Time is a strange thing. As the ages have gone by, we have come to understand time in ways completely unimaginable to some of our ancestors. We have to power to rebuild the past and craft the future of the worlds of our games in almost an infinite number of ways. We can use time to tell a story or use a time period as a setting for that matter. We can shape and bend time or even use it to gain advantages by reversing unwanted events. So let’s look into the presence of time in games. It looks like you’re just in time for this adventure.
Time as Plot
Normally once a player completes a game’s story mode, they usually want more and wait for the next game. They hear about the game through the internet and eventually notice something different in the sequel. It’s set 10 years into the future, for instance. The player instantly feels excited because they will get to see how they affected the world through their avatars.
Time as a plot is a very interesting tool to use. One could even tap into the future or the past by creating sequels or prequels, eventually building up enough lore or backstory to keep fans of the game pleased. Games such as Assassin’s Creed took the idea of time travel and crafted an entire universe from the protagonist’s ancestors. This is good because the player is able to mentally piece together each nook and cranny of story. This allows the player a eureka moment when they fully understand the entirety of the world and the people that inhabit it.
Time as Gameplay
Time possesses a lot of attributes. In Prince of Persia you could reverse time. Additionally the ever so popular countdown timer, as well as time of day in a game are just a few ways time could be used as game play. Now I know there are other mechanics for time but these are the three in this discussion.
First allowing the player to in a way control time gives the player that feeling of them actually controlling the pace of the world. Even newer games like Super Hot has used the idea of moving and not moving to create a very interesting first person action game where the game only moves when you do. It adds a sense of challenge and puts the power in the player’s hands to see if they can conquer the challenge.
The second attribute time possesses is that it is a great win condition. How many games have you played where either you had to wait for something to happen in 30 seconds or else you lost in 30 seconds. Either way, time puts pressure on you not to lose the game in that 30 seconds. It makes the player think faster and more strategically in order to beat the time limit. This mechanic can be found in games such as racing, fighting, platforming, and FPS just to name a few.
Time as Setting
I have learned through video games two things. Either the future is going to look like Fallout, where the world pretty much burns itself, or like The Jetsons where everyone has a flying car and we microwave pills that turn into buffets. Time as a setting in games allow for free customization by the developer. They could play on the ideas we currently value and parody them or they could build their own future.
Time as setting allows for the world to be futuristic even if the player’s avatar isn’t. We could even bring a cyborg to the age of dinosaurs. Using the past, the present, and future could truly capture your player in that time frame. The release of Far Cry Primal or Ark: Survival Evolved shows players to be afraid of the past and the dangers it holds while being entertaining.
As far as our current understanding, time is infinite. (Okay some physicists would argue that, but that’s a conversation for another time) This means there are that many possibilities of things that can happen. There could be a cyborg zombie apocalypse- or everything could be fine. How we use this time and places in games could truly be interesting because ultimately no one knows what will happen in future. Will it be the way you crafted it?
If you have other ways time and games meet, let us know in the comments. As always have an amazing week!