What is Individuality?
- The more choices a game offers the player, the more the player can create an individual way of playing (or an individual route through a space).
- This makes the game enjoyable, as the player feels that s/he is really playing the game, as opposed to blindly following the designer's wishes.
Videogames are highly structured experiences (Newman 2002), as the game designer possesses a strong level of control over the player’s actions. For example, in the levels of Ico, the player can affect t by hitting objects, igniting bombs and pulling chains. However, these actions have been proscribed by the designer and the player can only usefully exercise them at specific moments. The player cannot affect the space in ways that the designer has not intended. For example, a rifle cannot be used to attack enemies, as such a weapon does not exist in the game. Although bomb weapons exist, these can only destroy walls, and only those walls that have been deemed as destructible by the designer. These constraints derive from the technical and practical difficulties of creating a game that can account for every possible choice. It also derives from design reasons, for as Bleszinski notes, although players often heavily desire the freedom to do anything, they become “lost and frustrated” when presented with this freedom as there are too many choices for them to take (Bleszinski 2001b).
Despite the limitations placed on player freedoms, research shows that freedom is a quality that players rate highly in games (Livingstone in Newman 2004). This contradiction can be explained by the methods in which videogames ‘fake’ freedom by providing enough options to allow the player to feel that s/he has made a unique choice. This hides the presence of the designer and prevents the player from feeling that s/he is blindly following the designer’s ‘script’. This experience can be termed ‘individuality’. The term recognises that videogames do not offer true freedom, but also acknowledges that offering enough choices can create the illusion of freedom.
Individuality can be seen as existing as a continuum that increases as a game offers more choices to a player. The more individuality a game can offer, the more authorship is shared between the player and designer, which as Rouse (2005) argues provides a feeling of empowerment that can make a gaming experience highly memorable.
Bleszinski, C. (2001b) ‘The Art and Science of Level Design’ In: Gamasutra.
Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20010110/cliff_01.htm [accessed: June 2006]
Newman, J. (2004) Videogames.
Rouse, R. (2005) Game Design—Theory & Practice. (2nd edition – Electronic Edition).
USA: Wordware Publishing, Inc