As I was playing a quick game of League of Legends (I lied, it took over an hour and we lost), I got to thinking about some of the unexplained design choices made by the developers that inherently shape the way we players actually play the game. Before clarifying my thoughts, I’d first like to clarify to those unfamiliar with League of Legends that the game is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) in which the player and four other teammates chose “Champions,” each with their own set of four unique abilities that confer specific advantages or disadvantages, and face off against another team of five players who have their own Champs. Essentially, the point of the game is to destroy a series of damage-dealing structures called “Towers” or “Turrets,” the demolition of which allow the players to charge the opposing team’s main base and attack it’s “Nexus,” achieving victory for your team. It’s more complicated and oftentimes more fun than it sounds on paper. For those who are really interested, here is a more clear and involved explanation of how the game works!
Specifically, I was having these thoughts while wondering why a certain Bush (small patch of grass that makes your Champion invisible from the outside) was placed where it was. Why would they put this specific bush in this specific place when it could have also gone to the side, or on the opposite edge of the river? In what way is my gameplay, my experience playing League of Legends, changed by having to wait in this specific position to gain an advantage over my enemy? It struck me that even outside the obvious aspects of the interface that we’ve discussed a bit in class, even outside the perspective of the player and the choices in the game menu, for instance, the experience of the interface is being affected on a more unconscious level by the design choices made in the production of a game. That is to say, you are potentially being persuaded to play the game in one way over another depending on how a level was designed or a map created.
To the more astute observer, which I am not, this might have been obvious from the offset, as it also ties in quite a bit with our previous discussion, but it was still a revelation of sorts to me. For example, because you have no vision inside the Bushes in League, it behooves a player to lie in wait as an enemy walks by to catch him off-guards. This is never explicitly stated in any official League of Legends tutorial or instructional video, because it just arises (intentionally, that is) as a result of the map they created. And while I drew this conclusion playing League, the concept is ubiquitous across all games. I might be reaching here, but even in Redshift and Portalmetal we might potentially be influenced by the order in which our choices are laid out, or their vertical orientation, rather than horizontal. All these aspects must enter the discussion when thinking of the reciprocal relationship between a player and the interface, and I’ll just close here by posting a video that helped me solidify some of my ideas and, I think, explains better than I could how, in League, the nature of the map brings about key aspects of the relationship between the player and the game.
Love to hear what you guys think!