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 smallĀ 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?

  • This is going to sound very silly, but it’s something I do with each and every game I play. If you get to the title screen and it tells you that you can ‘press any button to continue’, and I press a random button (like a shoulder button) and it works, it makes me very happy. When it doesn’t I mumble at the fact that it says ‘press any button’ and is actually a lie – that they’re expecting you’re going to press X/A or the start (Options/Menu) button.

    Small silly thing, but I like it.

    • VampyreSquirrel

      It’s the little lies that hurt us most.

  • VampyreSquirrel

    Interactive loading or start up screens…. I LOVE them

    I think one of the best ones was on Black or White 2.

    • Good call! Those are really awesome when implemented well.

    • DemonGamer

      Loved DMC 3 where you could slash and shoot the logo , and even some of the in game combos worked on it

      • Valshen

        Bringing back good memories.

  • Valshen

    The flash of light when you level up in a game. Not all games have it, but when a game has a proper DING in it. YESSS.

    Also, the sound of a legendary item hitting the floor in Diablo. Hmm, mmm.

    • AndriyP

      Dude…after long sessions of Diabs I would go to bed and still see and hear the legendary drops lol

  • DemonGamer

    I’m a sucker for visual things , showing bullet holes , dropped casings , a foot print staying in sand/snow , cars getting dirty . And the graphics dont have to be that good too , these were things I enjoyed with MoH underground. But my last kinda big little thing that I really loved is the gun jamming on farcry 2.

  • MonsterCheddar

    Those first few tense moments of first mission of a new game.

  • Slow motion bullet and arrow follow cams. Just kinda puts a smile on my face.

  • i love when games do a proper/variable day/night system so i can have proper sundowns and sunsets. it’s been a /long/ time since anything like that was implemented in a game, though šŸ™

    • Valshen

      Horizon Zero Dawn has an awesome weather and day / night cycle, which you could manipulate in the photo mode to great effect.

      • goodness. i should see if i can find video of that. sounds awesome.

    • Smuroh

      Ghost Recon Wildlands had some amazing sunsets and sunrises along with the weather and lighting system, night time was some of my favorite parts where you could stand on a hill and watch fires, head lights and firefights all in the distance.

  • Someone on Facebook commented on a great example – good timing with music in games. When the music plays at the perfect moment and sends shivers down your spine. Nothing quite like it.

    • Spathi

      Red Dead Redemption – When you ride into Mexico on horseback. One of the most vivid memories in gaming because of the song:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUXGW6sWYDY

      • That Life is Strange high school moment, where the song plays as you walk through the corridor, set the tone for the entire game.

        • The start of episode 2 where she turns the radio on and the song just pulls you into the game. I even went to go find the song and add it to my usual playlist.

  • Dave

    I don’t know why but I love it when there are switches and taps that actually work in the game. Like you stand in front of the toilet in the game and press ‘flush’ and it does a little swirling sound. I love the idea that this has nothing to do with the game or story, but someone thought to program that into the world.
    I also love it when game levels with ‘invisible’ walls at least offer a plausible reason for being out of bounds for you. Not just ‘you can’t go here, because we said no’.

  • Dian Fourie

    Good menu design *looks at PES

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