Why is experience the most valuable thing to a game developer?
I have to admit, I have a lack of experience in playing games. When I was young, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of games and believe me when I say I have never played Pokemon or GTA, or games of that sort. Well, I’ve seen videos of them but not played them. I never had true recallable experiences of games, let alone designing them. But, I did have a PlayStation, a PS One, the first-gen console my dad bought me because I got a 4th at school. Loaded with all kinds of console games, my best memory yet was games like Mario, Bomberman, Motor Cross but I was too young to remember the details of the experience. So, how could one actually design a game when he didn’t have enough experiences to draw from?
Growing up, I didn’t partake in many activities. I was afraid, I’m still not exactly sure of what, but definitely afraid. And this was the biggest thing I missed out, the experience of things. It wasn’t until I stepped out of high school that I realized experiences, on many occasions, are never bad. Slowly, I opened up to more events and activities and finally stepped out of my “comfort” zone. Although the enrichment of experiences helped me grow as a person, I noticed that I managed to capture the essence in many of those experiences. As time passed, I was still able to relive those moments because the captured essence of the memories were safely stored within me, which I still cherish a lot. And this helped me in learning how to design experiences.
Games are not the experience. Games enable the experience!
I’ve learnt that to tell a story, you have to know the essence of it. I hope I have done a great job at getting you to read this article. By now, you should be able to tell I’m trying to convey the essence of this lens, ironically the Lens of Essential Experience. To deliver an experience, game designers usually try to identify the experience they want their players to go through, then find the essence of it and make everything surround that essence. For example, to simulate a cold snowy Christmas morning, obviously it is almost impossible to deliver that experience directly with today’s technologies, but if we notice the essence of cold snowy Christmas, there are a hundred million details that we can use to deliver that experience. Said details like the breath from someone’s mouth, the animation of putting on gloves, the crystal snow falling, the Christmas music playing in the background or even footsteps in the snow, all convey the experience of cold snowy Christmas. Integrate these with the rules of your game, you can really enable the special experience, just like how you are imagining it in your head right now!
Over time, I have learnt to try to come up with a vision of the experience we want our players to experience. Frankly, most of the time, instead of capturing the essence, I find myself enjoying the moment itself and miss the task altogether. While I can’t say for sure that it was a bad experience, I am certain that being in that moment is a great first step as a game designer.
So, to use the Lens of Essential Experience, we can ask ourselves several questions that help define the experience that we want our players to have. Similarly, what is essential to that experience? Like all things, this first lens is the lens I always come back to when I arrive at a dead stop during brainstorming. I hope my two cents on this lens and my experience help you in some ways or other. If you appreciate this kind of article, I’m sure you will enjoy our upcoming game, Night at the Clownville. We are going to set up Steam page soon, so stay tuned on our Instagram and be sure to wishlist it on Steam when it’s out! Coming up next, the Lens of Surprise!