Game Development Reference
ally who is delivering a long dialogue sequence. When I played this game,
I didn't listen to the speech. Instead, I shot the ally, just to see if it would
work. It's not that I hated him and wanted to kill him—my motivation
wasn't inside the fiction at all. Rather, I was exploring the limits of the
game mechanics. I wanted to answer the question, “How did the design-
ers deal with this?” In a mechanics-driven experience, this is healthy, since
exploring systems is a major driver of meaning. But these mechanics had
a fiction layer wrapped around them. And within that fiction layer, shoot-
ing the ally didn't make sense. He died, and I missed most of his dialogue,
and the hero's good-guy characterization fell apart.
Sometimes desk jumping can be almost involuntary. In Grand Theft
Auto IV , the protagonist, Niko Bellic, is trying to escape a violent past as a
soldier in the Bosnian War. The game spends hours building up to a criti-
cal narrative decision at which Niko either murders an old enemy out of
hate or lets him go. With this decision, the core of Niko's character and the
moral of the narrative hang in the balance. Does Niko discipline himself
and become a peaceful man, or fall back into his vengeful ways? Do evil
and hate win out in the world, or can a broken man heal and become good?
It's a poignant moment.
Except that by this time in the game, Niko has murdered hundreds of
people, many of them innocent. Grand Theft Auto IV 's game mechanics
design encourages the player to kill dozens of police officers and drive over
crowds of pedestrians just for the hell of it. Niko likely crushed a few old
ladies just minutes before, on his way to meet his old nemesis. And now
he's hemming and hawing over whether to kill one person. The player's
motivation has been to kill lots of people for fun, while the character's
motivation is not to kill. The result is nonsense.
There are a number of ways to solve desk-jumping problems. Let's
look at each of them.
Disallowing desk jumping works, but weakens players' engagement by
destroying their belief in the honesty of the game's mechanics.
In Deus Ex , the designers could have turned off the jumping ability
inside the office, or placed invisible blockers over desks so that they cannot
be jumped upon. The problem with this is that players quickly sense the
artificiality of the devices used to control them. The game is no longer
being true to its own systems—it is cheating within its own ruleset to
get an arbitrary result the designer wanted. Faced with this, players stop
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