The Sims 4

The SIMS 4

Lens of the Elemental Tetrad


There is no story to this game. In the original Sims game, it was the objective of the main character to move out of your mom’s house, find a job, and get married. However as the Sims became more advanced, the story part is omitted. Although some can say that this is a drawback, I think of it as leaving it to the user to create their own story through the characters


There are a lot of complex mechanics at work in the Sims. The primary one is to take care of a Sim (or multiple Sims) by making sure they eat, use the bathroom, sleep, destress, and in general keep their mood up. How you do this, like most of the game, is entirely up to you. There are a lot of mechanics at work in The Sims, but the main one is taking care of your Sim’s basic needs


The aesthetic of the Sims is very lighthearted and while there are some aspects of the look that are stylized, The Sims is very physically based. The colors, lighting, and body shape of the Sims are based on real humans, and the same can be said for the environment.


The greatest technological feat of the Sims is the pure scope of the game. There is complex artificial intelligence at work as well as vast decision-making trees that help the achieve the feel of a true sandbox game. Rarely are there times where the user says “I can’t do that” due to the game not allowing it.


In my opinion, the strongest part of the Sims is the customization of characters. Users are allowed to create their own character, with little to no restraints. However, the fascinating thing about this practice is that the average player will create themselves first. Or rather, create their own “avatar”, an idealized version of themselves. Through this, players humanize their characters and are able to emphasize with them. Instead of saying “This character is staying up too late” a player will say “It’s 1am! Why am I still awake?”. I find this interesting, because the player truly feels as if they’re in the environment.

Additionally, the player is able to give their characters certain traits, goals, aspirations, and favorite things. These are all so trivial and non-essential to the main gameplay, but a player will fill out everything according to what they like, if only for the sake of their character being a little more excited than usual when eating pancakes.

There’s not necessarily strange parts of the game, nor are there major flaws. Most bugs in the game have to do with the AI element. For example, a character might express that they’re unable to move forward because there’s a plate on the floor in the way. Or a character will stay the night at your place, but only because you’ve blocked the main exit

On that note, there’s a stranger and slightly sadistic side to Sims where players want to see just how far they can push the story. For example, what happens if you put a kid in a pool with no ladder out? Or can you kill your rich neighbor, swoon his wife, and inherit all of the family property? Although in most cases people will treat the Sims as real life, they will sometimes treat it as a sandbox where there are no consequences but your own satisfaction. So while you may never lock an annoying coworker in a room with no doors in real life, you might do that in the Sims just to “see what happens”.

Lens of Freedom

What makes the Sims unique from any other game is the amount of freedom to be as microscopic or macroscopic as you want to. There’s an extensive and very detailed architectural simulator that will let you create any extravagant type of house you want. However, you can also buy a pre-made house in order spend more time focusing on your Sim’s career as an astronaut.

The true beauty of the Sims lies in its freedom. The player can create their own narratives based on what will make them happy. For some, it’s creating a giant family with numerous generations, watching each Sim grow and live and die. For others it’s a quest to master guitar while balancing their career as a chef, or making friends with as many Sims as possible. I believe that you can tell a lot about a person based on how they place the Sims, since what they choose to focus on is a reflection of what they deem most important. The developers of The Sims do their best to try and reduce the number of constraints that are on the player. Like in real life, the only things that would stand in the player’s way is their basic human needs. They can’t become a major league athlete if they don’t get adequate amounts of food and sleep, and they can’t pull multiple all nighters if their stress levels are too high. However, these constraints help to humanize the Sims, rather than frustrate the player.



Overwatch is an online multiplayer first person shooter where players work together to fight for team-based objectives.

Lens of Elemental Tetrad:


Overwatch has a very standard 3D cartoony art style that has been tried and tested before. However, what gives the game so much “flavour” is the attention to detail to authenticity of each character and map.

Overwatch has a wide cast of heroes of different ethnicity.  The voice actors were chosen carefully and usually also base on ethnicity to depict the character as accurately as possible. In fact some voice lines are spoken in the native language of the character.

