Blog & Dev.Log

Unique Game Mechanics: Vocabulary

Recently one of my courses tasked the class with coming up with three unique game mechanics, identify what skills they have the player use, and conjuring up a psychographic profile of someone who would enjoy it. As I explained in last weeks blog post, a psychographic profiles provide a more detailed view of the target audience for a game. By using them in the context of this post, we can see how they are useful to game designers, as they give insight into who will enjoy the game when unusual mechanics are used.

Vocabulary Mechanic

Vocabulary mechanics are used when a player must use their knowledge of words (spelling, meaning, origin, context, etc.) to gain an advantage in or progress through a game. The player must determine which word is appropriate for the situation. An example of this would be Scrabble, because players have to account for the correct spelling of a word, how long a word is (longer words can mean more points), and if the word they are thinking of is a real word at all (e.g. players can’t make up words). All these factors must be carried out with the random assortment of letters provided to the player. This type of gameplay mechanic would be appealing to a well-read person, since they would have a wide vocabulary to use. This would imply they are on the older side, as most young children do not have an adequate vocabulary to excel at this game mechanic. Someone who is highly educated and enjoys mental challenges such as crossword puzzles and trivia could also find vocabulary mechanics enjoyable.

Image Source

Patrick Tomasso,

Psychographic Profiles & Games

Author’s Note: This piece was originally part of an assignment for a class. Therefore the length is longer then what I normally post. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless!

Image from ClipartKey.

Demographics vs. Psychographic Profiles

Demographics are dying. Or at the very least they are becoming less useful. In days gone by saying that something was designed with the 18-35 year old white male in mind would be enough to guarantee that market would buy it. However, as one of my classes recently pointed out, the average 18-35 year old white male can belong to any number of unique subcultures. What appeals to a 27 year old anime enthusiast will probably not be enjoyed as much (or at all) by a 18 year old sports fanatic. Thankfully, there is an alternative to demographics: psychographic profiles. Unlike demographics, psychographic profiles reveal the opinions, interests, and lifestyles of the groups studied. That said, not everyone in the group will perfectly fit within a psychographic profile, and it is important to interview members to confirm the profile is relevant. For game designers this allows them to tailor games to be appealing to many in that group, and thereby increasing the likely hood of commercial success. In addition to this, sometimes a “splash effect” will occur where people from an unrelated psychographic profile will also find enjoyment in the product.

Example of a Psychographic Profile

Jon is a 70 year old office worker with a college degree. Most of his weekday is spent at the office reviewing documents on his computer and in print form. He rarely takes breaks and when he does they are usually just a few minutes long. During these breaks Jon likes to do things that reduce anxiety, like squeezing a stress ball or organizing his desk. In general Jon prefers logic over creativity. Jon would much prefer trying to solve a crossword puzzle then going to an art museum. That said Jon enjoys some Sci-Fi and fantasy. He has found memories of going to see the original Star Wars trilogy in theaters, but isn’t a fan of the newer movies.

When not at the office Jon is often still working either from home or on the road. In the evening while at home Jon likes to watch the news and old movies. He’ll watch anything on TCM, but won’t catch the deeper concepts or themes in more complex movies. Jon engages in passive and sedate hobbies like bird watching, coin collection, and stamp collection. He’s tried Sudoku, but got frustrated when he couldn’t figure out some of the answers. Sometimes if Jon’s young-adult kids are home he will play games with them like Backgammon, Scrabble, or Apples to Apples (his kids tried to get him to play Cards Against Humanity, but Jon was not a fan of the vulgarity). Jon often will give his kids advice or let them win as he is pretty easy going and not competitive. When he is alone Jon enjoys reading murder mystery novels. He likes to try and figure out who the murder is before the book does.

Jon has a smartphone, but it’s not the newest model. He doesn’t like to use it unless he has to because he’s concerned about the battery life. In general, he vaguely understands technology, but doesn’t fully comprehend it. Besides the TV at home, the piece of technology Jon interacts with the most is his computer. He knows how to navigate the internet, but doesn’t fully understand the difference between browsers (he still uses Internet Explorer). Currently he’s working on getting better at using Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word so that he doesn’t have to print documents out to mark them for editing.

