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Theme integration in video games

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I was reading some articles on theme integration over at the Board Game Designers Forum. Their articles seem to accept theme breaking to improve gameplay as a given. At one point, they even point it out, saying, "The caveat is that sometimes, rigid adherence to realism might keep you from choosing mechanics that could really propel your design forward". I'm curious why adherence to realism (or tighter theme integration) is so highly prized here in regards to game design. Many games are criticized for lacking it (e.g. why am I only given a pistol to save the world from the alien invaders?), and it's given as the chief justification for some game mechanics (e.g. weapon familiarity). Is it that game graphics tend to be more realistic so depature from realism in other areas is more jarring? Is there just a different culture surrounding video games than there is surrounding board games? Or something else?

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a large part I think is the dominace of RPG type game design discussion here and on other general game design message boards.

Well its not so much RPG developers, but the general lack of intrest and/or understanding of other game genres and design mechanics...so it kinda becomes something akin to sci-fi writers trying to provide input on the stories romace novelists create. sorry but games are larger then that.

So we end up with peeps trying to develop say an arcade type shooter getting design advice from peeps who largly have no intrest in such games. granted some of that can resault in some innovateive game designs...but all too often it just mucks things up, especialy if the peeps developing such games don't have a deep seated intrest in the genre their project is part of

In the end, I think the underlying consensis with many RPG centric folks is makeing thier games more complex rather then more realistic. there seems to be a adversion to simplicity, so much so that even artificial complexity is often preferred. But what works in some genres, can have little place in others...and design traits present in one genre arn't always the best choices in others.

for example...developers that arn't really that much into arcade shooters, yet develop a game in that genre. They often get caught up in provideing players dozens of weapons, shields, power-ups that both help and hurt the player, little shops to buy/sell and equip such weapons and options...all under the belief that more = better...that might work in RPGs, but it all too often leads to bland uninspired games that the majority of hardcore arcade shooter fans avoid.



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I think it's partly to do with the different natures of the media. Board games have to make some abstractions due to the need to represent complex actions such as battles with a few rolls of the dice or the movement of a few pawns. Since computers can roll more dice in a second than a human could manage in an entire play through a board game it's feasible to put more detail into a game.

I suspect the graphics have something to do with it as well, but more in the nature of having a mismatch between different game elements. If an RPG has a gritty realistic feel you would expect a greater level of realism in the mechanics than a cartoonish one. I haven't seen many people complain about the total lack of realism in the Mario RPG games, for example.

However I also suspect there's a higher proportion of people asking design questions regarding realism here in this forum because those questions are hard to solve. Designers who take a "whatever's fun and works" abstract approach can try nearly anything and is less likely to have massively hard design questions, whereas a designer who prefers to abstract real-life down to a level that is implementable in a game is much more likely to run into a real doozy.

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