is the “feel” of a game? Every gamer knows it and can easily recall the
sensation, the kinesthetic feeling, of controlling some virtual avatar
or agent. It’s what causes you to lean left and right as you play,
swinging your controller wildly as you try to get Mario to move just a
little faster. It’s the feeling of masterfully controlling some object
outside your body, making it an extension of your will and instinct.
This “virtual sensation” is in many ways the essence of videogames, one
of the most compelling, captivating, and interesting emergent
properties of human-computer interaction.
The sensation of control is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon: so many things have to happen, both in the computer and in the player’s mind, for this powerful, compelling feeling to occur. How, then, can it be mastered and used as a tool to create better games?
The Principles of Animation are fascinating because they are
non-negotiable aesthetic standards. An animation that adheres to the
Principles of Animation will be better than one that doesn’t. This is
interesting because the subjective nature of aesthetics would seem to
make a universal aesthetic standard impossible. There’s no accounting
for taste, the saying goes. The Principles of Animation are applicable
to all animation, though, because they pertain to aesthetic properties
that are processed subconsciously. You can’t tell why you like an
animation that has squash and stretch and why you dislike one that
doesn’t. You just feel it.
The medium of videogames has a similar set of governing aesthetic principles. Identifying these underlying principles adds another tool to the designer’s toolbox, allowing a clearer understanding of virtual sensation and how to create it. This will save time in game production, reducing the iterative workload and allowing designers to focus on solving the interesting problems unique to their specific game. If we’re not wasting valuable production time reinventing the wheel, we have more time to create something unique and beautiful.