This week I got to play a game I had wanted to try for some time. I had read about it, scrolled through screenshots, watched let’s plays, and even listened to versions of popular songs as they appear in the game. So when I finally got the chance to play Beat Saber I was excited, but also slightly apprehensive. Would it meet my expectations? I doubted it. This was not the first time I was playing a game after being exposed to it via other media. I knew from past experiences that enjoyable second hand exposure to a game doesn’t always equal me enjoying playing the game itself. However, with Beat Saber my expectations where not only met, but exceeded.
I was impressed with the number of songs that can be downloaded and kept at the same time, as I was under the impression that space would be an issue. The movement of the sabers was surprisingly fluid compared to other VR games I had played. I enjoyed the added challenge of dodging walls and other obstacles, a gameplay feature I was unaware Beat Saber contained. While playing I also experienced a sense of nostalgia. This may seem surprising since Beat Saber is a modern game played on a relatively new device. However, several aspects of it brought back memories of playing Dance Dance Revolution on the PlayStation 2. Both combine gameplay with music, indicate direction via oncoming arrows, require the player to use their whole body, and feature stimulating graphics. It made me happy to know that features of a game I enjoyed as a kid continue to live on in newer games.
While Beat Saber contains many admirable qualities, the ones that I most wish to emulate when making games are not part of the gameplay. These are wide-spread awareness and hype among the gamer population. Besides the obvious marketing advantage that this would provide, it can also make the game easy to understand to first time players. For example, before I even put on the VR headset, I knew what the UI would look like, what the objective was, and how to move the controls. This low-entry bar for player engagement makes a game more enjoyable. When players don’t have to spend a lot of time learning gameplay mechanics, they can focus more on meeting the game’s objectives. I would hate to make a game where players can’t even finish the tutorial, and by having players be aware of how a game works prior to playing it the threat of this can be minimized.
Beat Saber. Prague: Beat Games, 2019.