Game Development Reference
becomes a technology demo because it doesn't need to be anything else to
get players excited. The game will still work, for a while. But technological
excitement doesn't last long, and a game that depends on it will not look
very good a few years down the road.
For example, in the mid-1990s it became possible to encode full-
motion video on a CD-ROM and play it back on a PC. This technological
leap led to some of the worst games in history. These games managed to
utterly fail at being movies while simultaneously failing at being games.
Although this disaster was driven by many other factors besides tech
fetishism (such as the blind theft of creative ideas from film), it was enabled
by misplaced trust in technology.
To ac h ieve sustained success, a game must use its new technology to
unlock interactions and situations that couldn't have been experienced
before. For example, Doom is often cited as a technology-driven game
because it was the first first-person shooter with varying heights and non-
right-angled walls. But Doom did not become a mega-hit just because of its
technology. It also took that new technology and used it to unlock a new
spectrum of design-driven experiences. Doom wasn't just the first game
with arbitrarily angled walls and changing light levels. It was the first
game where demons shut off the lights and charged into the room when
you grabbed an item. It was the first immersive horror game where you
would hear monsters groaning in the dark and turn in circles, trying to
find them. It was the first multiplayer first-person shooter. These elements
depended on technology to work, but they are actually advances in game
design, and the technology alone did not create them.
emotion tHRougH PRimal tHReats
Some things have threatened our species for so long that our fear of them
is imprinted directly into our genes. Rotten food and disease-ridden filth
make us feel revolted to help us avoid food poisoning. Venomous spiders
and snakes make us recoil because they're more dangerous than their size
suggests. Visibly diseased people drive us away so that we won't catch their
sickness ourselves. The sight of ghastly wounds kicks off an adrenaline
response to prepare us to deal with a dangerous situation. And games can
trigger these responses. Just throw gore or spiders on a screen. It's easy.
In fact, it's too easy. The adrenaline rush of these primal threats has
been cheapened by decades of overuse by lazy filmmakers and game de-
signers. People are just too used to these cheeseball frights by now. Many
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