In video games, the player generally has only a few options for interacting with the environment: often just “shoot a gun”—and maybe nothing else (Figure 1)!
In particular, most games lack a button for, say, “raise eyebrow” or “shrug noncommittally.”
Despite the prevalence of “shoot a gun” as a video game option, this action is an uncommon feature of day-to-day life. This is artificially limiting, and it leads to the primary choice in gameplay being “shoot a guy” or “don’t shoot a guy.”
In order to promote more creative gameplay, we need to expand the button mappings to include a wider range of actions (Figure 2).
Some possible changes:
- Throw grenade → Bribe: e.g. “How much is Mayor Hogg paying you to terrorize the farmers? I’ll double it.” (Display high-denomination bills in off-hand)
- Melee stealth kill → High five (this will persuade enemies that your character is extremely cool and should not be shot)
- Toggle crouch / prone → Breakdance (if you are able to pull off sufficiently amazing moves, your foes will undoubtedly be won over to your cause)
In our revamped controller scheme, we can see that a player might be more likely to interact with other humans in ways besides shooting them.
Old-school text adventures and point-and-click adventures (e.g. Zork, Maniac Mansion) already have a wide variety of possible “verbs” (actions) for the player to perform, so we know that it’s at least possible to design a game around a wider range of player options.
PROS: Increases gameplay immersion, promotes creative solutions.
CONS: It would probably take a lot more development time to design and test a game in which you can solve a town’s bandit problem by either shooting all the bandits or by successfully converting them to a pacifistic religion.