Takeaways from Interview with Profile Member

I interviewed my dad, Don, who falls within the previous physiographic profile. Don is a 76 year old lawyer who is working from home due to the pandemic. Although he is no longer working from the office, Don’s free time is still limited. When I interviewed Don, he gave me some feedback on the above psychographic profile. He doesn’t consider himself interested in playing video games, but does enjoy occasionally playing boardgames that require logic and intellect. He does not consider himself a gamer and claims to have no interest in “games.” However, upon pointing out his enjoyment of games like Scrabble and Backgammon, Don conceded that he is not interested in “video games” specifically. Don revealed the theme or topic of a game (e.g. birds, fantasy, etc.) is not that important to him. Instead, based on our discussion during the interview, it is the gameplay mechanics that are of more importance. Gameplay that requires participants to use their brain and logic skills is more appealing to Don then something simple and low-brow. He also abhors violence in video games, believing it contributes to real life violence.

Game Design Implications

A few factors can be eliminated as things someone in this psychographic profile would not like. We can rule out certain platforms that could run the game, such as smartphones, tablets, or consoles. However, tabletop or computer games are options. It is also possible that the game could be marketed less as a traditional video game and more as a logic test, so as to overcome Don’s aversion to video games. Also, a game that features violent or controversial acts should be avoided. The length of the game should not be very long, since profile members do not have a lot of free time. Something that is more logic based would be more appealing then something that allowed for creativity. As for the theme of the game, it could be less important than gameplay to some profile members. That said, a game still needs a theme. In this case the theme could relate to a passive interest, as it connects to something profile members already enjoy, but can only experience briefly in their busy day. A possible game that fits these constraints might be a browser-based puzzle where the final image is related to a passive interest. An additional gameplay mechanic could be added where before the player completes the puzzle they can choose to guess what the image depicts. If they guess right the puzzle will automatically complete itself, but if they guess wrong the pieces will disconnect and the player will have to start over.

Potential Splash Effect Audience

Stacy is a 37 year old firefighter and EMT. Her career choice means that she has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. In order to be able to do this, she doesn’t like to engage in activities that take a long time or can’t be easily paused. When she was younger Stacy engaged a wide array of fandoms and interests. In college Stacy was a frequent participant of pub trivia, where she enjoyed showing off her knowledge and logic skills. While she is happy working as a firefighter, Stacy occasionally misses being able to use her logic and problem solving skills. To negate this feeling, Stacy likes to play casual games on her smartphone, such as crossword puzzles and hidden objects. When she picks out a game download on her phone, Stacy gravitates towards games that can be saved mid-progress and don’t take more then a few minutes complete.

Closing Remarks

As this brief example shows, psychographic profiles are a powerful tool for establishing constraints and pinning down specifics for a desired market. I doubt demographics will go extinct anytime soon, but hopefully psychographic profiles will eclipse their use in game design circles.

Image Source

“Thinking Head Transparent Background.” Uploaded by Brillare Gioielli. ClipartKey,

EA Games: How to Succeed in Being the Worst Business Without Really Trying

The company culture of EA Games has changed noticeably since its inception. In the early years of the company, Electronic Arts Games, now commonly known as EA Games, did live up to their name. The founder of the company, Trip Hawkins, took a pro-designer approach in running the company (Underberg-Goode). For example, he would go to trade shows to recruit designers (Ibid). In addition to this, the way EA marketed their games at this time was unique. Unlike companies like Atari, EA put an emphasis on the artistry of game design, which is seen in how they packaged their games (Ibid). The boxes, or “album covers”, that games came in were custom made and prominently featured the game designers’ names (Ibid). By 2004 though, EA’s culture had become something far from this.

