There was a blog post on Gamasutra recently about time wasting in games. Now aside from enjoyment we’re not really getting anything out of a game and as such one could call the activity a waste of time. I’m not intending to discuss the merits of that argument today I’m more focused on the concept mentioned in the article – padding.

I don’t consider the post to be particularly well written, in fact it felt like it was illustrating its own point. That said though it makes a good point – why do so many games insist on padding out things with tiresome busywork?

Maps which are designed to tease your destination but require you to travel to Mordor and back to actually get there. I’m not suggesting a linear path is required with no obstacles but traversal should be fun rather than a chore.

Similarly there’s tasks that happen a lot in a game being dull - if I have to do it often it’d better be fun. In an FPS shooting should be great. Taking cover should be satisfying. If the basic mechanics aren’t fun then much of the game time is just going to be tiresome.

The example that always springs to mind for me is Saints Row 3’s vehicle entry mechanics. Much like in other sandbox games there’s a button to enter a vehicle. The player’s character opens a door and hops in. However that takes a while for no good reason. Holding sprint when entering a vehicle causes the player’s character to leap through the nearest car window putting them in the driving seat immediately.saintsjack

A game can’t be all fun but it does seem far too few developers stop to ask “Yeah, but is this actually making the experience more enjoyable?”

It’s a game. If I wanted to work for something and then enjoy myself I would do something real. Instead I want gratification. Pander to me already!

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