I recently sat down and read Ready Player One and, while I have some mixed opinions about it, it did key into one of the most important aspects of a video game - it must be an immersive experience. No matter the audience, if you can't get lost into it, then it's a failure, unless it's an art game and its goal is something far beyond what a video game is supposed to be. Immersion is the most necessary trait, I believe, for a video game, and in genres you don't think about being immersive (FPS, tactical, etc.).
When I think immersion, I think about the moment in time in which the world ceases to exist and there is only your monitor. Lots of things contribute to this, but not essentially related to the aspects you'd naturally think would. Roleplaying elements, for instance, such as flavor text or objects that exist for no other reason than to flesh the world out, contribute to how deep a game feels, but not automatically how immersed you're going to feel while playing. Likewise, fidelity or art style does play in somewhat, but many would argue that they had an immersive experience in Pac-Man and PONG. I'd personally argue the most critical aspect to an immersive experience is the ability for the game to engage your thought process.
A lot of games from a long time ago weren't attractive, didn’t contain a lot of roleplay elements, and didn’t even really have much more than a few buttons, a directional pointer, and your imagination and they were very immersive. Games without RPG elements can be immersive, like I said, as a kid even I, a child of an era in which 8-bit and 16-bit consoles were a reality, would get lost in a game of Galaga. I constantly play flash games and often get lost in them, even though sometimes the graphics are literally stick figures.
The most important part of a game is its ability to engage you. If it doesn’t engage you, then it has failed. Genres, realistically, are a listing of the various ways in which something engages you. For instance, for an FPS game, it engages you by providing 3D environment in which you’re constantly on guard from the enemy while attempting to take out the enemy as fast as possible.
RPGs engage us with large stories and characters and a world in which we must find out what the story is. This is why games like Destiny, I’d argue, don’t provide much in the way of story, because that’s not what immerses you into the world – you don’t really care about the who, what, when, where, and why when you’re just wanting to shoot things. Most of the focus of the game was placed directly on the combat, and it’s a giant success.
Literally, the Internet's word for fedora at this point, Destiny is really the best example ever. It doesn't have a story, it is very easy to get lost into the game and not think of anything else. I'm still not sure what Destiny's story even is, other than probably everyone you interact with is secretly a dinosaur or something, but that doesn't matter when your heart is racing and you're shooting as fast as you can praying for your grenade to reload so you can make it to the next checkpoint.
MMOs I believe, and would easily argue, are the most immersive experiences available because when you combine the RPG element of a world with depth, lore, and adventure with the Human element, it becomes ever so easy to lose face of reality as you’re absorbed into the glowing frame of your monitor.
All anyone has to do, in order to find a successful game, is look at elements that engage you. From a story that you have to find an ending to, to game mechanics that are just out of this world satisfying, there is a lot going on in the world of immersion, but it’s not specifically the things that you think, much less much of what many players argue for.
That’s also why games that try to copy something successful find that they fall flat on their face. Often times, it’s not the mechanics, but the entire package that drives success. Many, many WoW clones could have been declared to be mechanically superior to WoW in many different ways, but they lacked the community and established playerbase which is what was so engaging about WoW.
I just wanted to make the simple point – think deeper when it comes to what makes a game good and what makes a game bad, because at the end of the day you’d be shocked at what the real reason you engage with some games is and isn’t, if you look beyond the fluff and graphical fidelity.
That’s all for today! Have fun and keep enjoying Azeroth.
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