277 Thinking Games And Dying Games

by Foster Douglas on October 4, 2015

There are two types of action/puzzle games in this world, the thinking games and the dying games.

Portal is a thinking game; Super Meat Boy is a dying game.

(SMB might not be the best example actually, because it leans more toward “action” and less toward “puzzle,” but I think it’s still relevant.)

Both types are valid game designs. The thinking game is defined by a game that forces you to stop controlling the game, and literally think before you move. Sometimes for many minutes on end. The dying game is defined typically by trial and error. Test, die, repeat.

In a thinking game, execution is usually 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) on the list of things the game expects you to be good at. You can be bad at controlling a video game, and still generally enjoy an experience like Portal. Conversely, a dying game execution is king. The puzzle is there, and the only really logical way to attack it is by executing various solutions quickly (also executing yourself along the way).

The issue arrises when a game decides to fall somewhere between that. These two styles are so different that some aspects can’t cross over well. If for example you had an extremely difficult and well thought out puzzle, and a brutally punishing and precise control scheme or gameplay mechanic… disaster ensues. You would spend dozens of minutes thinking through a puzzle’s solution, only to fail at attempting to execute on it. Or, spend 0 minutes thinking through that same puzzle, try to force your way through it via trial and error, and never get anywhere because of the mental difficulty required to arrive at a solution.

Just my thoughts on this conundrum.

(Ok so, Portal also may not be the perfect example game come to think of it, as there are a couple of times when it requires a bit of dextrous thumb work…)

[ Today I Was Playing: Persona 4: Dancing All Night and Disney Infinity 2.0 ]

#action-game, #game-opinion, #puzzle-game