Design Challenges: Abstract vs Concrete

When using real life data in a game, do you go abstract or concrete?



It’s a difficult question to answer. Every game must wrestle with the need to depict realistic aspects, be it the character or world design to the game’s physics engine. Though at the same time a video game must create a flexible environment that doesn’t restrict or hinder the player from being able to fully control and enjoy the experience.

One of the greatest challenges to occur during the conceptualisation and early prototyping phase of Jacob has been the very fact that the game is based on the CLS’s cohort studies data. When creating a game that deals with serious subject matter it is always important to consider how far a game must go to deliver that data to its target audience.

On one hand, when drawing inspiration from real life data it is crucial to realise that if you stray too far away from the subject material then the objective of the project loses all meaning.

But on the other hand, drawing too closely to realism can ruin the play experience. For example, think of the many games you have played in a real world setting that have forgone very simple day to day necessities such as sleeping, eating, drinking and using the toilet.

For Jacob however we decided to take the more abstract route for two very important reasons. Firstly we wanted to avoid the risk of making broad generalisations; just like life, everyone’s journey throughout the game will be different and so it would be unwise to unnecessarily pigeon hole people into caricatures or stereotypes.

Secondly, and most importantly, is that the game must serve a purpose to the player. Striving for realism is sometimes necessary, as mentioned previously, but going too far in that direction may restrict the player to the point where the game loses their attention.

Though what is important to understand is that this decision to go more abstract is far from a simple compromise. Once the more abstract route is taken different challenges immediately occur.  The greatest challenge is that the game must adequately tie back to the data.

To achieve this aim we will be working closely with the team at CLS. The development team at Duck Duck Zeus have already had the pleasure of meeting them to discuss the proposed idea and the early prototype, and will continue to work with them to ensure that the balance between engaging gameplay and accurate subject matter is carried out.


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