We used to talk a lot about the games we played when i was still in school. We shared how we experienced the games. Kinda like reviewing but not criticizing. It was fun. The games we most talked about in the past four years were probably Mass Effect and Fallout. Games that were way less discussed were Burnout, Call of Duty and Uncharted. We all played and liked all of them. So why are some games more talked about than others?
I suspect that this holds relation to the amount and weight of the decisions players can make in the game, and how much these can diversify the experience. Mass Effect offers choices to follow mulitiple lines of play resulting in different endings. giving different cut-scenes and powers.
This is not as true for a shooter like Call of Duty where you follow a linear path. Race games are the same for this matter. This way, each player’s experience is more likely to be similar whereas those of Mass Effect is widely divergent.This causes conversations about Mass Effect to be an exchange of experiences where with Call of Duty there is not much to exchange since every participant would have the same information.
I’d like to separate single players from multi-player here. Exchanging tactics can be a huge source for conversing! But there is more going on here. Games that were most talked about also allow players to express themselves through actions. “Did you torch the innocent villagers in level 3?” “no, i kept them alive and saved all their children from the monsters”. This is a meaningful choice. An opportunity for players to be either the good guy or the bad guy, Or the neutral lone ranger, Or the badass that sometimes kills just for fun.
I think Skyrim puts it on another level by tying all kinds of political issues to its game choices. This as well gives gamers something to talk about.
To finish the game you have to side with either the imperials or the Stormcloak rebels. Do you support the independence and uniqueness of a beautiful country and accept the by coming racist supremacist (but also feminist) ethics of the stormcloaks? Or will you team up with the Imperials, Strengthen humanity’s defense against the douchebag Elves’ upcoming invasion, and turn Skyrim into just another imperial state, giving globalisation a free way?
If you made choices in Skyrim and talk about it with others, you are one step away from a political debate.
The act of talking about a game you play part of a number of activities called “metagaming”, a concept coined by dr Richard Garfield. The creator of Magic the Gathering, which was designed to cater for metagaming as much as possible. He explains its workings and benefits here.
As a bit of a conclusion; one way to get people talking about after playing your game is to give them choices for diverse experiences as well as opportunities for self-expression through action.
Grundysoft is currently working on two games. None of these display political questions but both of them should be well worth talking about!