Eskil Steenberg, currently hard at work on a very pretty new MMO called “Love“, made an insightful comment on the tendency in contemporary game design to replace gameplay with more or less elaborate PAUSE and PLAY buttons.
I’ve recently played some MGS4 and GTAIV, and it is clear they are filled with press button to proceed, use item to proceed, honk the horn to proceed, or simply just follow the line on your map. GTAIV feels at times like a pac-man, except you don’t have to make any choices where to go.
It is clear after playing these games that what the designers really wanted to do was not a game but a movie, the interactivity is just a annoyance on the way. As someone who is also into film making I can understand this, but the problem is that it is ruining the game. Even with film aspirations, they don’t have even the basic film 101 knowledge down like pacing, avoiding exposition, to show rather then tell, tension leading to resolution, building up an event or character before not after they appear, and giving the viewer a fair chance to figure out the resolution before hand.
Reminds me of our realisation some time ago that game design was still largely considered a problem that needs to be solved rather than an opportunity that can be exploited. Rather than looking at the medium with a clear head and then figuring out what to do with it, many game developers come to the medium with the preconceived ideas and then they force the design to cater to these ideas. Even if the medium doesn’t lend itself to them very well. Even if the medium may be capable of much more interesting and spectacular things that are completely unthinkable in any other medium.