Game Development Reference
aside old, possibly luxurious writing habits in favor of those that are more constrained
(and by necessity more efficient) would probably feel very much the same.
Fortunately, nearly all professional writers are used to dealing with limitations,
and game writers are no exception. The key, as always, is to understand the tar-
get medium or platform—with its strengths, weaknesses, conventions, and potential
pitfalls—as thoroughly as possible before getting started.
17.2 Player Interaction with a Handheld Game
The way players interact with a handheld 1 game is often very different from the way
they interact with a console 2 game. This is partly due to the size, shape, and power
of the hardware itself and partly due to the times and places players generally choose
to play a handheld game as opposed to a console game. As you might expect, these
differences have a number of bearings on game writing.
Let's start by looking at some general differences between player interaction with
a console game versus with a handheld game. We'll categorize these two player ex-
periences via the following differentiating factors: where users tend to play each type
of game system, why they choose to play on that system at any given time, and how
their interactions and experiences tend to differ from console to handheld.
At the simplest and most obvious level, the where of console gaming versus handheld
gaming can be summarized as “at home” versus “on the go.”
Console games tend to be played in the home environment, on the family tele-
vision or possibly on a secondary set in the basement or in a bedroom. They're sta-
tionary and more or less permanently connected to a TV somewhere in the player's
It goes without saying that handheld games are anything but permanently con-
nected; they are specifically designed to be portable and played “on the go.” It does
not seem unreasonable to assume that this is how they're played for the majority of
There are, of course, exceptions to these rules. For example, with the right third-
party accessories, a slimline PlayStation 2 can be made portable enough to play on
one's lap in the back seat of a car. And there is currently no law on the topics against
sitting at home and settling in for a Nintendo DS play session.
However, the main distinction between console and handheld games is that one
type of system you can take with you on the road and play almost anywhere, and
1 For the purposes of this chapter, “handheld” will refer to small, standalone portable game systems that
have no other functionality (such as PDA or phone capability). The main examples in the marketplace at
the time of this writing are the Nintendo DS and the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP).
2 For the purposes of this chapter, “console” will refer to any modern game system one would connect
to a television, such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, etc.