In 2004 a spouse of an EA employee started an online journal which detailed the harsh working conditions their significant other faced. Some of these conditions included 12-hour work days that lasted for several months, unpaid overtime, and 6 day work weeks (Williams). On top of that, these conditions would only get worse once the deadline for a game approached (Ibid). Granted, at the time such conditions were not novel for those working in the game industry and EA Games was not the only studio utilizing such practices (Ibid). However, this did not stop backlash and controversy from occurring. Due in part to the information shared by this EA spouse, there began to be a push for better working conditions for game designers and others in the game industry (Ibid). Unfortunately, 10 years after the EA spouse controversy things were only slightly better. A study found that while crunch and other harsh working conditions had slightly decreased (19% of respondents in 2014 had not crunched in two years, compared to 2.4% in 2004), they were still widely present and even considered by some in the industry to be a necessary evil (Ibid).

Contemporary EA games are generally not as well regarded as their previous titles. This is because more recent EA games have heavily utilized paid DLC, sometimes to the point where most of a game’s features are unavailable unless the player purchases DLC. An example of this is the Sims 4. Unlike previous titles in the Sims series, upon its release the Sims 4 was a noticeable step backward from its predecessors. Multiple gameplay features that were staples of the series were absent.  This understandably upset many fans. Things got slightly better when eventually some of these features were added to the game. However, the way EA went about adding them created more controversy. For example, the life stage of toddlers, which was present in the base game for the Sims 2 and 3, was part of a DLC that came out several months after the Sims 4 release (though technically they were part of a free patch). In addition to this, some of the features that are packaged as DLC for the Sims 4 are noticeably less dynamic compared to earlier versions (The Red Plumbob). Not to mention EA releasing a Sims 4 DLC that was explicitly not asked for by the community, such as the Star Wars themed Journey to Batuu (Lee).

The disdain for EA’s reliance on DLC is evident in the plethora of memes about the company.

While EA continues to be panned by many gamers, this has not gone unnoticed. After being voted the worst company in America for two years, in 2013 EA CEO Larry Probst vowed “This will not happen again” (Sherr). While it is nice to see a company show some semblance of self-awareness, I cannot say that they have been successful. In addition to the controversy with the Sims 4’s (which came out a year after Probst’s made his statement), other games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order did not go over well with some fans, who while happy with the combat viewed it’s story as shallow and too short (Personal communication). While EA might eventually redeem its reputation as a major game studio, it seems they are uninterested in returning to a company culture focused on artistry and respect for game designers.


Bush, Benjamin. Personal communication. 6 Mar. 2020.

Lee, Jess. “The Sims 4 poll: What packs would you like to see in 2020?.” Digital Spy, 1 Feb. 2020,

Sherr, Ian. “How Electronic Arts stopped being the worst company in America.” CNET, 2 Jun. 2015,

 “Sims 2 vs Sims 3 vs Sims 4: Aliens.” YouTube, uploaded by The Red Plumbob, 12 April 2017,

“Sims 1 – Sims 2 – Sims 3 – Sims 4: Magic Spells.” YouTube, uploaded by The Red Plumbob, 28 October 2019,

“Sims 2 vs Sims 3 vs Sims 4: PlantSims.” YouTube, uploaded by The Red Plumbob, 24 May 2017,

This is worthless EA DLC meme. MEME,

Underberg-Goode, Natalie. “Chapter 3: Early Arcade Games and Consoles.” The Evolution of Video Games. Great River Learning, 2018.

Williams, Ian G. “Crunched: has the games industry really stopped exploiting its workforce?” The Guardian, 18 Feb. 2015,

Demon’s Souls: A Review of 1 Hour of Gameplay

Author’s Note: This review was part of a playtesting assignment. Therefore, the writing style is slightly different and the word count noticeably more then what I normally post on here. Despite these discrepancies, I hope you enjoy this piece!

An Archstone in the Nexus (no, not the modding website). Image from Demon Souls wiki.

I played the remake of Demon’s Souls for the PlayStation 5. This my first time playing a Dark Souls type game.

The opening cinematic was very well done and got me pumped to start engaging with the world. The story it laid out was intriguing, but not too complex that I felt lost. I liked how they listed some of the legendary heroes who had attempted the quest before me. It made me wonder if I would interact with them in the game.

