Interactivity and Choice

Some of the recent bifurcation of opinions about Assassin’s Creed got me thinking.  Some reviewers are marking the game down because there isn’t much variety of gameplay.  Other internet denizens are (essentially) saying that the process of trying to streamline the game to finish it faster decreases the fun of the game.  The game reviewers, they say, are playing it with the wrong mindset.

This disagreement points out one of the subtle misconceptions about games.  Players (or at least I, as a player) want interactivity in a game, but don’t want an overabundance of options.  The player’s actions should have an effect, but what actions can be performed, what things can be affected, should be constrained.  From what I’ve seen, Assassin’s Creed is a game with a lot of interactivity, as the main character can touch and take advantage of the environment in many ways, with a plethora of context-sensitive actions.  It’s also a game with a lot of choice in regards to how to approach the missions in the game.

One reason the two camps of opinion can’t see eye to eye is because they’re not separating the game’s interactivity and the choices it provides.  The reviewers apparently chose options that effectively limited their interactivity with the game, and it became repetitive.  Others just tried to interact with the game as much as possible, and the un-fun choices became invisible and, in fact, disappear entirely.

Maybe there is a game design flaw in Assassin’s Creed, but I doubt it’s what the reviewers are claiming.  The flaw may not be that the game is repetitive per se, but that it allows the player to choose to make the game repetitive.  Certainly it seems to be that if you play the game as intended, Assassin’s Creed is great.  The question is if you’ll play it as intended or not.

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