Matthew Walker, Freelance Writer
Gaming has become more of an art form of bragging rights, even if it means gloating over the fact that you won at Frogger. There are only a few things that make a game stand out anymore. Considering that when you are playing you have so much to take in including the countless button configurations you have to remember, the beautiful graphics to absorb, and the deep involving storylines that hold the pieces of the game together. No matter what though, you enjoy everything about the game that you have in your hand due to one thing - gameplay.
While it can be a safe assumption that many will pick up a game just due to the graphics on the back of the box, this method has become something similar to the art of selecting a movie at the video store. Sometimes you get a winner and sometimes you do not. Lately, it would seem that when you have a game that is in everyway beautiful, it is automatically considered a must own game. While beauty is a wonderful thing to have, beauty is, after all, only skin-deep. If the game is not fun, then what's the point? Of course, there are also levels of play that need to be considered when making a game. The most obvious is the easiness of the game. Whether it is on the hard or the insanely hard level setting, the ease in which you can attack or defeat your enemies should always be there. This, however, is where the most vital part of creating a great game comes into play.
What I am talking about is the simplest thing any developer should be able to do - make the game fun. Whether it is by simplicity or insanity, the fun factor has to be present in the game. This of course can be left totally up to the player. After all, some of us love the increased difficulty to controlling several characters at once on the strategic battlefields of an RPG. Then there are those of us that like the chaotic mini-game experience that appears in games like Wario Ware Smooth Moves. Nonetheless, the fun factor is there.
However, this is not to say that a developer can just make a game that has any of the aforementioned elements just thrown into the game. All too often developers have designed games in which they thought they were involving a high level of fun, but the game fell incredibly short. Case in point: a PS2 game titled Made Man. The concept of the game sounds enticing enough and even lifts some elements of gameplay from the hit Max Payne series, but the execution of the game left a lot to be desired in the end due to the lack of fun. Here is a rule all developers should take to heart - if the game is not enjoyable to them, then it should never be released. This list can go on and on stating which games had potential but failed miserable when it came time to actually playing the game. In fact, there is no genre of games that are not guilty of having titles with immense shortcomings. In short, as long as the game is fun, I am in. No matter the graphics, no matter the story, and definitely no matter the amount of button configuration, give me the fun any day of the week, and I am hooked.
Amanda Kondolojy, Freelance Writer
There are several things that make a good game, and one might argue that the criteria change for each genre, but I believe there are a few ground rules when it comes to making a game for any genre, no matter if it's action, puzzle, or rhythm.
The most important component to making a game memorable has to be control. Nothing is more frustrating than a game that has overly complicated or illogical controls.
If you can't control a game accurately, then you can't play it, and it is as simple as that. I would cite the PSP version of the terribly-botched TMNT game as an example of a game that had such poor controls that it was nearly unplayable. Three of your four action buttons were used for jumping, and there was no room for movement. To tell you the truth, it kinda made me claustrophobic because no matter how many times I hit the D-pad, my on-screen character wouldn't move. That's why this game failed so hardcore in my book. The excruciatingly poor controls just made for an overly bad game experience.
Secondary to control, you need a concrete goal to make a great game. Now for most games like Zelda and Final Fantasy, the goal is simply to finish the story. And there's no problem with that. You keep playing so you see what happens. But with rhythm based games like Guitar Hero and puzzle games like Tetris, you can't really have a story. But you can still have a goal. You can keep playing to unlock new songs, levels, or even modes of gameplay. So you keep playing to see how much cool stuff you can get or how skilled you are. But the problem comes in when nothing cool happens. I would cite the Pokemon Trozei puzzle game as an example of a game with no goal. Although it tries to incorporate some semblance of a story, it just doesn't work, and though you're incredibly addicted for a couple weeks, you'll find the game months later gathering dust in a secluded part of your shelf before you ever finish it. And why is that? Because there's no motivation to finish. No goal = no game.
My final component when looking at a great game would have to be how it looks. I know some out there say that it's about how it plays not how it looks, and to some degree, I believe that's true. However, if a game looks poor enough, no one will play it, plain and simple. Anyone who says that's not true is kidding themselves. An example of this would be the game based on the movie 300 for the PSP. It just looked sub-standard. And when you're constantly faced with polygonal figures who just look awful, especially when you can pop in a game like Daxter, which looks great, it wears on you a little. You know that someone, somewhere could have tried a little harder to help the game look its best. But no one stepped up to the plate, and this is what you got stuck with.
I know my conditions might sound a little harsh, but we're talking about great games here. Not just good or pretty good, but great. And my standards are pretty high in that regard. I don't want to be fed trash and be told it's passable. And those who know the gaming industry know there's a lot of trash! But if you're able to follow the three criteria above, I think you're well on your way to a great game
Justin Conte, Freelance Writer
A great game can take many forms, and there's no real formula to derive one, at least yet. I'm sure a few of these bigger companies are hoping to derive such a formula one day though. To truly define what makes a great game, just look at one man: Shigeru Miyamoto. Love or hate the Wii and the direction Nintendo is taking, there's no arguing with Miyamoto's philosophy that games should be fun first and foremost.
That definition depends on many factors, but for me, a great game is one people still sit down to play 10 years after its release because they are just that fun. Tetris is a great game, one that years after release I'd bet still sees more play than most "better" modern games. The original Mario and Sonic games are both great games, games most of us could still sit down with and have a good time. A great game will still be fun even when it's no longer the state-of-the-art title it once was.
Ask yourself if some of the modern games you consider to be "great" are games you could see yourself picking back up in 10 years. Could you see yourself going back to a Gears of War or a Resistance: Fall of Man? I know I can't. Part of the draw of such games is the way they tax the hardware, creating an enjoyable experience, but that experience will be fleeting. This isn't a knock against those sorts of games as they are what keep our industry alive. Look at written works: for every Gone with the Wind or 1984, there are countless romance novels and thrillers that sell millions, and will be read once and never thought of again. The truly great works will always stand up over the years.