The Maps in the game are located in different parts of the world. Their design, both in music and architecture, has influences from the country they are representing.

Image result for ilios and greece

The map Ilios

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The attention to detail adds to the overall immersion of the game.


The story is rather simple: Overwatch was an international task force to combat hostile omnics during the “Omnic Crisis” and restore order. However after some internal conflict and several allegations of wrong doings has led to its disbandment.

Years after its abolishment, former members of Overwatch decide to reform the organisation in light of a possible second “Omnic Crisis”.

While it is hard to add any sort of story element to Overwatch’s game play I believe that Blizzard has done a good job in portraying the backstory through their additional content.

Blizzard has a long tradition of creating cinematic experiences and the backstory of different heroes are described in a series of animated shorts. They shed light on their past experiences and relationships with other characters. The storytelling in these shorts is so impactful and makes you truly feel for the characters.

The relationship between characters is also highlighted in game when characters have specific dialogue for different characters. Here’s a compiled list of the all the character interactions.


Blizzard has invested heavily into building Overwatch and they built the game using their own proprietary engine. The game is available on PC and console. However, there is no cross platform play. In a fast pace action shooter, aiming with a analog stick can be very taxing on the user. Overwatch has an aim assist for consoles only (thankfully), which makes the game more accessible on console.


Players are split in two teams of six and their objectives are dependent on the four game modes: Control, Escort, Assault, Hybrid. The modes usually involve pushing of a payload, fighting for control of a point and attacking/defending a control area.

Players can choose from a roster of 26 heroes who have a wide variety of skills. All heroes have an ultimate ability that is charged overtime by doing damage or healing. Naturally, these heroes fill different roles in the team and many of them complement each other.

For example Zarya,  is able to suck a group of enemies together with her ultimate ability “Graviton Surge”. However, most of the time, she is unable to do much damage by herself. On the other hand Tracer  ultimate ability (pulse bomb) deals a large amount of AOE damage on to a target. The problem is, it is difficult land the bomb on an enemy.

However, by combining the two abilities together we can have this: 

Over time players pick up on these combinations and create popular strategies which in turn form the META (Most Effective Tactic Available)


Lens of Expression


A basic form of self expression in Overwatch would be emotes. While emotes can be seen as a fun side feature, it is also a means to send messages to your team and enemy. An example would be to emote after killing an enemy as a means to taunt them.

Or you could kill them stylishly like this.


As their playtime and familiarity increases, players would gravitate towards a specific character. Players develop a special bond with their character, become an expert at it and “main” them. To main a character would mean to have that character a preferred hero. People have many reasons for “maining” a character – I believe this is thanks to unique personalities and playstyles of the heroes. It is not hard to find a character that “fits you like a glove”

Here’s a great video about the reasons for choosing a main in fighting games:

Additionally, “maining” places a label on themselves – to associate themselves with the character. And this becomes their identity that they are proud of. (A subreddit for all Genji (a hero) mains)

Lens of Spectation

Being a 6v6 game with many mini engagements across the map, watching a game of Overwatch may be as hard as playing it. As Blizzard pushes for Overwatch as an esport, the experience of the spectator becomes more important.

Spectator Tools

In the Overwatch League (Blizzards Profession Esport League), there are variety of tools available for the broadcast team (observers) to give the viewers the full story.

A match at the Overwatch League Burbank studios

A match at the Overwatch League Burbank studios

Observers can have a birds eye view of an ongoing engagement, or go back in time to replay a particular moment that was not broadcasted to the audience. Teams are also given contrasting colours so that it is easier to differentiate them from one another.

I have one critique however: the spectator tools are not available in client for our ranked/casual games. Hopefully with its success in OWL, the tools may soon become available to all players.


As mentioned before, with many hours spent on the game, the player base as a whole slowly develops a META and if the game is not balanced properly, teams would only use one specific composition, leading to stale and boring games like these:

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Notice the hero choice for both teams. In the dive META, teams would only field one team composition, leading to similar and boring games.

