Observations on gaming and engagement

Image by Flickr user The Li Family
Image by Flickr user The Li Family

After a long stretch of dealing with summertime obligations, I recently found myself with a little extra time to get back to gaming. Along with the occasional dash of Little Big Planet, I’m slowly playing through Dragon Age 2 and Metroid Prime. It’s been interesting hopping from the medieval-esque realm of DA2, which is considered a fine if not perfect game for the current generation, to the interplanetary opera of Metroid Prime, which has been called one of the best games of the previous generation. But beyond the mere look and feel of each game, these games offer much different levels of involvement, and I’m surprised at how attached I’m becoming to MP and how detached I’m becoming from DA2. It’s not that I dislike DA2 by any means, but I’m finding that I’m not as engaged with it as I thought I would be.

You hear the term “engagement” a lot these days. It’s usually uttered in relation to the service and cultural sectors – how teachers must “engage” their students, how museums try to “engage” their communities, how cities should “engage” their citizens. Over the past couple years this word has been applied to video games as developers search for new ways to “engage” players. One of the most common ways has been to create compelling stories, which sometimes works out well (Red Dead Redemption, The Walking Dead, The Last of Us), and sometimes works out poorly (a few Final Fantasy games come to mind). Both Dragon Age II and Metroid Prime have fine stories; and while MP revels in it’s simplicity, DA2 suffers in its convolutedness.

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