What Makes a Good Game, Great?

We all have our preferences when it comes to playing videogames. We all know what we like and what we don't . . . and that's a good thing. Videogames aren't cheap and it doesn't get much worse than dropping $60 on a new game only to find out that it's just not for you. As we mature as gamers we eventually figure out the genre or type of videogame that best fits our preferred style. It's not so different from when we approach other forms of entertainment - whether it's movies, television, books, or comics. 

I've been playing videogames for the majority of my life. Of course, like many of you, I started as a young lad spending endless hours and countless quarters at the local arcade. I eventually graduated to the home consoles and never looked back. Over the years I developed an affinity for the action adventure genre. Games like Pitfall and, many years later, Uncharted, provided me with the opportunity to play videogames as my boyhood hero - Indiana Jones.

At the same time, I realized that sports games (in general) were not my thing. Aside from a short-lived infatuation with Mattel's hand-held electronic Football game, none of the other sports-type games did much for me. Thankfully, over the years, and with each new generation of consoles, we see more and more options made available to console and PC gamers.

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But what is it about videogames that make them so appealing? What makes us set our calendars with eager anticipation for their release dates? What makes a good game, great? When considering this question I contemplate the features that go into the final product. Not unlike a Summer Movie Blockbuster, the development of a videogame often incorporates many of the same elements: story, acting, voice over, presentation, audio/visual effects, etc. Yet, the major difference being that videogames must also focus (and focus heavily) on gameplay mechanics. But what of these videogame elements stand out the most for you as a consumer and fan? Do they all need to be of top quality in order for the game to be great, or are you willing to make exceptions? Can a videogame still be great if the story is absolutely amazing but the visual presentation is just average? What if a game is stunning to look at but the controls are severely lacking?  

I've spent a good amount of time and money over the years trying to keep my home entertainment system up to date with quality components: 3D HD TV, 7.1 HD Surround Sound, consoles, DVRs, Satellite. Still, when it comes to videogames, the final presentation - how the game looks and sounds - doesn't have as much weight when I consider a game's value. It certainly doesn't hurt a game that can pull off Uncharted 3 presentation levels, but it's not a final deciding factor. Being mostly a single player campaign kinda guy, a well told story, solid controls, and a good amount of gameplay variety are what can ultimately make or break a game and either propel it to greatness, or reduce it to substandard boredom.

I recently finished Max Payne 3 and although the game had a strong story with wonderful character acting, along with beautiful environments, the variety in gameplay is what prevented me from thinking this game was anything better than a solid 3rd-person shooter. It had moments of creativity but they were drowned out by the repetative nature of clearing room after room of enemy AI.

Conversely, I played through a game earlier this year called Binary Domain. Although the story was laughable, the controls were reliable and it delivered a wonderful amount of gameplay variety - enough to keep me hooked from the opening cinematic to the ending credits. Because of this I felt Binary Domain - considered an average and mediocre game based on the reviews - to be an overall great experience and incredibly fun game to play.

I think you see where I'm going with this. I've shown you the cards I hold  and you now have a better understanding of what I look for in a game. How about the rest of you? What videogame features are must haves? What makes them good enough for you to reach into your wallets and shell out the price of admission? We have an intelligent and diverse group of members that frequent A Band of Gamers and I'm curious to hear more about what does it for you.