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Indirect Control

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In chapter sixteen of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, game designer Jesse Schell lists out multiple ways in which designers may exert indirect control over the actions of a player of any given game. These methods are essential to creating the experience of a game because the medium puts so much control in the hands of the player, and serve as a way to unite the elements of mechanics and story (Schell 284). 

The methods he lists are:

  1. Constraints -- rather than giving a player infinite possibilities to choose from, a game designer can exert control over the experience of the game by limiting a player's possible choices. The example Schell gives is putting two doors in an empty room. The naturally curious player will most likely open one of them, especially if there is nothing else to do, and will still feel as if they had a choice in where to go (286).
  2. Goals -- giving a goal to the player makes them more likely to make decisions that lead them closer to the goal of the game. If the goal of a game is "collect all the bananas," for example, players will be much more likely to go through a door labeled "banana hoard" (286).
  3. Interface -- the interface can be a major mehod of indirect control because it suggests certain actions to players. A game using a plastic guitar as a controller immediately puts the player in that mindset; it probably will not occur to them that they'd want to do anything like move or jump (287).
  4. Visual Design -- aesthetics can be put to good use as a method of indirect control as well. Schell uses an example of an Alladin magic carpet game in which the the player had to approach the sultan on a throne. Originally, few players approached on their own accord, but all it took was a simple red line on the floor to draw them to the right location (290).
  5. Characters -- computer controlled characters are a very easy way of getting players to make certain actions. Whether they are enemies pushing players to a certain location, allies telling them about a quest, or civilians whom the player needs to protect, characters can be agents of the game designer's will through a process Schell calls collusion (292).
  6. Music -- perhaps even subtler than visual design, the music of a game can set a tone for anything from a chase scene to a moment of rest for the player-character (292-293).

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