Once the cinematic was over I began to create my character. I was very impressed with the degree of cosmetic customization (multiple hairstyles, color slider, races, eyes, body part sliders, voices, etc.), as most of the time the character’s face is covered by a helmet. While I had fun creating my character, I also kind of felt like I was wasting time with customizing (I spent about 10 minutes creating my character). Some of my excitement to explore the game dampened slightly while I was focusing on the minute details of my character. Though it seems like a step back, I think there should have been a little less character cosmetic customization.

While the cosmetic part of character creation felt overdone, I thought the classes where well executed. There was a variety of magic, melee, and rogue type builds. The starting gear each class was equipped with seemed unique and beautiful. I honestly had a hard time choosing one, as all of them seemed like they would be fun to play. I could imagine myself replaying using different classes. This made me feel satisfied with purchasing the game, since by replaying I would get good mileage out of it.

I ended up choosing Temple Knight as my class, since it seemed like the tried and true sword-and-shield type, but with a paladin twist. Once in the game world I ran into a problem with the class I had chosen. The starting gear for a Temple Knight is a halberd, shield, and heavy armor. The halberd was one of the things that drew me to the Temple Knight, as it looked cool and I thought it would be fun to attack enemies with. However, in the tight corridors of the introductory level, the halberd was clumsy and hard to aim. I frequently found myself swinging towards enemies only to have my weapon get caught on the ceiling or wall. Another issue I ran into was with the shield. When I first entered the game, my shield was equipped along with the halberd. However, when I entered a new area the shield disappeared. I tried multiple things to try and fix this, but the shield would not appear. Since I’d only been playing for 15 minutes (about 10 of which was trying to figure out the shield situation), I decided to start a new game as a different class (this time only spending 5 minutes on character creation). I went with a regular Knight this time, and my gear was pretty much the same except that instead of a halberd I had a sword. Unfortunately, this did not prevent the shield from disappearing when I entered a new area. Thankfully I was able to figure out how to reequip the shield (you must put it in a specific one of the two arm slots). I do not know if this shield issue is a bug or a poor design choice, but either way it made the game less immersive and enjoyable to play.

The fight mechanics for both the Knight and Temple Knight were smooth and well executed. I particularly enjoyed being able to hit multiple enemies at once with my weapon, as this made me feel more powerful and in control.

The way the tutorial was executed I thought was well done. Using notes with short messages written on them was effective and helped me visualize what areas the information would be useful in (messages were placed near related areas/enemies). Another reason I think this is a good system is it allows more seasoned players to skip messages with information they already know. It also does not break immersion or take the player away from the game world. One downside to these messages is there is no distinction between different types of information (e.g. fighting instructions, how to move, trap alerts). This could be fixed by having different types of messages be different colors.

When I tried to fight the tutorial boss I died and was sent to the Nexus. While a gorgeous environment and a unique approach to player death (compared to reloading the last save), I found the place to be kind of confusing at first. It took me several minutes to figure out how to get out of it and return to the game. This sojourn to the serene cathedral-like Nexus interrupted the pumped up, adrenaline-filled mood created by fighting the boss. I don’t understand why the game does this mood shift. Personally, when I’ve just finished trying to defeat a boss I don’t want to take a break, I want to try again immediately.

Another less than perfect aspect had to do with saving. It was not obvious when the game saves. Given the difficulty and how often I was dying, being unsure when saving occurred was kind of frustrating. I’m not sure if a saving icon appears, but if it does then I did not see it.  Adding a visible saving icon would help, that way players know when the game is saving. There could also be something in the tutorial that mentions how saving works. Eventually I figured out one of the times the game saves is when the player goes through a mist shrouded door or moves to a new location via bonfire. I feel like it saves at other points, because I recall loading a game and not being near a bonfire or shrouded door. However, I might not have noticed a shrouded door was there in the first place.

The environment and level design are very well executed. They invoke a mood of an area that is in decline and decaying. While there are some areas where visibility is limited due to a darkened environment, they are not used so much that it becomes an annoyance. Having areas of the world be well lit does not take away from the depressing tone. I felt like the portions of the level with more light were more effective of setting the mood than the darker areas, since you can see and appreciate the detail put into the world.

Demon’s Souls is not an easy game. In the hour I was playing I did not make it past the introductory level. However, I still had a fun time playing. Overall, Demon’s Souls is brutal yet enjoyable.


