After simmering down for a few days from E3, I've been looking through spare footage from hundreds of games on all systems. Several have stuck in my mind including Halo: Reach and Metal Gear Solid Rising but one that has truly made an impression on me is Scribblenauts.
For those who don't know (seriously though, who doesn't?) Scribblenauts is a game in which your character is set in a series of levels in which you, the player, have a simple task to complete such as cutting down a tree or reaching a certain spot on said level. Sounds lame right? Anyways, the thing that makes this so unique is how you play it. The in-game dictionary contains somewhere around 10,000 words (no one seems to know, even the developers) all of which, using the DS's touch screen, can be spawned at any time and used in any way the player wants to. Anything from an invisibility cloaks to God himself, the game is truly limited by the players imagination.
Finally someone did it right.
This got me thinking. Pretty much any game developer will tell you that they are constantly trying to find new ways to make each game increasingly immersive. This year's E3 made this all the more evident. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo (even though that one doesn't exactly count) have all announced new, "revolutionary" ways to play games by "getting into the game and off the couch." Unfortunately, as seen in the Wii, all these things do is limit how you play your games. C'mon, how many people can honestly say that they play Super Smash Bros. with the Wiimote? Developers seem to think that the next step in gaming is reality. The current technology (Natal, etc...) just seems to exacerbate every flaw in playability which leads to creating simplistic games made specifically for them. I find it hard to believe that we will ever be able to re-enact Normandy without a trusty controller in hand.
This is where Scribblenauts comes into play…
The thing that makes this seemingly simple game so incredible is its sense of balance. While achieving a level of gameplay unrivaled by others, it maintains that feel that makes a game fun. It doesn't fall short to what other games do; limiting itself by trying to do too much but instead relies on the users imagination and lets them do with it want they want. Even though you can create virtually anything, the game maintains an inviting nature and never sells itself short from its full potential.
Which leads us back to the other people.
The glass-ceiling of gameplay (that really has a nice ring to it) is reality. While inviting some new, unreliable gamers (you mean I can bowl on this thing!) the concept of gaming evolution and reality is very unappealing to many. The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, life is boring. Even supposed life****simulations like "the sims" make many sacrifices that makes the game fun to play. Shooting aliens and saving princesses will always be more entertaining than grocery shopping which isn't amusing even if you get to get to walk through the virtual isles from your living room. That being said, there is always room for change.
As hardware developers are busy coming up with the next peripheral for the corresponding system, they should be applying that time to immersion: getting the player attached to the game (and yes, I do use that word to much.) Most games that come out today consists of the same cliché filled dialogue and empty action sequences that break up any sense of attachment. Scribblenauts fixes that in a very unique way.
Scribblenauts, like previous games, doesn't rely on high quality graphics or great voice acting to tell a story. No one has the power to make lumberjacks magically appear (or at least I hope not,) but the game achieves something that not many do; fun, not through realism or graphics but through lack of limitations. This is not to say that other games aren't enjoyable and that companies should stop what they're doing and start on DS titles, but instead should try to achieve the same thing that Scribblenauts has, the rejection of reality in exchange and for some fun.