Thankfully, thanks the recent balance patches, the META has changed to favor a variety  of hero compositions (for now) and different heroes have become niche picks for different maps, leading to a fresh viewing experience every game.


Lens of Reward

While the most obvious reward in the game is winning and the matchmaking rating system, I will be focussing on rewards which apply to both the winning and losing team. (Something which i think Overwatch does well in)


At the end of the game, players gets to a screen of statistics. However, what Blizzard does well is that they only show good performances of the players. So even if you lose a game, the game still acknowledges your contribution to the team. Another great thing is that unlike many other games, the game keeps track of other metrics besides the kill count. Things like healing done and objective time gives a nod to that silent warrior doing his part for the team.

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Healing done and players teleported being recognized at the end of the game

Play of the Game

Another cool feature is play of game which highlights the a play made by an individual during the game. It is gives that player recognition that he did something impactful that game and also lets the player “show off” to his peers.

Well one thing, Blizzard could work on was the algorithm which decides what clips to play…



Borderlands 2

Set on the wastelands of the distant planet Pandora, Borderlands 2 follows the tale of six Vault Hunters and their struggle against Handsome Jack. Developed by Gearbox Software and released in September of 2012, the game received a 5.4/10 rating on IGN. It also received 10/10 in Steam user reviews and 90% on Metacritic.

The game shows clear evidence of following many design lenses, and I believe it to be a good game. I shall explore the opening sequence of the game from the perspective of someone who has never played it before, and the lenses will crop up frequently even just in these first fifteen minutes of gameplay.

Welcome to Pandora, Kiddos.

I enter the first level of the game. My friendly robotic companion claptrap (a CL4P-TP steward bot) has found me in the midst of a blizzard, and immediately refers to me as a “Vault Hunter”. I’m not sure what to think of that just yet, but he seems thrilled and clearly wants me to save him from this cold ice field.

He hands me a heads up display (HUD) and useful information begins to appear on the screen. A health bar, currently deathly low; a mini-map, a level bar and some ammo information. After this, we begin walking. A girl appears before me as an image on the HUD, and claims to be there to help. She quickly disappears again.

This ties in well to lens 4. I’m already very curious about where I am, what I’m doing here, why the robot found me, and who this girl is. The game is clearly trying to grab my curiosity quickly by having lots of things happen without explaining them right away.

I follow claptrap to what appears to be his home. After exploring a little I’ve found some health packs in various containers as well as a small amount of money. A small table in the centre is surrounded on three sides by broken claptrap units. Evidently some gambling has taken place as evidenced by the stacks of money on the table, which I promptly steal. I chuckle slightly at the realization of how long claptrap must’ve been stuck here to get this lonely.

Lens 5, Endogenous Value, shows up in this way all over the world in containers. Exploration of the world is constantly being rewarded with the satisfying sounds of a crate opening and yielding money, ammo or weapons. In an expected way, the harder it is to reach a container the better the contents.

Claptrap assigns me my first mission of collecting a gun out of the case to the side. Thus introducing the lens 6 mechanic of being given missions by characters and completing them in order to receive lens 5 rewards, notably experience points and weapons.

Lenses 2 and 6 suddenly appear in the form of a massive animalistic creature bursting through the ceiling, tearing out claptraps eye and running off with it. The lens 2 surprise here is the act itself, and the lens 6 problem to solve is clearly claptraps lack of an eye. This also leads to many lens 3 jokes being made along the lines of claptrap bumping into walls and falling off of cliffs.

Lens 7: Elemental Triad

Aesthetics are clearly something that have been carefully considered in this game. The comic book style is present throughout and is appealing to look at. The story isn’t as deep as some, but the game is clearly driven by it.

The story is loosely set around Handsome Jack, the villain, wanting to eradicate bandits and villainy from pandora to create a safe haven. Vault Hunters are seen as powerful people in pursuit of weapons and skills, but Handsome Jack sees them as bandits. His character is complicated enough that many see him as the true good guy.

You can learn about the backstories of most of the main characters in the game through the collection of “Echo Logs” or voice recordings. Many of the side missions add dimensions to otherwise simple side characters.

