The Sims 4 – Challenge: Being a Simulation
As the name implies, the objective of The Sims 4 is to simulate life. However, this can become challenging when I’m not able to do everyday things like drive a car, go to a hotel, or go grocery shopping. These are just some of the features that are present in previous Sims titles but are not in Sims 4. What I find interesting is these challenging features of Sims 4 don’t appear to be intentional, but rather a consequence of poor game design. Since players were not expecting to encounter this type of conflict in Sims 4 due to precedents set by previous games, the challenge was not welcome.
Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery – Challenge: Time Management
Unlike players of The Sims 4, players of Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery were somewhat aware of the type of challenge the game might contain. Being a mobile game, microtransactions are inevitable. However, upon release players were not happy to learn that most missions were practically impossible unless they purchased energy via microtransactions. The other way to get energy is waiting, and since missions have a time limit this often means they could not be successfully completed. My technique for dealing with this was to set a timer on my phone to notify me when I would have enough energy as well as enough mission time left. The actions performed in the game were not challenging, but I found the added burden of re-organizing my real-life schedule to accommodate the game’s energy system to be challenging and ultimately not worth it.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Challenge: Don’t Get Caught
Multiple times while playing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag I rage quite because I couldn’t get into a fortress undetected, or kept getting caught while tailing an enemy, among other frustrating incidents. However, unlike the previous games discussed, I was OK with this. There are several factors that made the challenges in Black Flag more palatable than those in Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery or The Sims 4. For me, the biggest factors that made the challenges in Black Flag enjoyable were their expected presence, cause, and solution. Black Flag is not a casual game, and I knew going into it that I would be faced with potentially difficult levels and missions. When gameplay became challenging, it was due to me not knowing what to do, how to do it, or just fumbling the controls. Finally, with time and effort, I was able to beat the game’s challenges. This last aspect I believe is the most important. Challenges in games are not bad, as long as it’s possible for players to overcome them while remaining immersed in the game’s world.
The games that I choose for this entry are ones I enjoy playing, but also find challenging. Upon writing and reflecting, I found the challenges in these games stemmed from different sources. Although not something I consciously had in mind when selecting the games, this diversity ended up offering more insight than if the challenges had been uniform. I believe this diversity better illustrates how challenge can be done right, and how it can go wrong.
This post is based on Exercise 2.6: Challenge (“Name three games that you find particularly challenging and describe why.”) from Chapter 2 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 39).
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Montreal, QC: Ubisoft, 2013.
Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 2: The Structure of Games.” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Culver City, CA: Jam City Inc., 2018.
The Sims 4. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, 2014.