A game designer, programmer, and general malcontent, Nathan McKenzie has had a career in the commercial game industry that began back in 1997, when teams consisted of double digit membership. He has worked on titles such as Soldier of Fortune, Heretic 2, Quake 4, and some sadly cancelled projects. He divides his attention between game design and game technology issues. He is currently doing consulting evaluating a variety of technologies for game making.
The Perils of Choice: The Sometimes Dire Consequences of Freedom in Games
Game designers, especially idealistic, expansive, idea-championing game designers, love to talk about player freedom and player choice. Games throw off the shackles of linearity and the author, we say. Games are the paint brush, not the painting, we opine. Games are democratic and grass roots and empowering, like the Internet, we exalt.
And maybe so, or maybe so on good days. We are likely just scratching the surface of what games can do or be, and choice and interactivity are the core of their magic.
But there is a dark side. Not all choices are created equal. More choices are not always simply better. In the strange looking glass world of game design, sometimes removing an option as a designer means adding choices for players, and sometimes adding an option to a game means collapsing all choices for players into a tedious singularity.
In this presentation, I explore how game designers do (or sometimes do not) build meaningful choices for their players. It's not especially intuitive. Along the way, I also highlight the serious ramifications theses issues have on games meant to educate or inform.