The mechanic of randomised loot is a strong one in the game. The entire game could be seen as a simple quest for better and shinier weapons. Legendary and Pearlescent items are exceedingly rare yet often excessively powerful. Almost all the mechanics in this game are derived from the fact that it is a first person shooter game with role playing game elements.

The game has almost no basis in advances in technology, the game could’ve been created, albeit with worse graphics, years before it was. And indeed Borderlands 1 shares many of the technical aspects of the game, perhaps unsurprisingly.


The game clearly shows good evidence of following the lenses that were brought up in this discussion. I think the design of the game creates an enjoyable experience that rewards you almost every moment that you’re playing, be it through humorous dialogue, shiny new weapons or tough yet manageable bosses.

Katamari Damacy

Katamari Damacy is a puzzle-action game developed and published by Namco. The game was a product from a school project from the Namco Digital Hollywood Game Laboratory, where its development was guided by three key points: novelty, ease of understanding, and enjoyment. The gameplay revolves around a character, called the Prince, that is tasked to roll up items with an adhesive ball-like object called a katamari.

Lens of elemental tetrad


In a level-based setting, the player controls the Prince who rolls the katamari around the map. Items that are smaller than the katamari will stick to it upon contact, while bigger items may cause items to fall off the katamari upon collision. The simplicity of its mechanism meant that players with any amount of skillset could play the game without difficulty.


The story follows the Prince’s mission in recreating the cosmos which has been destroyed by the King of All Cosmos’ in a drunken accident. With each completed level, the resulting katamari is sent into space to form either a star or a constellation. While the story has little to no bearing on the gameplay, the antics and eccentricities of the characters adds another layer of enjoyment to the game. The weirdness of the plot also sets the mood for the game in its quirky art style and surreal landscape, another factor that draws people to the game.


The game makes use of its colourful visuals and interactive environment to create a delightful experience. A noteworthy feature of Katamari’s aesthetics would be its use of scale. As the katamari grows, the perspective of the player changes in correspondence to the size of the katamari. A player that was rolling around a man’s foot at the start of the level could later be staring down at the crown of his head. The effect is a feeling of empowerment and achievement.


Katamari Damacy was developed for the PlayStation 2. The use of analog sticks made for easier control with the inclusion of more complicated movements such as quick turn and acceleration.

Lens of Freedom

Katamari rewards its players on their progress with greater freedom. Each level was designed to limit the maximum size of the item on the map that can be picked up. As the player progresses through each level, a previous map may be revisited with an upgrade on the size limit, fulfilling the player with the gratification of rolling up a previously unreachable object. In some levels, a sufficiently large katamari could unlock an “eternal mode” which removes the time limit, allowing the player to explore the level to their heart’s content.

Lens of Surprise

Each level in the game is sprinkled with oddities and humour through interesting placements of objects. This keeps the player constantly entertained throughout the gameplay. A royal present can also be found in several levels, which will be opened at the end of the level to reveal a piece of wearable clothing item to personalise the character. These elements of surprise keep the game interesting despite the repetitive nature of its mechanism.

Lens of Inherent Interest

The game feeds on the inherent interest of the player in its mechanics and aesthetics. The game places the player in a fully-decorated map laden with opportunities of fun: interesting trinkets to collect and people to roll over. As the player moves the katamari around, the objects lying around the map constantly pokes at the player’s curiosity in wondering if they can be picked up.

Portal 2

Portal 2 is a first-person puzzle platform game developed and released by Valve in 2011 as a sequel to the original Portal released in 2007.

The setting of the game happens in the test lab of Aperture Science, where the super AI GLaDOS controls everything in the company and conducts ‘experiments’ on test subjects like Chell – the main protagonist of the game. You play as Chell to solve different kinds of puzzles presented by GLaDOS using the portal gun given to you.

