In law school, most of your time is spent reading about explosions. That’s what cases are really–stories about how stuff blows up. You can learn a lot from people’s mistakes, and doing so might help you avoid headaches of your own later. Recently, I found an excellent review of the game Gods Will Be Watching–well, excellent for learning, not for the game itself. If you are interested in game design, it might be worth a few minutes of your time to read or watch this review. If you’re feeling industrious, here’s another take. For the TLDR people, the lessons are summarized below.
- Ethical dilemmas – The developers’ attempt to present ethical dilemmas is admirable. Games can challenge people to examine their beliefs in powerful ways, but only if they are designed well. In order to be thought provoking, there needs to be some sort of logic or system behind it–a “method to the madness”–otherwise, it’s just random and senseless. Life can be random or senseless sometimes, but there’s nothing to be done about that except to grin-and-bear-it.
- Resource management – Like the first point, to make this work in-game, there needs to be a logical system behind it. It’s okay to have hard challenges that require near perfection to succeed (although this will turn off casual players), but it’s plain frustrating if key resources randomly disappear and you fail despite doing everything else right. Wasting the player’s time is the biggest sin you can commit in game design.
- Engaging the audience – To be invested in any story, the audience must feel that decisions matter. Not every decision has to be life or death, but there needs to be a few weighty decisions. In Gods Will Be Watching, the fact that a character can die in one mission and be alive again in the next with little or no explanation kills any reason for the player to care about the characters. It simply doesn’t matter.