Setting and Emotional Tone

In some kinds of games, such as chess and Quake, the setting is almost irrelevant. Serious players ignore the idea that chess is a medieval war game or that Quake involves space marines on an alien planet. They concentrate on the bare essentials of the gameplay: strategy in the former case and blazing action in the latter. If the setting intrudes, it is only a distraction.

Adventure games reverse this situation. The setting contributes more to the enter­tainment value of an adventure game than settings in any other genre. Whether it's grim and depressing, fantastic and outlandish, or funny and cheerful, the

setting creates the world the player explores and lives in. For many players, the set­ting is the reason for playing adventure games in the first place.

The majority of computer games offer little emotional subtlety. Games of pure strat­egy have no emotional content at all; action games and war games have little more. Nor do most single-player games inspire complex emotions in the player. "Yippee!" and "Damn!" are about the limit of it—exhilaration and frustration, respectively. Role-playing games (RPGs), with their deeper stories, offer greater opportunities for emotional expression, but even when their designers take advantage of this depth, the emotion tends to get lost in a morass of bookkeeping. Multiplayer games are an exception; their social context allows for richer interactions because they take place among real people.

Adventure games are always single-player games, so they can't rely on social inter­actions to create richness. They don't have intricate strategy, high-speed action, or management details to occupy the player's attention. The games move more slowly, which gives designers the chance to create a world with a distinct emotional tone. Good examples from the past and present are Phantasmagoria, one of the first graphical horror games; the Myst series, with its surreal buildings and empty spaces; and Shadow of the Colossus's vast and beautiful landscapes, which make it distinctly more than an ordinary action-adventure.

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