Demon’s Souls. Austin, TX: Bluepoint Games, 2020.


The Crestfallen Warrior screenshot – “The Nexus.” Demon’s Souls Wiki,

Deviancy in Video Games: A Testimonial

Screenshot by author

I would like to talk about a controversial subject: the “bad things” that can be done in video games. I’m talking about drugs, excessive drinking, thievery, intimidation, violence, and other taboo activities that can be done in real life, but that bring with them negative consequences that are often unescapable. For decades critics have bemoaned the presence of such activities in video games. They decree that being able to do these things in games encourages players to do such activities in real life, and therefore their presence in video games is abhorrent. No good can come of this, and so these activities should be removed from video games. With that said, allow me to play devil’s advocate.

A few years ago I was going through a difficult time in my life. After a particularly trying day at the office I wanted nothing more than to go out and drink a lot. The toxic environment of my workplace, low self-esteem, strained relationships, anxiety; I wanted to forget it all. But it was a Wednesday, and I knew that if I indulged in these urges I would not be able to perform my best at work the next day. So I did the next best thing: I made a new character in Skyrim, an Orc named Virag Gra-Doner. Virag was the virtual embodiment of the cocktail of turmoil I was feeling, and via her I did the things that would have gotten me into trouble in real life. Virag drank to excess, did all the drugs, served fresh sass to her employer, and did pretty much anything else that would fall under the category of “questionable life choices.” The experience of role-playing as Virag was so relieving that I continued playing as her for several more weeks.  During this time something interesting happened: Virag began to get her life together. I would start playing with the intention of getting drunk and into trouble, but would be drawn to bask in the beauty of the game world over escaping from a dreary prison cell. Instead of insulting an NPC yet again, I was curious what their reaction would be if I was nice. Virag had evolved from her original purpose as a vessel for my angst; she had become a way for me to see how choices influence our experience of the world.

I do not speak for all gamers nor do I claim that my experiences are representative of everyone who has ever done questionable activities in video games. That said, I do not believe that I am alone in utilizing video games in the manner described above. Games can allow us to do things that are not possible in real life. Sometimes these things take the form of defeating great evils, forming formidable civilizations, or amassing vast fortunes. While these are pleasant opportunities, sometimes it is more cathartic and insightful to vent then to run through a field of daises.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda, MD: Bethesda Game Studios, 2011. Video Game.

Why Saving Style Matters – A look at Outward

Saving can be an important mechanic in exploration heavy video games. The main purpose of exploration video games is self-explanatory – to explore the game world. This is often spurred on by interesting landmarks, quests, non-player characters (NPCs), or lore. That said, not all exploration games handle saving the same way. Some systems of saving are better suited for exploration gameplay then others. An example of a saving system not well suited for exploration games can be seen in Outward, a role playing game with a heavy emphasis on exploration.

Saves occur in Outward when a player enters a new area, such as a city, building, or overworld. There is no option for the player to save their game progress in the middle of exploring, battler, or other in game activity. While this is not necessarily a bad system, I found it influenced how I played the game, and not in a good way. In my first playthrough of Outward shortly after I exited the tutorial stage I approached two mundane looking NPCs on the main road, who promptly attacked me and took me to their hideout. After several failed attempts I finally escaped the hideout, only to fall victim to a trap set on a promising looking bridge. Having learned my lesson from these misadventures, when I next set out to explore the world I was much more cautious. I did everything I could to avoid anything that moved, appeared to be infrastructure, or looked more interesting than a static piece of set dressing. Even if a creature looked easy I stayed clear of it, I had learned my lesson the first time. I acknowledge that this seems overly cautious of me, and in games where I have more control over when I can save I am much more daring. However, considering the amount of time I spent getting from one area to another in Outward I did not want to risk dying and having to retrack through everything again. This cautiousness made playing the game much less interesting and noticeably less fun then games where I had the security of quick saving. It felt like there was less I could do without risking wasting a half hour of exploration.

Two cool looking locations, neither of which I risked visiting.