Game play video:

Elemental Tetrad:

  1. Mechanics: The main goal of the game is to solve puzzles using the portal gun and other actions. In the first half of the game the player solves the puzzles presented by GLaDOS, in the second half of the game, the player tries to escape from the test lab by completing puzzles as well. The game is designed into multiple chapters and maps, some of them being huge both in horizontal and vertical scales, making common maneuvers in video games insufficient to complete the levels in this game and the use of portals a necessary part of the game.
  2. Story: The main conflict of the game is between Chell and GLaDOS. This conflict unfolds the background behind the company Aperture Science and hints the story behind Chell’s parents. The story also justifies the purpose of GLaDOS and the reveals the technology that empowers the portal guns and other supernatural phenomenon happening in the test lab.
  3. Aesthetics: Portal 2 is a first-person 3D game and looks like just like every other first-person 3D game if you have not actually played it. After playing the game, you can tell the designers really put a lot of effort into the aesthetics. The aesthetics really helped the players to better understand the mechanics and follow the story of the game. For example: Surfaces that can be put a portal on and surfaces that cannot be put a portal on have different textures.
  4. Technology: Portal 2 was developed using the Source engine and made available on Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStaion and Xbox. So there are a lot of ways to interact with the game including mouse, keyboard, gamepad. The game also has a multiplier co-op mode, so internet connection is required to be able to play in this mode.

The Lens of Obstacle

The obvious goal is to complete the puzzles presented by GLaDOS and escape the test lab, and it is motivated by Chell’s survival instinct. The obvious obstacles are GLaDOS’s attempts to stop and kill you. However, the obstacles are also puzzles and they can be very interesting to solve. In a way, the obstacles improve the player’s ability to better at the game.  Both Chell and GLaDOS are transforming subtly during the process as they realize they might have a deeper relationship than just normal test conductor and test subjects. This transformation made the game more engaging and drives the player to finish the game to find out more about their relationship.

The Lens of Fatasy

I think this game fulfills the fantasies of many people – teleport through portals. Many people have fantasied about having the ability of teleport through space to accomplish things that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Portal 2 just gives the player this ability and let the them complete goals using the power to gain a sense of accomplishment.


The Lens of Character

GLaDOS, despite being the ‘bad guy(girl)’ in this game, has a very fascinating personality. She is evil, sadistic, but as you play you would realize GLaDOS is the only one in the game that truly matters or cares for you. She always expects you to be better at what you do, in a way just like parents always hope their kids to be better. Actually, this is very possible GLaDOS is Chell’s mother according to many highly convincing theories online. Plus the fact that GLaDOS is also very funny, often cracking jokes in a trying-to-be-funny monotonous robotic tone, it makes the character seem very rich and realistic.

The Lens of Time

Portal 2 does not have a ticking clock in most part of the game, as it is mostly a puzzle game. Having a time constraint would not be a good idea as the time which different players need to figure out how to solve them can vary. However the boss fight finale has a literal ticking clock to create a sense of tension and emergency for the player, making the ending after completing the fight especially relieving and touching.


Assignment 1 – Game Analysis

Assignment 1: Game Analysis for Mappy


The game I am discussing is Mappy. It is action game distributed twenty years ago first as arcade game. Player controls the character Mappy, a mouse to collect items while avoid being caught by cats within a mansion. Mappy and the cats move between floors with the trampoline. The trampoline will break if Mappy stays on it for more than 4 rounds. Mappy can open the nearest door it faces to obstruct cats or passes through. There are 2 types of door, 1 blinking and the other not blinking. Opening the blinking door will release a wave and catch the cats along with it.

Try the game:

Lens of Elemental Tetrad


Considering the game is created 20 years ago, the images drawn were quite ok.


Mainly running left and right, jumping onto trampoline and move to the other level. Other than that is to open or close a door in the direction of the player


The game is available on arcade, Nintendo and now on PC. Controls are straightforward and easy


There is no Storyline in Mappy, as it is just the player collecting items while running from the enemies.

Lens of Fun

The game is fun as structure of each levels are different, thus creating a different strategy to obstruct and avoid the enemies while collecting items. Included in the game is hidden bonus, where the player collect items in pair give bonus points. Other than the normal stages, there is also some bonus stage where you can collect numbers of balloon within a time limit.

