While waiting in line at the local boutique the other day, I happened upon a curious thought: we humans don’t grow up, we simply weave more complex strands over a simple core of needs and desires.
Where did that thought come from? I could explain from the basic need: want structure onwards. A baby, for instance, wants food, air, water, happiness. As adults we seek more complex things: money, entertainment, strippers, DVDs, fast cars, a mansion…yet in the end, all those complex things translate down to four basics: food, air, water, happiness. We are ever in search of these four, except we – and society – weave gradually more complex nets around simple needs, forcing structures and certain patterns of achievement and accomplishment that we fulfill in order to get what we need.
As a kid, I used to love tales of bravery and recklessness, like the child-friendly versions of Robin Hood. As a (apparent) adult, my tastes are more complex: my heroes are less one-sided, grimmer, my villains have reasons to be so, and yet, at the end of the day, I still love bravery and recklessness. It’s a simple want overlaid with more complex tastes. The books that really strike me emotionally – like Halo: the Fall of Reach (believe it or not) and the Dark Tower satisfy this “adult” barrier and strike directly through to satisfy that childish awe and love of mystery and valiance.
Moving to games and their design. What has changed between Doom (which I used to play in grade 2) and Modern Warfare 2? At the basic level, both games satisfy an urge to kill and provide the adrenaline rush and excitement. MW2 appeases the adult with a believable story and good visuals and gives the inner child the gun and the enemies to shoot at. Every successful game does likewise. In fact, one can argue that the whole field of game design is to satisfy that inner child, who is deeply rooted in emotions and always has been. The logic, the visuals, the audio, they all come over to make sure the adult can handle the game without frowning. After all, despite everything that we think, humans aren’t logical creatures. We’re emotional. Logic is optional. It’s the reason I can still enjoy Mortal Kombat II and Metal Slug – those games are so good that the adult, who look for flashy graphics and such, is overwhelmed by the kid. It’s the reason I don’t like Street Fighter X Tekken – it’s all adult stuff, and a fail at that. What little story and graphical power it has is leagues ahead of the likes of MKII, but since the game doesn’t do the child-stuff (that is, the gameplay) as well as those oldies, I hate it.
So, a note to self. Live for the child. Bring on the duct tape (graphics, audio, and the whole nine yards) to shut the adult up.