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Combat: the center of gravity of game design?

Lately, I am seeing a lot of high-level solo projects popping around. I don’t know you, but sometimes I am so amazed that I think “What am I doing instead? Am I really a game designer? I mean, look at that!”. I guess it’s completely normal when you have passion for what you do.

One thing in common that I see very much is that the videos shared always show combat. So one may ask:

  • why combat?
  • Are we just violent monkeys always thinking and dreaming about fights and shots?
  • Why does combat have this sort of gravity that always sucks in the best designers?

To me, it’s not that we are doomed, to me it’s because combat fits perfectly in the true meaning of games. Let me explain.

Good reasons to put combat everywhere

We play games for a lot of reasons, but most of them are directly linked to our survival skills. To have fun is, to speak synthetically, to learn. And to learn is to improve our survival skills. Having to beat something or someone is part of the metaphor of survival.

Another good reason to me is that combat is a great way to realize game mechanics into a meaningful feedback loop. If you throw a ball for nothing, that physical mechanic in the long term can be very boring. If you have to hit cans you have a more interesting goal. If the objective is not a can but something that can hurt you, that gives you more motivation. The fun closure happens when you can throw the ball -> the ball hits and you see the feedback -> your score improves after that feedback! So that you can do the same over and over again and improve your score.

Combat has become in recent years also a design specialization. You can see a lot of offers out there for “combat designers”. Combat is for Players accessible and compelling. Many mechanics are easy to model and mix thanks to combat.

So, friends, we can rest assured. We are not awful beings, as humans we intuitively spot and take all possible shortcuts. As Players, we love to aim and kill, because we can train without getting hurt. As Designers, we can show off our craft and present our ideas in a fun context.

Published inGame Design

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