In economics blogs, I often read that the state has at least two instruments for influencing the world: Monetary Policy and Fiscal Policy.
They then further argue that the state should use fiscal policy in order to maintain the right amount of deficit while monetary policy – which can’t be used to control the last thing – should be used to keep the real interest rate constant with the natural rate; despite the fact that fiscal policy can also be used for that. This is because although fiscal policy can be used for either issue it can’t – unless there’s a very fortuitous coincidence – be used to perfectly hit both of them, and why compromise when you have two instruments for two goals.
When I read discussion of computer games – and I’m naturally guilty of this too – there’s the idea that the designer should be hitting one goal. However, the game designer has many instruments. So just trying to hit one goal is simply wasteful. You have the gameplay, the controls, the music, the graphics, the out of game material and probably a bunch of other stuff I can’t even think of.
Now, not all of that is fully in the hands of the designer. In sequels, certain decisions are taken away from the designer by having to keep along with the feeling of the franchise; an unliked unspoken goal? Even the indie game designer with a blank slate cannot control the out of game materials if the game becomes popular. This means that for the popular game using the manual to control difficulty might be unable to work perfectly as giving too little – or misleading -information might motivate the player to look online where they’ll find more help than in a satisfyingly informative manual. However, though out of game materials might have that weakness, the gameplay can be used to control difficulty.
I originally thought that sound couldn’t help control challenge; like monetary policy can’t control the deficit. Or at least it couldn’t in a way other that hideously distracting tune. However, of course, that simply isn’t true. Quite often, sound will take a break from its goal of making and reinforcing the atmosphere in order to communicate to the player breaking them from that atmosphere. To say ‘good job, you’re on the right track’ so to speak to help control the challenge.
I cannot actually think of any goal that the game designer can aim for that is not able to be influenced by all the parts. Even goals as specific as ‘impress people with the visuals’ can be influenced by other factors such as gameplay; I doubt ‘screensaver games’ – not a term of condemnation – would be so lauded if they also had engaging mediocre gameplay rather than the one thing -visuals – to concentrate upon; like a painter so impressed by his blue that he gets rid of distracting things like composition.
Next time I’ll either be writing about why I think the one goal rhetoric is so common despite everything I’ve mentioned in this post, or about how mathematicians how an entire theory about Games and how that’s tooootally relevant to us. He’ll have to come tomorrow to find out what.