How to Read a Video Game
Author: Andy Robertson
Today’s video games look increasingly like reality, but the spaces they conjure have been specially built for you to understand, move through and interpret. Even when you’re exploring a mountain, a cave, a park or a desert in a video game, it has been created with design principles similar to that used in public buildings like museums and libraries.
As your literacy and understanding of video games grows, you’ll start ‘read’ them as you would any new space, picking up on clues that help you understand what to do.
Here are some techniques that game designers often use to help you navigate their games:
- Lights: Flashing lights, or brightly lit areas, in video games often indicate the way to proceed next or the location of key items you need to collect.
- Maps: and signs Video games often provide a map for their game world, either from the start or picked up soon after the beginning. This and any signage in the game world are important reference points.
- Cookie: trails Some games will give you a visible trail of arrows or crumbs to follow to the next destination or person on your mission.
- Colour: Games often tell players that a particular colour signifies an object you can climb up or over. These coloured surfaces are usually in contrast to the rest of the world.
- Texture: The precise appearance of walls and buildings often indicates whether you can scale them or interact with them some other way. The ground is often signed with track marks or worn paths to direct your travel.
- Sound: Games use sound to direct players towards certain areas or objects. Wearing headphones can help you benefit from the directional nature of video game noises, where volume increases as you approach the required location or item.
- Collectables: Many games include items to collect. These work not only as a challenge for the player but can lead you in a certain direction, like a trail of cookies, and indicate which areas you have been to.
- Destinations: Games often use large buildings or structures as destinations when their visibility in the distance helps orient your direction of travel.
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