Imagination by Design

Are video games killing our imagination?

Imagination by Design

Berin Kinsman of Asparagus Jumpsuit, when talking about creativity in our play experiences, wrote on his blog, that
“The thing I like most about tabletop roleplaying games, and the reason I’m not overly fond of video games, is that aspect of creativity and imagination…”. In other words, the great thing about roleplaying is that we can freely create and imagine, creating our own play experience. On the other hand, we can’t get this same creative freedom in video games.

Video games have to deal with a number of limitations. To work, they are designed and created to be a complete whole that fits within those limitations. The story, characters, setting, graphics, available actions and even the possible endings are all set. There isn’t room for more, and the players’ imagination is usually bound up within that whole. Play Batman: Arkham Origins and you’ll spend your time imagining that you’re Batman. Play any First Person Shooter and your imagination will be bound to the paradigm of the FPS.

Is this something we can solve with clever design? Can we design for the imagination?

Berin mentioned LEGO in his post, and the comparison with Markus Persson’s Minecraft is an obvious one to make. Minecraft is fun because the player creates, and when we create our imaginations go into overdrive.

That’s the key, create gaps for the player to fill.

Create + Activity = Creativity

But we don’t need to build games about building. We just need to make those fill-able spaces. The character in silhouette, who we never learn much about. The evil tower on a faraway hill that we never get to visit. The coin in our pocket that we started the game with. The things we hear moving around under the floor boards. These all help to engage our imaginations on some level.

What do you think? This topic certainly has a lot of depth. Leave a comment and let’s talk about it.

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