The Burning Question: What’s your favourite ‘little thing’ in gaming?

When not at its worst, Twitter is actually quite a fun platform to interact on. Sometimes it gets to be a nice place to exchange ideas and last week we got just that.

Late last week the following thread started and it revealed a couple of interesting things about our favourite games:

We’ve all had some awesome moments in gaming. From getting kills off the last bullet in the barrel to barely making it our alive in a fight with only a sliver of life. These sort of experiences get our blood pumping and leave us some good stories to tell. The thing is, however, is most of these are manufactured experiences and outcomes of interesting game design. When making games, developers want players to have a good time and sometimes making slight adjustments achieves this. Games are a tricky exercise in smoke and mirrors and some of the best are masterful displays of this. It seems strange, but players tend to enjoy the process of subversion and while they may want to kick themselves for realising it later, it still improves the player experience.

Now my personal favourite isn’t all that interesting, but it has stuck with me for years. In the first Halo, when the Master Chief is woken up during the assault on The Pillar of Autumn, players are taken through a brief tutorial that takes you through the controls. One activity is moving the camera to look at some coloured dots. Once that has been done, the player has to do it again but with the controls inverted and then decide between the two. This doesn’t seem like the biggest thing in the world, but for the few seconds I had to play with inverted controls were quite uncomfortable. Contrast this to the experience in Half-Life 2 where when players are asked to look up, the game determines whether the player wants to have their controls inverted or not.

These are minor things, but they help the overall player experience and I can appreciate that. It is these small things that give us some memorable moments in games and improve on the overall escapism of gaming, even when they hold your hand a little. So what’s your favourite ‘little thing’ or hidden mechanic that makes a game just a little more interesting?

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