Lens of Problem Solving

The player needs to find a way to delay approaching enemies while preventing sandwich by enemies.

Lens of Emergence /Time

There is a time limit within each level of the game. When time exceeds limit, it shows “Hurry” word in the game, the background music will be faster and the enemies will increase and become faster, giving the player a sense of urge to complete the level.

Lens of Simplicity/ Complexity

The rules of Mappy is very simple and straightforward: collect the items before getting caught and move to the next level or get caught and lose the game.

There are only 3 control buttons: Left, Right and A/B for moving left or right and open or close the door.

The player can understand the game within minutes.

Lens of Visible Progress

Other than the first 5-10 stages that are quite easy, the progress can be visible through the change of color of mansion and the stage modification.


What is this game?

Minecraft is a game where people explore the virtual world full of blocks with tools created by themselves. Player can experience all kinds of scenery of the generated world, on himself, or with a group of friends.

It is a famous game among all players around the world. It has a lot of attractive points which make many players fall in love with it.

Players are spawn at a initial spawn point on the ground level of a generated world. The world contains a lot of blocks, such as dirt, wood, stone blocks which are most common, and fluid blocks containing water blocks and lava blocks. Players need to obtain some of these useful blocks in order to build tools for safer survival and further exploration. Players can farm (crops and animals), fish, mine, and build.

There are many monsters existing in Minecraft world, and some of them are quite powerful. In order to survive from their attacks, players need to improve their gears and defeat them.

Official site:

The lens of Curiosity:

In the generated world in Minecraft, there are so many different biomes, such as extreme hills, seas, rivers, forests, ice plains, swamp lands and deserts. There are also many caves of different shapes deep into the ground, with a lot of treasures and different kinds of monsters in them. While playing this game, players will be motivated to become very curious about the unexplored part of the world, and in order to survive and approach their own goals, they will become addicted to the exploration.

In order to survive for a longer time and achieve higher goals, players need to think of ways to create anything that may help them survive. This is really interesting, especially to a new player. There are recipes of creating tools which are not at all taught in the game, and players need to discover these recipes on themselves. Players can also create enchantment tables and cauldrons to enchant their tools and create potions, to make their work of exploration more efficient and make the survival easier. Players always want to become stronger so that they will be able to reach the goals, so they will be curious at finding out these recipes.

The lens of Cooperation:

Minecraft Players can cooperate with each other through different ways. A player can host a world, and other player can join through local area network. Therefore, a group of friends can explore the world together. There is a in-game chatting tool for players to chat. With the cooperation of friends, the survival can become a lot easier, making the goals easier to achieve.

The lens of Challenge:

There is an achievement system in Minecraft. It is actually like a guide on how to experience everything important in this game. It looks like a tree, from the root to leaves, with achievements ranked from easy to hard. These achievements are not like those in other games, which are very detailed tutorials to the game. Two continuous missions are really ‘far’ from each other, which means that you will take a lot of time to proceed to the next achievement from the current one you are on. For example, the achievement after ‘Monster Hunter’ (Attack or destroy a monster) is ‘Sniper Duel’ (Kill a skeleton with an arrow from more than 50 meters), which is super hard. But thanks to these challenging missions, anyone will take a long time to master this game.

Some of the achievements will require players to proceed to another dimension. There are two dimensions in Minecraft besides the normal one (the Overworld): the Nether and the End. More powerful monsters exist in these two dimensions, along with more treasures. There are even boss creatures in Minecraft, which are really hard to defeat. All of these made this game very challenging.

The lens of Fun:

Since Minecraft is a sandbox game, players can choose their own lifestyles. Some players want to challenge themselves and aims to defeat the Ender Dragon, but some like to live peacefully in a small cottage by the sea. Some want to build magnificent palaces or even cities, and some even built a CPU using the Redstone! Everyone can find his/her own way of enjoying Minecraft.

