==> mystery in games <==

since quite some time ago, I've been deeply interested in how video games create a sense of "mystery" for the player.

some call it "exploration games", and others call it "detective-like". there's no clear consensus, which only makes it harder for me to find material on the subject.

in this page, i've collected some stuff that I feel strongly relates to my notion of "mystery in games". maybe you'll find this interesting!

[last updated: 2020-05-03]


Preserving a Sense of Discovery in the Age of Spoilers, by Jim Crawford

GDC talk. jim crawford (frog fractions) talks about how, before the internet, every game was mysterious - you simply didn't know what each games was truly about! nowadays, the abundance of information makes it very hard to find that same mystery. he doesn't get in too many details, but covers a lot of great points.

follow-ups: 1, 2.

We Are Explorers, by Tevis Thompson

"My favorite videogames are the games I don’t fully understand." tevis thompson talks about mystery in videogames. this text feels like a poem, a love letter, a wounded heart open for us to see. it's very vague in a lot of places, but it speaks to me on an emotional level. I know what he's talking about, and I feel it.

"I do not love a game because I have conquered it."

follow-ups: 1, 2.

Design Talk: Information Games, by Tom Francis

tom francis (gunpoint, heat signature) coins the term "information games" to talk about games where "the goal is to acquire information, and the way you do it is to use information you've already gained and reason about it, deduce things from it, come up with theories and use those theories to go looking for more information".

this isn't exactly what a mystery game is to me personally, but I think there's a lot of overlap. if you want the player to create theories and obtain information, there must be a mystery for him to solve - and that's where the overlap happens. I argue about that here.

there's also a paper where mike cook approaches the issue of procedurally generating information games, which I think is very stimulating.

follow-ups: 1, 2.

Cultist Simulator: what's the deal of a game?

an essay I wrote, condensing all my thoughts (at the time) about mystery. I talked about how Cultist Simulator appears mysterious, but in time reveals itself to be very grindy and formulaic (what to me is the opposite of a mystery). I argue that CS is just an extreme case - all games go through this process of mystery becoming repetition, although they can do a *lot* to make the mysteries juicier. it's not much but it's mine.

follow-ups: 1.




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