Tell, Don’t Show?

So I’m finally turning my attention to the next game which I intend to whip up in a jiffy. It’s a deeply uncomplicated thing, literally a one button game (though I missed the boat on all those cool challenges surrounding that). In essence, it’s a recreation of the classic ethics dilemma called the “Trolley Problem”. The game is going to be called Trolley Problem.

Anyway, part of the problem (oh ho ho) about making the game is this whole question of how you convince or coddle or whatever the player into caring about the decisions they make. Conventional wisdom, as I take it, is largely that you leverage the aesthetics of the game in such a way as to convey the gravity and importance of decisions. Photorealistic furrowed brows and the like. That is, “this is an important decision because it looks and sounds like it would be important if this were real”. With the problem, as always, being that it isn’t real and, in my experience, we as players are pretty happy to fool around in even the more gritty and serious of video game situations.

A partial solution is to simply demand something along the lines of “player accountability”. So if they want to fool around like a bunch of fools then let them, but then it’s their fault that their decisions don’t feel like they carry weight in the world of the game. To a big extent I’m in favour of this – I think that a major movement has to exist in games and players that focuses on players engaging more fully with the content and nature of games than solely as systems to play with (however awesome that play also is).

Given that amazing aesthetics are a touch out of my reach for Trolley Problem I’ve been wondering about a “tell, don’t show” approach. That is, instead of fussing about implying and connoting the importance of decisions to be made, I just tell the player they’re making important decisions outright. As is: “Dear player, this is important.” (As in: so don’t screw around.)

So that’s part of my theory for the new game. Let’s see how it goes!

26 September 2011
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