The thing that elevates a good game to a great game is its ability to make the players’ choices feel meaningful.
Typically we think of mechanics as the tools and actions we use to complete the objectives of a game. They can sometimes be reflections of the players personality, like in rpgs such as Dark Souls where the players can play as a mage or a knight and complete the game using either playstyle. Other times, mechanics are simply a means of making progress, such as the reveal mechanic in Minesweeper.
In Design Home, the player is given a budget of resources and enters design challenges by selecting furniture and decor items for a room. Their design choices are made in an attempt to best match the asthetic and feel of the room. After submitting their designs, they are voted on by their design peers. Voting exists both as a way to grant players currency to enter challenges and as a way of creating a community of peer review.
What Design Home has been able to accomplish, with its elegantly simple gameplay, is a deep sense of meaning in the choices the players make. Players’ designs create meaning as a form of self expression, which gets further validated through the reviews they get from fellow players.
Have you ever played a game that made you feel that your choices felt meaningful? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor. You can check out more of his content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.