Operant conditioning is an annoyingly prevalent method used in modern games to extend player engagement, especially in games that require prolonged playtime as part of their business model. Browser games like farmville, and MMOs like World of Warcraft are probably the most guilty of this, but almost any game boasting “RPG elements” can be accused of relying on it to some degree. The result is games that condition player to continue playing them, it’s a lazy and underhand way of forcing engagement without necessarily having to immerse the player through story or gameplay challenge.
However I don’t think it’s the same as addiction. People may play games for unhealthy amounts of time and at the cost of far more important things, but they aren’t dependent on them. There are no withdrawal effects for someone who decides to stop, and no significant health risks associated with playing. Anything can be taken to an extreme level of obsession; food, sex, shopping, exersice can all become obsessions if a person has nothing else to work for.
Yu Yu Hakusho is an anime series focused on the adventures of Yusuke Urameshi, a 14 year old who is killed in a car accident during the course of the first episode. Upon reaching the spirit world he is informed that his death, attempting to save a small from the car, was so unexpected that spirit world had not yet prepared a place for him. Instead Yusuke is offered an opportunity to return to life and work as a spirit detective, capturing escaped demons. Yusuke quickly teams up with his former rival Kazuma Kuwabara, and two demons Hiei & Kurama, and the four of them fight through numerous missions together.
Yusuke as a character is cocky, arrogant, and headstrong, but he’s also loyal and cares about doing the right thing. One of the major themes throughout the series is the value of friendship, and all the supporting characters are frequently shown socialising outside of the action. There is also a consistant theme of self improvement, but this seems to be something that’s extremely common among any narrative that focuses on martial arts.
Japonime is the outpouring of Japanese cultural infuence on the west that occured after the United States succeeded in opening communication and trade with the high secluded Japan. This led to an infatuation by the west with all things Japanese. Artists and fashion designer worked Japanese influences into their designs, and selling real or replica Japanese crafts became extremely fashionable in the late 19th century.
The text talks about the importance of user controlled avatars when exploring a virual realm. I find the fact that the acticle pre-dates moves in gaming to expand this aspect in modern gaming very interesting. Games like World of Warcraft, the Elder Scrolls series, and LittleBigPlanet place an enoermous amount of emphaisis on customising your digital avatar as you play the game, it fosters immersion and a feeling of uniqueness for the player. This trend even extend beyond actual gameplay with things like Second Life, Home, and the New Xbox Experience, which emphasise customisation purely for online social interaction.
I think this need for electronic avatars stems, at least in part, from the inherently uniform nature of computer systems. When people interact through these systems it’s not enough for them to simply be able to identify the person they’re communicating with, they need to be able to see how that person presents themselves in a virtual space, and to be able to present themselves as they would like. It’s a reflection of the way in which we perceive things about each other naturally in the real world, through things like appearance, body language, and manner of speech. Avatars are simply an attempt to extend these social nuances to the virtual world.
Some concept artwork of the citadel in Half Life 2 as well as shots of how it appears in game:
The design is similer as one might expect, concept art is after all largely about design, and the final models were probably derived from similar illustrations. What’s more supprising to me is the degree to which to mood of the original painting is carried over into the game. The lighting, the time of day, the weather, some of the colours and the sence of scale have all been proserved. It shows that the design element of concept art extends beyond simply how something looks, it can affect the entirity of how that object is presented, and that can filter down to the final gameplay.
Another example this time with Team Fortress 2. This time the source artwork is more abstract, however the influences are undeniable. The colours, the architecture, the mood of the piece are all evident in later stages of development. The style also reinforces the gameplay’s reliance on clear silhouettes for identification, not just in characters, but in environments as well.
Valve cites J. C. Leyendecker as among its influences for the distinct graphic style of the game. Leyendecker was a well-known early 20th century illustrator, he was most famous for his magazine and book cover designs.
Seeing his work it’s easy to spot the influences taken by Valve. The sharp transitions into soft shadows, the use of rim light to define an edge, and the colourful, but muted hues are all things observable in the finished game. It’s all very deliberately geared to creating an instantly recognisable silhouette, something important both for a strong cover illustration and the hectic gameplay of Team Fortress 2.
Some concept art showing the early designs for the current visual style of the game. It shows that the character shillouettes were taken into account from the beginning.
Developer commentaries included with the game. They really show the thought processes that went into both the gameplay and the graphical style.