Game Designer Discovered Pacing!

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Over at The Astronauts, someone figured something out. Sometimes, games work even when you’re not shooting things.

Listed below, there are five well known action-adventure games. Think about your favorite, most memorable moments from the single player part of each, then click on the + spoiler button and see if I have managed to guess any of these moments.

What do all these moments have in common?

They are game-free. They are gameplay-less.

That’s right. You heard me.

If we understand gameplay as something that a challenge is a crucial part of, then none of these moments features any gameplay. You just walk, or swim, or ride a horse, but that’s it. You cannot die. You don’t make choices that have any long term consequences. No skill is involved.

There is no gameplay.

In other words, certain things worth remembering from certain video games are not what these video games are all about.

What this guy now figures is that you have to remove gameplay from games to get those moments.

But I don’t think so. It has nothing to do with gameplay. But a lot with pacing.

A lot of games just keep stomping on, throwing new enemies to battle at the player even before he finished the old ones off, in order to make the game “gripping”. The makers fear that if there is just the slightest lull, the players will become bored and stop playing. But will they?

In most other narrative media it is well known that ceaseless screaming action is very tiring and impossible to watch. Even the most actiony action movie has that one introspective scene, where all characters talk low, where nothing happens, where everything just waits, mostly for the final explosions to happen.

Game designers seem to be afraid of those moments, but they are crucial for the experience. They are here to structure the experience, to give the players some rest, to set up the following events. It is not just done with cut scenes. There should be more moments of pure exploration, of crossing distances, of waiting and watching. They might even test the patience of the players from time to time.

After all, one of my best remembered game moments are those incredibly long stairs in Silent Hill 2. You just walk down into the darkness, and you feel very, very alone, and very far below the surface of the earth.