12 April, 2006
I’ve been playing a few games lately to take my mind off the pain inflicted while we were moving. A few events in the games made me thinking about something important in most creative circles: the expectation of the audience, even if they are incorrect.
The problem is that not everyone knows everything. So, when you create something, often you have to meet the expectations of the audience even if they are completely incorrect.
How do you accomplish this?
A great example of this is in art. An artist I knew talked about drawing animals one time, and how people have certain expectations of what an animal will look like. Even if you draw a picture of an animal from a picture, it might not “look like” that animal to the observer. So, even if you are trying to capture the look of a “real” version of the animal, you might have to change it a bit to match expectations.
One example from gaming cames when I was playing Shadow of the Colossus. At one point the horse I was riding got hit, and I got knocked off. When the horse came up, it was hobbling like the leg was broken, but soon it was fine. My better half commented that the horse was probably lame from the first animation, given her knowledge and experience with horses. I never picked that up, but I knew that the horse was acting like it was hurt. It didn’t occur to me that the injury would indicate the horse was lame and therefore probably unridable. Of course, this didn’t fit in with the game very well (it would suck to have to walk everywhere in that game!)
The other example comes when I was playing God of War. In one portion they were talking about the “making of” the game and the concept art. One artist was complaining that the creative director came back and said one piece of art, “…wasn’t Greek enough,” even though the artist had used authentic source material for the drawing! Of course, what the creative director meant was that the art wasn’t Greek according to popular expectations. The artist had to change the drawings to take that into consideration.
This is an important lesson for designers to realize: even if you create something 100% authentic, it may not ring as authentic if it doesn’t match the expectations of the audience. The audience might even have incorrect expectations, thinking that something looks completely different than it should. The question is: how much should you change things to match expectations? This, of course, usually depends on the details of what you are doing. In a game designed almost purely for entertainment, relying heavily on expectations is okay. Developing a program for teaching people might not benefit from this so much.
In online games, we have to deal with this even more. People make certain assumptions about other people in the game. “Most women are played by men,” is one expectation that isn’t as true as people first think. It’s important to manage these expectations in order to keep the audience happy.
What are your experiences with the differences between “reality” and expectations?