There are good games that feature both exploration and a save system similar to Outward. That said, some of these other games, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (released in 1998), have such a save system due to the limited technology of their time. Outward (released in 2019) does not have that excuse. With quicksave options being a common (and I would argue beneficial) feature of many modern games, I remain baffled why Outward would choose to use the save system it did. It does not encourage the player to explore and hinders their confidence when interacting with enemies. I’m sure some will say that I was being a wuss and should have just taken the risk, and maybe they are right (everyone is entitled to their opinion). But with only so many hours in a day, I do not want the time I’ve invested in a game to be wasted by an ill-fated encounter with a knock-off chocobo.

Does Square Enix know about this appropriation?


Outward. Nine Dot Studio, 2019. PC version. Video Game.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nintendo, 1998. Wii version. Video Game.

All screenshots taken by author.

Bipartisanism through Digital Media

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the equally exciting and terrifying experience of meeting my significant other’s parents for the first time. While these emotions are typical for this type of encounter, mine were compounded by the fact that I had been forewarned his dad and I were not on the same end of the political spectrum. Thankfully things did not descend into clashing chaos due in part to a shared interest: digital media.

During the course of the visit we discussed various technology related topics. We debated the pros and cons of GitHub. He shared coding projects he had done for his job and I talked about the scripting languages I had been learning. We also shared stories about interesting things that have been found commented into scripts (let’s just say it’s important to remove profanities in final versions of all work-related writing, whether that it be written in English or C+). It was not just code related topics that served as common ground. Both my significant other, his dad, his brother, and myself are gamers, so we all had a chuckle when I made a joke about their hometown being their a “spawn point”.

This whole experience made me reflect upon a part of digital culture that I feel is currently underutilized: it’s unbiased nature. Take discussing coding for example. Just like how not all people have the same writing “voice”, everyone’s coding style is a little different. Unlike in literary writing, a person’s technical writing style does not give an indication as to their political leanings (unless they explicitly typed something like “MAGA” in the comments or were designing a politically biased program). The politically neutral nature of coding means it lends itself well to civilly bringing together people of differing ideologies. Granted, this revelation is unlikely to salvage the toxic political environment the United States currently finds itself in. Yet as our society becomes more technology focused and interest grows in the field of digital media, perhaps using this shared passion to find common ground amongst animosity can become more widely employed.

Papers Please or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bureaucracy

There is a saying: “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” I feel an adjusted version of this proverb could accurately describe my time playing Papers Please: “one person’s nightmare job is the same person’s dream.” You see, I am an ex-bureaucrat. For a year and half I worked as a paper pushing, permit checking, document stamping permit intake specialist for a county level Planning and Development Department. Yes it was just as boring as it sounds, and yes I am quite glad to be out of there. However, I cannot deny there is something I still find viscerally satisficing about a perfectly stacked, stamped, stapled, and checked pile of paper. This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed Papers Please, a game that can best be summed up as a Cold War Communist Bureaucracy simulator. Considering the popularity of Papers Please, I assume I’m not alone in feeling this way, but why?

It’s highly unlikely that all the 34,000 plus people who have given a positive review of Papers Please are recovering paper pushers. As I thought about it, I realized that the less than desirable aspects of my job which I previously described are not exclusive to permit specialists. So I assumed that at least some of the other players also have or had a real life job that somewhat parallels their role in the game. However, the question still remained as to why these people found the game enjoyable. After pondering it, the best answer I could come up with is simply Papers Please is a game, and games are something we willingly do with the intent of having fun. When we enter a game’s “magic circle” we know that we are abiding by it’s rules because the end result is fun. (Fullerton) This is in contrast with most jobs, which in a way involve entering a different type of “circle” (e.g. there are rules, accepted behaviors, and tasks that need to be completed). At a job things are done willingly but not primarily with the intention of having fun. It would seem that the main difference between Papers Please and a real life job would be that we go into one with the goal of having fun and we go into the other without trying to have fun.

As weird as it sounds, the ability of Paper’s Please to turn an unpleasant aspect of life into an enjoyable game is a skill I would like to emulate. So often in real life we get annoyed or stressed out by tasks that are tedious. By showing players that the same constraints they are put under at work can produce an enjoyable experience may help make those real life situations less stressful. At least for this player, should I ever find myself working a less then pleasant job in the future, I’ll try to channel some of the same intention for fun I had going into Papers Please.


