Monday, September 16, 2013

Sept 18, 2013

Seen in the Iwata and Miyamoto interview, philosophies and goals of home console games appear to have change quite radically over time.  Nintendo, specifically, have had their game design and difficulty influenced by the dominant medium for games.  During the 1980s, arcade games were designed to plunge the player into a world where the gameplay was accessible, but punishing.  The game was designed to be challenging enough to require multiple credits to complete, but offer enough encouragement and progression within the game so that the player can see progress with each quarter.  By striking a balance between progress and punishment, cabinets could squeeze multiple dollars out of participants within a single session, thus maximizing profits.

While sucking the $0.25 pieces out of the player's pocket was not necessary on the home console, Nintendo still employed a similar gameplay strategy.  Miyamoto states that part of a game's replayability was it's ability to make players mad at themselves.  If the game succeeded in making the player angry or frustrated with their performance, they may be more likely to hit the "Continue" button when prompted.  This creates an interesting challenge for game developers: how do you design a level that can frustrate players, but coax them into blaming themselves for their failure?  This admission of fault seems to be key for replayability in a level.  If a player decides that the level that they're currently on is simply too difficult, they may choose to discontinue playing.  If a player self blames for their inability to complete a game segment, they may be more likely to continue playing, as this is a level that they feel they can beat  When a player fails in a level with the difficulty properly tuned, they will experience the sensation of "Near Miss", making success on the following attempts seem more plausible and encouraging.

Since the 1980s, Nintendo and other game developers have adopted a different philosophy regarding video game difficulty.  Game developers seem to be much more forgiving with their game difficulty since the fall of the arcade mindset. Stated by Miyamoto "Well, since you've purchased it, it's surely better to be able to see the ending.", game design is no longer focused on extracting quarters or continues from the player, though micro-transactions can serve a similar purpose.  The modern approach to many video games is to offer varying difficulty levels, or even the option to skip difficult game segments, so consumers of all abilities can fully experience their purchase.  This is not to say that games no longer offer a challenge; there are many gaming experiences out there that may drive the players to scream in frustration.  For those who seek the ultimate challenge in a game, achievements, trophies, or medals were introduced.  These achievements can reward  players with superficial points for going above and beyond game requirements, thus offering a great challenge for those who seek it.  Both achievements and scalable difficulties lend themselves towards making games that can be both accessible, or punishing, based on the players' preference.

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