Game mechanics. They’re the very glue that holds a game together. And much like glue, if they’re used wrong, the whole game itself can fall apart.
But then there are some mechanics that are so well-implemented that they take the entire experience to new heights, creating a memorable and innovative gaming experience players will remember for years to come.
While I’m sure there are others I might be missing, these are the four coolest mechanics I’d love to see implemented in gameplay more often.
Choice is something that has become increasingly popular in gaming over the years, whether it’s choosing which path to take in Gears of War, or if the choice has serious implications on the rest of the story, like in The Walking Dead.
Choice is unique, because it allows the player to, in a way, customize their gaming experience and tailor it to how they’d like to play. It offers us a real-life simulation, giving us the chance to choose between alternatives without paying any actual consequences outside of the game’s story itself.
When choice is attached to a narrative in a convincing way, it almost allows one to tell their own story, crafting the game into something more personal that they can have a sense of ownership over. It’s this kind of influence on another universe that helps us feel needed and powerful, making the story attached to it an even more compelling one.
2) Environmental Interaction
While it might not be the greatest military shooter ever, Spec Ops: The Line, had something very interesting going for it: sand. Sand was one of the main focus points of any advertising for the game, since it played such a large role in both the story and the gameplay. It was the reason Dubai got shut down, it affected players negatively if they were not careful, it provided some cover, and it took a center role in the game, making it more of a character than a backdrop.
I would love to see more done with the way the environment of a game interacts with the player. Whether you’re taking damage from it or receiving help, the interaction with one’s world makes the game feel more connected and multi-dimensional. Make the environment take more than just a passive role in the experience, and gamers will gain more of a sense of immersion in the game’s setting.
3) Environment/Physics Puzzles
And no, this is not exclusive to just puzzle games. Instead, I’d love to see more games that don’t hold your hand or let you access new areas with the press of a large, glowing button and an action button symbol over it.
Instead, think of Half Life 2. There were just as many puzzles in that game as there were shooting sequences, and their execution was so interesting and flawless that you didn’t just feel like a badass, you felt like an intelligent badass for gaining access to areas using real-life physics and logic. True, I am a fan of the thinking man’s shooters, and I would love to see more environmental and physics-based puzzles used more often in games. There’s something to be said for the satisfaction you feel at using real-life conventions to cut power to a gate or reach a higher platform.
4) Better Storytelling
Twenty years ago, every other game was about some guy needing to beat up a gang of bad guys when they kidnapped his girlfriend. There was no emphasis on story, only on the challenging gameplay. Which is fine…except in this day and age, we are constantly evolving into a higher-developed game type, and a strong narrative is becoming increasingly important to a game.
The problem here, however, is that the word “narrative” is a fairly broad term used to describe good storytelling. But what makes good storytelling?
Whether you liked the ending or not, the Mass Effect Series is a great example of strong storytelling. The game has a large backstory rife with original lore that makes the universe seem unique and fresh. Its characters are interesting and well-realized, dialogue is delivered well, and the whole game feels bigger than itself due to the masterful story crafting done at the hands of its writers.
I want characters who make sense and have a strong purpose and meaning to the story. I’d love to see more dialogue that portrays emotion and is well written to sound individual to the character speaking it, and I’m a big fan of a massive and deep storyline that weaves rich lore with a strong plot.
Really, I’d just love something like a good book that I can’t put down. Story is the spine of so many games nowadays, and the better told it is, the more likely I am to stay engaged and engrossed in the overall experience.