The Art of Video Games
Advances in Mechanics
Home video games have evolved dramatically since their introduction in the 1970s. Technology today allows artists to create vast, detailed worlds with gripping storylines and realistic interactions. Advances in core mechanics can be seen throughout the five eras of game development.
Avatars serve as the conduit between the player and the game. Characters might be faceless, allowing players to imagine themselves in the role, or exaggerated to convey a specific personality. Recent game avatars are startlingly realistic and often give players the opportunity to customize their appearance and personality.
Jumping to avoid obstacles is a common feature of action adventure games, from the simplistic jungle world of Pitfall! to the exotic locales of Uncharted 2. Designers employ the mechanic in a variety of ways, including removing the control entirely, as in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, in which the avatar automatically jumps over any obstacle in its path.
Running adds tension and excitement to game play, whether the player is escaping from enemies or rushing to complete a level before time runs out. This mechanic was one of the first to be developed for character movement, (along with walking and jumping. Now avatars can crawl, slide, or even tip-toe as they move around the game world.
The climbing mechanic can be applied in several different ways. In early games, such as Jumpman climbing was used to navigate a 2-dimensional world. After games became 3D, such as in Tomb Raider or Super Mario 64, climbing expanded the discoverable environment and added an element of surprise.
Video games provide a unique way for people to experience and control flight, whether in a plane, on a dragon, or inside a computer network. Flying expands the game space, allowing multiple levels of interactions to take place within the same environment.
Cutscenes, or in-game movies, play an important role in establishing the narrative framework of a game. Early video games did not have the computing power to create elaborate cutscenes, but many included an attract mode that allowed players to preview the action. As systems grew more powerful, cutscenes evolved to deliver critical pieces of the story through immersive, cinematic experiences.
Landscape provides a backdrop for all video game action. From the 8-bit islands of Utopia to the dystopian, underwater world of Bioshock, the environment sets the tone for a game’s action and narrative.
Image credits: Pitfall! Activision Publishing. All trade names and trademarks are properties of their respective parties. All rights reserved. Super Mario 64, Nintendo of America, Inc. Uncharted 2, Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC. Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei, © SEGA. All Rights Reserved.Mass Effect 2, © 2010 Electronic Arts Inc. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Utopia, Intellivision Productions, Inc. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Nintendo of America, Inc.