Reading Response – Level design lesson: to the right, hold on tight by Anna Anthropy

I find the problem of tutorials level addressed in the reading particularly interesting. In my opinion, this type of design is like a bridge between the real world and the game world. The designer first tries to appeal to the player’s common sense, for example in Mario’s case, a height difference entices you to jump on it, and that malevolent beings entice you to murder it. While the player perform these more instinctive tasks, the designer subtly implants logics that are special to the game world into the player’s mind, e.g. banging your head against the ceiling gives you bonuses. Thus the player smoothly transitions from the real life into the game’s context.

I also noticed the effectiveness of this type of tutorial level depends on the experience of the player. Since we’ve all played Mario, we don’t really need to be taught the basics of any platformer: you try to go left and right and jump and kill stuff and collect stuff to reach a place. In this sense Mario is like the tutorial level for almost all platform games. I imagine the mechanics of these games will probably hard to grasp for aliens that move by floating around in mid-air. An interesting effect of such failure is that sometimes I’ve been playing a much harder version of the game for a long time before I realize there’s a button that does some special thing.

But on the other hand, in some cases I feel that tutorial is not even necessary. The urge, the eagerness to play is simply so great within us that we eventually figure out how to play (likely by poking everything) even when we have no clues. I have a friend back in China who recounted his experience as a child when he played a complicated game in English, which at the time he couldn’t understand a word of. Yet apparently he somehow figured everything out had great fun. Human’s surprising willingness to figure things out in order to have fun amazes me.