I think it's fair to assume that we've all played Hide and Seek at some point throughout our lives. It's a pure and simple concept. You go hide, I'll come and find you. That's all that's been necessary to keep children (and adults, no judgment) entertained for generations (so long as my dick brother doesn't leave me for hours without looking).
I think the thread that I've tried to tease away from this childhood pastime is the idea that we love to look for things, even if we know what they are. The act of searching for a specific goal gives us something singular and tangible to focus on. It challenges our perception of an environment to adapt as our internal aperture unconsciously adjusts as we go. It allows us to see the things that we'd not have noticed in the past and may not notice in the future.
A new goal, a new focus.
A new focus, a new perception.
Although there are obvious exceptions to this statement, it's fair to say that the narratives that reside within video games are often approached in a way that would have my Year 12 English teacher convulsing:
"Tell, don't show"
Here's the story, here's what's important. Now go do the things I said.
There is some merit to this approach. Giving the players a strong initial premise can help to create a strong foundation for them to build the perception around. It can also provide them with purpose and motivation that propels them through their world.
But for me, less is always more.
I think game developers have the unique opportunity to create a world that someone can physically inhabit. Why tell them straight out "this person is bad and this is where you should go" when instead we could gift them a series of opportunities to explore the world we've crafted?
"Show, don't tell"
Dead Cells approach to narrative is a masterclass in this line of thinking. Though the over-arching goal of each run remains the same, kill the guys and reach the end, the smaller "sub-goals" (find a weapon blueprint, gain a new rune, unlock a new path) changes our perception of each area in between individual runs. Though the world remains the same, our view of it has shifted. It can unveil things we'd previously overlooked and allows us as players to build our own understanding of the area.
Something meaningful doesn't always have to be thrust in your face. Maybe sometimes we can just let the player find it for themselves, whatever that may mean to them.
More soon, Riley.