Posted on July 09 2019 by Brittany Lindstrom
Video games have come a long ways since the era of arcade titles like Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. Now games boast riveting storytelling, top-notch 3D graphics, and award-winning orchestral soundtracks. Yet, even in ancient times, arcade games relied on certain psychological cues to keep players engaged and machines well fed with quarters. These age-old little tricks are utilized masterfully in Breath of the Wild, allowing players to emotionally bond with the world and feel driven to help save it.
Part of an ongoing documentary titled The Psychology of Breath of the Wild, a recent video by NintendoBlackCrisis does quick dive into how developers have kept players engaged years after the game’s initial release. While there are plenty of neat psychological tricks game developers use, the video focuses in on three: reward systems, color coding, and navigational tricks. Simply put, a game without a reward system isn’t satisfying. Games with poor color coding fail to emotionally draw us in to the the world. Finally, games lacking in navigational tricks can feel too 2D and can kill the drive to explore. This psychological coding — such as Shrines turning from orange to blue on completion — keeps Breath of the Wild‘s players on track to beat the game at their own pace.
Psychological cues are what separate mediocre games from true classics. When done well, these tricks will elicit an emotive response in the player, compelling them to keep going to the next objective. Handled poorly, or not utilized at all, games risk stripping player agency or feeling too Navi-ish.
We can all think of times where particular Zelda titles didn’t feel fulfilling. Perhaps you felt that Skyward Sword limited your exploration, or that The Wind Waker was too dang blue. Which games do you feel fell short in keeping you immersed? Do you believe Breath of the Wild handles these psychological cues the best, or is there another Zelda titles that does it better? Grab a cup of tea, give it some thought, and let us know in the comments!