The Role of Design in Video Game Essay Example

Many games are based upon a specific time period to bring a game to life. Players can connect their personal experiences to events mentioned in the game. One game that excels at the use of historical time period and premise is A Study in Emerald. The game takes place in the 19th century and is based on the merging worlds of Sherlock Holmes and H.P Lovecraft. A secret war takes place and the characters cannot figure out what side people are on. A special invention is made, which changes the balance of powers amongst the rulers in the game. A Study in Emerald uses details from history and distinct colors to convey its theme of the game.

Dramatic elements are used to better portray the details in a game. Premise is a significant element because it gives players the necessary information about the game. It tells a story based on the game, while mentioning the relationships between characters. Tracy Fullerton, author of Game Design Workshop emphasizes the importance of premise in games, by stating "the premise sets the time and place, the main characters and the objectives, as well as the action that propels the story forward" (106). Knowing the time period of the game, can help players better understand the characters and their actions. In other words, awareness of what occurred during that time creates a connection between the time period and the characters. Moreover, the premise gives enough background information to allow the players to make assumptions about how the game works.

The Emotional Necessity of Game Design

The premise also gives a sense of connection between player and character and "without a dramatic premise, many games would be too abstract for players to become emotionally invested in their outcome" (Fullerton 105). Premise states the important aspects to engage the players into the game. It makes it more interactive and players can better visualize what happened during the time period of the game. Premise also, is based around characters motivations throughout the game and "in a game, the premise might be as complex as those previous... characters with dramatic motivations, or a game’s premise can simply be a metaphor overlaying what would otherwise be an abstract system" (Fullerton 106). What derives the characters to do certain actions is based on the setting of the game. Different events that occurred in that time period have a significance to the outcome as well. These motivations can help the players figure out the best way to achieve their goal.

Premise is a significant dramatic element in many popular games. A Study in Emerald uses this element connecting history in a game setting. A Study in Emerald takes place in 1882, which was the time of the anarchists. The "old ones" began ruling seven hundred years ago, and many people have accepted the monstrous rulers. A secret war is taking place between the two sides, restorationists and loyalists. Also, the characters in the game are fighting for and against authority. Providing some background information about the history of the game, helps the players understand the meaning better. Gamers are exposed to both sides before playing the game, to understand where the characters are coming from. The game is based around the two worlds of Sherlock Holmes and H.P Lovecraft, which combine to tell the story. These two individuals are significant anarchists of the time that contribute to the game. Secret identities are given to each player to determine the side she is fighting for. Also, the invention of dynamite is key in the game, to change powers of the characters. Knowing the game takes place in the 19th century can help players get a feel for how the characters are going to act in the game. Gamers can put themselves in the mindset of a person during the 19th century, to succeed better in the game. Also, the distinct colors of the board portray the idea of premise in A Study in Emerald. The board uses a green pallet to convey the sci-fi theme with a non-realistic color scheme. The game is definitely a science fiction game with some mysterious creatures. Also, the boarder designs are a brass color to represent the time period. The historical backgrounds and distinct color pallet play a role in portraying the science fiction theme of the game.

The Connection Between A Player and a Character

The way characters act is an important attribute in a game. Fullerton writes "characters are the agents through whose actions a drama is told. By identifying with a character and the outcome of their goals, the audience internalizes the story’s events and empathizes with its movement towards a resolution" (108). Characters help players determine their next move based on their actions. The way a character is viewed can help the audience understand what needs to be accomplished. Players can visualize how the characters act in the specific events in the game, to decide their next move. Also, characters can be symbolic or a historical figure representing a larger idea. The meaning behind certain historical characters has an impact on the end result of the game because their actions in history can contribute to the game. Fullerton mentions some important questions to better understand the importance of characters stating "are characters pre-designed? Do they have an existing backstory and motivations" (109)? Characters tend to have their own motives to derive their actions. These motives can be useful in shaping the game for the players. Knowing what contributed to the characters response allows the players to determine what needs to be accomplished. What motivates the characters can motivate the players to the end result. Also, characters tend to have important back stories, which shapes them in the game. Fullerton writes "today many game characters have deep backstories and rich characterizations that affect the players experience of the game" (110). All the details behind a character in a game affects the audience and the outcome of the game. Characters can have special traits that a player should pay attention to because it can help with defeating the game. A character with an in-depth backstory most likely plays a significant role in the game. Players should understand where the characters come from and connect that to their action in the game.

The Character's Visualization and Description

The way a character is portrayed plays a huge role in games. A Study in Emerald has characters with detailed descriptions and there are several historical figures. For example, Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud are two figures that are significant in the game. Every character card has a specific action the player has to do in the game. Those actions relate to ones of the historical figures. Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud were key contributors during the time period of that game and players should take that into consideration when playing. The actions of the characters are important to the actions of the player. Not only does A Study in Emerald contain historical figures, it also has many sci-fi creatures. The game is a cross between history and science fiction and these creatures play a role in the outcome of the game. One specific creature in the game is Cthulhu. This creature is just one of the many creatures that has taken over the world in this game. The colors of the character and actions on the card, show how it contributes to the theme of the game. The creatures most likely represent a bigger idea from history, but the players can visualize the importance of them for the game.

A Study in Emerald is based around this secret war, which is another contributor to the characters of the game. Many character cards have pictures of men in a war setting. Whether the characters are wearing a uniform or holding a weapon, it is something a player should pay attention to. Knowing these characters are a part of the war can help in determining what to do when gamers receive the card. The audience can make assumptions based on the background of the character to take on actions in the game. How the characters take on actions in the 19th century can affect the way a player might take on the actions. Each character has an action on their card, giving the player an idea as to how the character would tackle it. Giving the audience an opportunity to connect to the characters story and help them to strive in the game.

A Study in Emerald not only pulls the audience’s attention in with its intriguing storyline, but it allows the players to connect to the characters. The in-depth descriptions of the characters can make a player feel as though she is in the characters shoes. The game takes history in a different direction, giving the gamers a new way to relate to past events. The dramatics of the game pull the audience in to a new world with the opportunity to seek many challenges. Connecting the players experiences to the characters is a way for the audience to engage in the details of the premise and work towards the end result.


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