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Fantasy in gaming is evident in Role-Playing games where players assume various roles and skills, Adventure games where players roam exotic locales and solve puzzles, Simulation where players in a safe environment get to participate.  In games, players can assume the roles of super heroes, become a Greek hero and combat mythological monsters and in shooters and adventure games, actively participate in guilt-free criminal acts such as killing, carefree sex romps, stealing and corruption.

Real-Life vs. Fantasy Example 1: A parent walks in their child's room to find their teenage boy dressed in girl's clothing.  Perhaps a shocking scenario but accepts the everyday occurrence of their son playing Tomb Raider as its heroine Lara Croft or slaying vampires and doing cartwheels as Buffy.  The fantasy is acceptable to parents and teenagers where as real-life is more complicated.

Real-Life vs. Fantasy Example 2: In a gym class there's a teacher who tries to get the reluctant teen boys to participate in dancing.  But in the arcade, the same teen boys spend numerous quarters playing Konami's "Dance Dance Revolution Extreme" which is described as "players step on lighted platforms in time with the throbbing techno-pop music and flashing pink neon lights, as they try to match the instructions on the screen."  Sounds similar to dancing in the gym to me.

Games differentiate from other forms of entertainment in that they are interactive.  Films are entertaining but I've never heard anyone exclaim "Boy, that movie was fun!"  The simplest and basic form of interactivity is fighting.  Siblings as children learn to fight with each other.  A more complex interaction is romance.  In King Arthur, there's a lot of interaction such as the romance between Arthur and Guinevere and Guinevere and Lancelot and the court's rumor mill.  Other complex interactions are training, politics, charity, writing, rumor spreading, corporate communication and interviewing or researching.

Non-violent game designs could be a Gandhi  game where the goal is to remain on a hunger campaign until your demands are met or you die as a martyr, being a NY City homeless, street person who must survive each day to living in an Amish community or on an Indian reservation (without casino gaming).

In my book, there's the game design called "Survival of the Fittest."

"The Survival of the Fittest" is a prehistoric simulation where mankind must survive from the Neandertal man era to the Cro-Magnon man era. In solo and multiplayer versions, each player controls the destiny and daily ongoing of a clan.  Hunting, fishing, making clothes and shelter are necessities needed to survive.  The goal is to survive through several generations and not have mankind become extinct."

In my Gamasutra article "The Pedersen Principles," I suggest "The Yardstick: One Day's Pay for a Week's Worth of Fun (Principle 6)".  There have been several recent games that could be finished in a few hours making its players upset with the feeling of being financially ripped off.  Let's be an industry known for designing and producing great entertainment and giving our customers their money's worth.  Phenomenal graphics, immersive sounds and foot stomping music is great but without solid gameplay, it's going to waste.  An example of the opposite scenario, "Deer Hunter" didn't have unbelievable music or superb graphics but did have solid, entertaining and easy-to-use gameplay.  Myst on the other hand did have solid gameplay together with immersive music, sounds and graphics and was also a huge hit.

If you're designing a horror or suspense genre game having the player turn the corner to be scared by a zombie corpse lying in a casket may get a chilled reaction the first time or two it's seen.  Designing various triggers to have the zombie open the casket and jump out at the player would prolong the scary effect such as the first time the zombie jumps out right away, the next time after you walk around the casket, another time a few seconds after you touch or knock on the casket.  This variety will keep the player, even when they know that the zombie will eventually jump out, on their toes and the effect will work beyond the first few times.

At NYU where I teach game design, there is a entire unit about famous game designers and another unit about famous characters such as Mario, Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, MegaMan, Max Payne, Lara Croft and others. These gaming icons where not based on pre-existing licensed characters.  Each was original and launched many sequels (and prequels as in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island , 1995). Sonic and Mario characters even spun off educational and non-sequel games such as Pinball and racing games.  The characters helped the gameplay and their image branded and marketed their product lines.   Each of these characters needed a solid design and entertaining gameplay to become as successful as they have.  Players can identify and fantasize about playing these characters and existing (or escaping) into their world.

Games need to be designed in a manner that gives players the feeling that they are achieving something or progressing, making steps forward, are just about to solve their gaming dilemma, that there's a ray of hope and success just around the corner. Players need to feel that they're learning a new skill, desiring to improve and become better and especially in competition were they can become the best.

Today's players have gaming as part of their culture.  No longer are just the "geeks" and "nerds" reading gaming magazines, surfing the web to learn about gaming issues and cheats and buying games to play alone at home.  Players now carry portable gaming devices with them as well as cell phones and CD players.  Arcades and computers are part of the players every day world.  People on the streets are constantly chatting about games and anticipating what games are coming out.

All games contain an educational element and stimulate the fantasy world in the player's minds but great games have solid, entertaining and amusing aspects in their design.  Perhaps, designers can make the first steps towards integrating other forms of interaction besides violence and the players will follow.

Roger E. Pedersen (GameProducer@AOL.Com) has been designing, producing, and programming games since the early 1980s for companies such as CBS Software, Gametek, Hi-Tech Expressions, Villa Crespo Software, Acclaim Entertainment, Phantom EFX, Walker Boy Studio, 3D Open Motion, Hypnotics, and Merit Industries. His cumulative title sales have surpassed 10 million copies on over 50 titles for multiple platforms including the personal computer, video consoles, location-based, Internet, arcade, and hand-held. He is also the author of award-winning articles for Gamasutra.com, GameDev.net, and Gignews.com and best-selling Wordware Publishing book entitled "Game Design Foundations."  He is an Adjunct Professor at  NY University in Game Design and a freelance game designer and programmer.

If you need a game designer, a speaker or a top-notch development team, please contact Mr. Pedersen at GameProducer@AOL.Com.

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