Gaming is not for everyone. However, in recent years, open world games, story-driven games, and RPG games have become quite popular. Many games have received praise and critical acclaim for their creative vision, attention to detail, uniqueness, world-building, design, realism and sometimes, even their relaxing effects. While elements of storytelling have always been there throughout gaming history, it’s important to highlight the mature elements of gaming that have graduated from linear structures, 8-bit oscillated sounds, blocked features, and simple objectives to entire simulated worlds with their own politics and atmospheres.
Every gaming experience is unique to the player and the person and all things are good in moderation. While some of you might be reading this with the belief that you’re too old to enjoy them, here are 7 immersive aspects of gaming that might change your mind.
The Use of Visual Storytelling and Music To Drive The Story
What games like Journey, Abzu, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus and Breath of the Wild all have in common are that the vast and mesmerizing landscapes, audio scores, and sometimes even the lack of sound, depending on the environment, work in tandem to create an incredibly soothing effect on players. Journey and Abzu specifically are music driven with a continuous flow of melodic sounds that sync with interactions between players and AI. When we introduce these aspects into the element of travel, the experience of gaming becomes even more enveloping. The migration from one in-game region to another feels realistic in spite of the fictional world we are interfacing with.
Elaborate Lore and World Building
Good writing and world building can make for emotionally evocative and riveting experiences. We can temporarily suspend our attachment to our environment and delve into mesmeric tales where a victory is almost always guaranteed so long as we’re invested. Good world building and storytelling can distract us from the mire of our thoughts and provide us the break we need to return to our lives refreshed.
Most best-selling videogames have mature features that draw players in– sometimes forcing the player to choose sides among characters. The games sometimes even draw on real world issues to create the atmosphere of realism and a layer of urgency to the player. This is what makes many video games memorable to young and adult players alike.
Strategy: Choice and Personalization
Eldin Ring is an exceptional example of how focalized strategy in gameplay is integral to the immersive nature of gaming. Nowadays, many game developers have adapted personalization and choice as critical aspects of gameplay that impact the path of players. This forces gamers to really connect to their avatar, the environment of the game, and by extension, their overall approach to victory.
In story-driven games, such as Detroit Become Human, for example, players determine the outcome of the story based on choices that feel real and establish a deeper relationship between playable characters and the player’s themselves. The more choice players have, the higher the investment.
Sometimes, choice and personalization can manifest in how players interact with AI elements. These intuitive aspects grip our attention and shape our experience. Games like The Last Guardian (famous for making twitch streamers sob) lets players create their own relationship with the AI guardian whose future behaviors correspond to player choices.
Simulated Risk and Reward
With strategizing comes risk and reward to our gameplay to make victories feel earned. A good strategy requires our undivided attention, and the problems we solve while gaming temporarily replace our common stressors with a simulated reward system. Gaming experiences that allow us to utilize our personalized strategies make the reward all the more victorious. The simple fact that our risks and losses while gaming are simulated allows us to enjoy the process of being challenged and occupy our thoughts, momentarily facilitating a feeling of calm or excitement.
Social Relevance and Critical Commentary
Many video games have complexities: dealing with social issues, marginalized identities and mental health topics through highly imaginative approaches.
Life is Strange explores a blossoming relationship between two queer characters under unique circumstances in which one can control time. Players must make critical choices that impact the community within the game.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice explores what life is like through the prism of psychosis. The incorporation of voices, labyrinthine puzzles within the game environment, the darkness, fear, and unraveling of trauma, all bring the player into the tangible experiences of someone who struggles with psychosis. Ninja Theory actually met with and interviewed real world individuals and experts to help simulate the experiences of schizophrenia. However, the harrowing tail also includes themes of grief and overcoming loss.
Detroit Become Human is an allegory of human rights and social justice movements in which Marcus (played by Jesse Williams) and other critical characters find themselves at the forefront of a freedom revolution (something that speaks directly to the movements we see today). Games like Abzu and Horizon Zero Dawn speak directly to topics like climate change and humanity’s impact on the environment through their hugely different and yet enigmatic plot design. As the players progress further in each of these games, they grow to understand the social context and are forced to reconcile the symmetry between in-game commentary and real-world circumstances. Sometimes these commentaries can help us expand our understanding of relationships, social issues, and various struggles.
The musical gliding of Journey through dark, dimly lit, and vast dune-scapes is an allegory to life, death and belief in sacred symbols. Characters begin the journey by themselves but can interact with other players on the same pilgrimage to a mysterious high peak–but only through the use of musical notes, as there is no dialogue (making our interactions with those we encounter all the more sacred). Throughout their trek, they experience the highs, the lows, the loneliness, the separation, the joy and the unpredictability that one grapples with in real life circumstances.
Many games explore relatable passages of life and are meant to be played simply for catharsis and impact.
Call-back to Our Favorite Classics
Sometimes we just want to experience the joy we had as kids. What better a way than to go back to our re-imagined classics? Whether its Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, or Zelda, many games and franchises are receiving much praise from longtime fans and first-time players. It is a fun and exciting time to re-experience the classics we love through all new rendering!
As stated above, every gaming experience is unique to the player and the person. As we move into the future of gaming, we can reconsider our views and open our minds to all that gaming has to offer through choice, storytelling, music, visuals, commentary, and cathartic through-lines. As gaming technologies continue to develop, this opens up the door for more fun and thought-provoking gaming experiences for all ages and audiences.