Fullerton, Tracy. Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

Papers Please. Lucas Pope, 2013.

How Games can Improve Stories

If the story a game is based on is compelling, players may be more willing to overlook the use of common (and possibly uninspired) mechanics.  The trouble with this is that there is no one story that will appeal to everyone. Thankfully there exists many tales in literature that have withstood the test of time. While they still might not appeal to the everyone, fairy and folk tales are popular enough that they are a go to when brainstorming ideas for new projects. Along with their enduring popularity, the lore and plot of most fairytales are well understood by their respective cultures (e.g. Grimm’s Fairy Tales in Western/Euro-centric cultures, or The Panchatantra in Indian/South Asian cultures).

This established understanding presents a double edged sword when using fairytales as inspiration for games. The benefit of this approach is the audience already knows the background and motive of the characters, which means less time needs to be allocated for exposition. This is good news for gameplay, since designers get more time to focus on it and players spend more time engaging with it. The downside to this is that outcome of the conflict is predictable. Audiences know how the story ends, so they will likely not be as invested as they would with an original story. Thankfully, there are multiple ways to minimize this drawback.

One of the great things about games is their mechanics allow us to explore and interact with scenarios in a way that is not possible with other mediums, such as art or writing. This means that the possibilities for telling an established fairy tale a different way are greatly expanded. The player can take the role of someone other than the established protagonist, or play as a totally new character who changes the outcome of the original story. They may even step in the shoes of the villain, which can lead to the player having to commit atrocious acts or getting to see the villain in a more positive light. Games can also expand the upon the setting where the story is set, taking the characters to places they otherwise would or could not go and dealing with the wider impacts of their actions. With how much potential games have for breathing new life into well-established stories, I think game designers should not shy away from looking to folk and fairy tales for inspiration.

The Maps of Among Us: Glitches or Gameplay?

This past week I finally got around to playing the most recent game to blow up in the popular consciousness, Among Us. After playing it for a couple hours with some friends, I could easily understand why it has become so popular. There are many things that make Among Us enjoyable, from the social aspect of players debating who the killer is, to the satisfying minigames the crew must do to perform their tasks. However, what I want to focus on in this post is a feature of Among Us I am less then thrilled with: its map.

This is fine.

To clarify, I have no gripe with the layouts of the three Among Us maps. I found them to be delightfully diverse in terms of layout, tasks, and theme. My beef with the maps is related to what could described as their “glitchy-ness”. For example, when a player is going down a hallway it easy is for them to overlap with the wall border. This can sometimes make it seem like the player is coming out of nowhere or acting in a strange way, leading to misinterpretation from other players. The goal of Among Us is to identify who on the ship is the Imposter, which is commonly done by claiming the person believed to be said Imposter is acting suspicious. To test this, I jumped on a random server and purposely maneuvered in a way where my character glitched with the wall. I was not the Imposter, but several other players claimed I was due to how the glitching occurring between my character and the wall (their reasoning was it looked similar to when the Imposter “vents”, a technique that allows them to teleport around the ship).

A close up of the player character overlapping with the wall. This is not as fine.

Some may argue that situations such as this are not a bad thing. Misinterpretation, false signs, and dubious claims are some of the bread and butter of Among Us, so what’s the harm? While I understand this line of thinking, I don’t feel it makes sense to justify such an obvious glitch by saying it’s a necessary part of gameplay. Granted, sometimes glitches in games can be fun and it’s ok for a community to (more or less embrace) them. In my opinion, where things start getting sticky is when glitches start to mingle too closely with the essential aspects of a game. Consider what would happen if the Among Us team released a patch that adjusted the walls so players could not clip over them. It would remove the dynamic I previously described of falsely interpreting (intentionally or unintentionally) an innocent players movements, taking away gameplay. Glitches can be fine to have in a game, but developers need to be careful they do not become too intertwined with the game’s important intentional aspects.


Among Us. Redmond, WA: Innersloth, 2018.

All screenshots taken by author.

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