Games have always been used to give people entertainment. From the start of games in our history, they always aimed to keep our attention and to make it so that we were entrapped by their splendor. Whether it was old games played in Greece, cards played in saloons in the days of the wild west, or video games played today, all games try to do a better job of enticing than what came before. In order to do this, a game must bring something new to the table.
This is where video games can truly shine. Video games are not bound by any sort of limit like physical games are. This allows a game creator to do anything they can imagine. Whether they want to create a world where you can step through wormholes to move from point to point and solve puzzles, use physics engines to create fun puzzles in a digital world, or send you to a land that shares more in common with a lovecraftian book than our own world, they can.
The Elder Scrolls is a good example of a series that has done a great job of expanding what the player could experience. In Morrowind, we were sent to a world plagued by a volcanic storm and disease but one that was filled with large insects that were used for transport, mushrooms the size of buildings grew and new and fascinating creatures ran around causing mischief. Oblivion came along and while many of the sights that players saw were common to people in real life, they still got to glimpse the planes of Oblivion. These magma filled worlds contained demonic creatures to slay, innocents to save and loot to plunder. Now we have Skyrim, a world that is most like our own but that has been filled with Draugr and other mystical creatures. While the world is not a unique world in the most part, they have offset this more realistic world by putting new mechanics and abilities into their games and by giving players fun experiences they haven’t experienced in past games.
Elder Scrolls Morrowind - looking at Dwemer ruins
This is why games that regurgitate the same game with slight modifications are having their sales drop, players eventually leave a game if they don’t feel like it is worth the money. There are two reasons that a player will continue buying content from a developer, the first being that the game is fun and the second being that there is something new and exciting that they want to experience. A game being fun will keep a player returning for a short period but as they experience more of the game and they see more time in that game’s engine, the things they thought were amazing at the start will begin to be boring. This will cause a drop off in players as seen with the Call of Duty games. Meanwhile, if you can give players a fun experience with things they either can’t do themselves or with worlds that aren’t our own, then people will continue coming back for a much longer period. A great example of this is the Dark Souls trilogy. People even go through frustratingly difficult gameplay because of the amazing world that was created. The fascinating lore and mythos that wraps the game engine keeps the majority of the players interested for a long period.
As long as a game continues to capture the interest of people playing it, there will be a fan base ready to lose themselves in a foreign land or with new experiences. It’s human nature to be enticed by the ability to kill monsters in a strange land as we power up and become stronger than we could in our world. Players like feeling powerful since it’s a nice counter to our real world that tends to make all of us feel small. We enjoy losing ourselves in something bigger and much more grand than ourselves.