The key to making sure an experience is re-enjoyable is the immersion factor. It doesn’t matter how long the film is, how long the book is, how long the game is… if you are totally immersed in the world, if you feel it, breathe it, and at times live it, then you are much more inclined to want to revisit it as often as you can.
But immersion in video games is tricky. Film and literature can immerse you with all the hallmarks of great fiction – story, character development, etc – with the added bonus of either wooing you with great acting and special effects or with writing so evocative that you cannot help but be transported into the author’s world. As Trasnsformers and Twilight has shown, you sometimes don’t need a quality story to be a success.
A video game needs so much more than special effects or big name stars, due to the simple fact that the nature of the medium is that you play a part in controlling the characters’ destinies. I’ve spoken with a number of gamers who say that, while they do play games with clearly defined protagonists like God of War, UNCHARTED, and Final Fantasy XIII, they never feel as invested in the story because they didn’t have a hand in creating, customizing, or otherwise owning the protagonists in any way.
“Look at Oblivion,” they say. “Look at Dragon Age!” In these games, gamers are allowed almost complete control over the creation of the protagonist, thus allowing them to feel like they ARE the protagonists going through the adventure. This allows them to immerse themselves in the world, creating a stronger sense of attachment, and thereby making it easier for them to allow themselves to replay the game.
“Look at Half-Life! Look at Portal! Halo!” These are games that feature protagonists you have no control over in terms of creation, but whom developers have deemed as silent and effectively mute. By doing so, the idea goes, the gamers are then allowed to impress their own feelings and perspective on the characters, accomplishing the same result as games like Oblivion.
“How am I supposed to believe I’m Nathan Drake if I’m not allowed to customize him/he has a voice? And If I can’t believe that I’m the one running and jumping through this world, how do you expect me to be immersed in it?”
Now hold on there just one second.
Naughty Dog understands that immersion doesn’t just mean making a player feel like he IS the protagonist. There are many ways to immerse a player in the game. The important factor in question here is believability. Can you, the player, believe enough in this world that they’ve created, can you believe in Nathan Drake enough to accept the fact that you are not him… you are riding along with him? With UNCHARTED 2, Naughty Dog has pulled out all the stops to make you believe just that.
On the next page: Story