedi Exile. In Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords, you start off choosing your gender and class. The Exile could be a guy, but for today, let’s say you chose a woman. You start out … in your undies. Woops, but it’s the same for any choice in character. Eventually, you meet Atton (swoon), Kreia, Mira (also swoon), Brianna, Mical, Bao-Dur, Mandalore, Visas Marr, T3-M4, HK-47, and G0-T0. That’s a nice big crew. You get to choose light or dark (if you go dark, you get Hanharr instead of Mira) as you destroy the rest of the Sith Lords. One of the best things about this game is the philosophy. You get all sorts of interesting talks from Kreia and have a lot of morality questions throughout the game that aren’t as simple as the Paragon or Renegade in Mass Effect. But that’s all part of the fun.
The weirdest thing a female Exile has to put up with is Darth Sion. I mean, Darth Creepy has a weird love thing going on? Of course, this is turned right around, and male Exiles have Atris after them. Both are equally bad.
I love reading about as much as I do gaming, perhaps even more. I mean, for the longest time books were my only friends, and sad as that is, I was okay with that. Stories fill a vital part of the human soul as evidenced by how big the storytelling business is, with movies, books, and games—just to name a few. One of the things I have found interesting about this interest in narrative is the fact that some games have started to publish books based on them. To my knowledge, there are four Mass Effect books and there are World of Warcraft novels. I am sure there are more out there. Games that involve a degree of storytelling and narrative structure make it easy to create stories off them because everything you need is right there. However, one of the more fun ways stories come out of games is through fanfiction.
Fanfiction, which is unauthorized fiction based on something, is a way for fans to further engage with the stories or games they love. It enables them to expand the universe, continue to interact with the characters, and perhaps to fix whatever issues people have with the plot or other aspects. It creates a nice blank canvas where you can write in alternate universes, or stay canon and see where you can take things. That is one of the reasons I write fanfiction—so I can let my imagination take off with characters I am familiar with because, in a lot of ways, I am not done with these characters. I want more, but the games just don’t give it.
There are a number of sites on the ‘net that have fiction. There are LiveJournal communities dedicated to certain games or pairings, Archive of Our Own is growing in popularity as of late, and if you head on over to Fanfiction.net you can see just how many stories there are in the games section. It’s pretty mind-boggling. There are hundreds of different games represented on the site. It tracks any game that has at least one story uploaded. To give you an idea of what is popular, the top five games in terms of numbers of stories are: Pokémon, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy VII, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Legend of Zelda. Mass Effect is sixth and Dragon Age seventh, and there are many more.
In the last five years, technology has evolved exponentially— from wearables to touch screens, to motion tracking and beyond. As you might guess, the core of this evolution is driven by self-styled geeks and gurus, constantly trying to build new and better equipment to project their imagination onto the world.
Over the last decade, I would argue that gaming has driven much of this progress. Better graphics and video cards have enabled a whole new dimension of PC gaming, and even Mac has gotten on board supporting big name titles and online distribution channels. At the same time, a new generation of console games pushed the limits of game’s realism and immersive quality, while the Wii and then Xbox introduced new ways to control and play games in using motion-tracking. The big question is: what’s next? Media and film have tried to imagine the next generation of games and the generation after that time and again. However, by looking at some developments made in the last couple of weeks, we may be able to start weaving together a picture of how things will connect and extrapolate what could be possible not too far into the future.
Let’s start by jumping way down the road and talking about pretty much the ultimate place games can go, making you feel in every way like you are part of it. One recent piece of media that explores this is a great anime series MMORPGs everywhere will appreciate and laugh over, Sword Art Online (SAO). This anime takes place in 2022, so a not so distant future, when the release of a new MMORPG called Sword Art Online is released in Japan.
It’s that time again! With another week gone, we’re rounding up the top tweets that perfectly exemplify the FemHype mission. Take a look at our favorites and suggest your own top Twitter users in the gaming sphere. We love following new people!
— Charlie Owen (@charlieo) December 12, 2014
As any geek knows, comic conventions are some of the best places to show off just how much you love something. One of the most common and (in my opinion) coolest ways to do this is definitely cosplay. Who didn’t love to dress up as a kid and pretend to be your favorite character? News flash: it doesn’t have to stop when you hit middle school. Cosplay is short for ‘costume play,’ which is kind of weird, right? It pretty much means you’re doing hardcore dress-up.
Some cosplays are better than others. We’ve all seen attempted Iron Mans out of construction paper and laughed. And then we look at the really fancy, hand-built ones and we’re in awe. Either way a viewer sees it, it’s fun for the actual cosplayer.
I speak from personal experience. I used to just do little things—like throw on a Starfleet Captain’s shirt and call it a costume. Now, though, I went all-out with a Darth Revan costume my aunt and I built together.
Cosplay is a great way to show off who your favorite video game characters are. Now, for women, this can actually be pretty difficult. What if your favorite character is Morrigan from Dragon Age, but you don’t want to be wearing next to nothing? Sadly, this is a problem that can be seen with a lot of female characters. Either the character doesn’t have an outfit you feel comfortable in or it’s too complicated (ex: Commander Shepard or a Halo Spartan’s armor). Even for my Darth Revan cosplay, the chest piece just doesn’t fit right—and it never will. The armor in the game is a generic male-figure piece, and for a slightly curvier woman, it just doesn’t work.