Players with programming background can even write their own mods and share them to other players. Mods are like extensions of the game, so players can modify their game experience on their own, which makes this game even more fun.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Gameplay screenshot from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Witcher 3 is an open world third-person role-playing action game that is based on a fantasy novel series. Witcher 3 is the third game in the Witcher trilogy. It picks up after the ending of Witcher 2, in which the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter known as a witcher, attempts to reunite with Yennifer (his friend and lover) and Ciri (his adopted daughter) who are currently chased by a mysterious antagonistic group called the “Wild Hunt”. Players play as Geralt and fight against both monsters and humans using his swords and magic powers called “Signs”. Apart from the fulfilling the main storyline, players can also embark on the numerous side quests strewn across the huge world or play Gwent, a card game unique to the world of Witcher.

Video of gameplay:

Lens Analysis

  1. Lens of Elemental Tetrad
    1. Story: Witcher 3 has a compelling main story that is brought across with excellent narrative, making it one of the strongest aspect of the game. The story is complex and non-linear (player’s choices can affect the ending), and has numerous plot twists and unexpected moments. The unconventional story serves as a main drive for the game.
    2. Aesthetics: Witcher 3 at the time of its release, had one of the best graphics for a video game. There is realism in the movement of environment objects (eg. grass), and especially in Geralt’s A special aspect is the subtle changes to the screen hue with respect to the player location, such as a dark and dull hue when in a haunted village, or a highly saturated hue when in the heart of a lively city. These works very well in enhancing the storytelling aspect of the game.
    3. Mechanics: The game does not encourage the “hack-n-slash” playstyle, and often, players are required to use signs, potions and skilful manoeuvres to defeat enemies. This plays well with the overall idea that the world is dangerous and survival does not come easy, and ensure that players do not easily get bored of the combat system.
    4. Technology: The game makes use the keyboard and mouse assets very well, such that even with so many controls for combat (five available signs, two secondary weapons, two swords, dodging, parrying etc) players do not normally have to move their palms to be able to fight comfortably. The game cleverly slows the game time while players access a wheel to change signs so that no extra keys have to be allocated to the all the signs, and players have sufficient time to switch between signs
  2. Lens of Emotion
    1. There are many surprises hidden away in the world. For example, while travelling in the game world, the player may come across mysterious blood stains and monster tracks on the forest side trails. This invokes excitement, fear and curiosity in the player – should the player move on or take a risk and investigate the source? These instances are not explicitly displayed on the map nor in the quest guide, and can only be discovered through exploration, which enhances the excitement and novelty of every encounter.
    2. Witcher has a very strong narrative accompanied by excellent voice-acting that brings out the emotions of and dynamics between the characters very well. In one of the expansion content, Heart of Stone, Geralt takes part in a wedding in the village and the combination of uplifting ambient tunes played by the musicians, gossips from the maidens and funny dialogue exchanges with drunk guests creates a very lively and happy atmosphere, invoking happiness in the player.
  3. Lens of Freedom
    1. Being an open-world game, players are allowed access to almost the entire game world even without following the storyline. Players are not constrained to the storyline quests and are free to roam wherever they want or do whatever they want to at any point of the game.
    2. Apart from just plain exploring, players can find hidden treasures or guarded stashes, clear out (challenging) monster nests and discover other countless places of interests found in the very big game world.
    3. When players get bored of the constant combat and questing, they can play a strategic card game, Gwent, or take part in many mini games such as fist-fighting, horse racing etc.
    4. There are no hard and fast rule on how to ace the game. Players are free to choose their preferred style of combat and then add skill points or buy gears that cater to or enhance that combat style.
  4. Lens of Meaningful Choices
    1. The strongest aspect of Witcher lies in the myriad of choices that the player faces. In many cases, players are faced with a moral dilemma; Should you pardon a bandit (who pleads for your mercy and promises to turn over a new leaf) or kill him in distrust? Do you reprimand your daughter for being brave and risking her life to save others, or encourage her bravery? Would you choose the girl that stuck with you at your lowest, or choose the love of your life? Every choice matters – it changes your reputation and how people treat you, and the more major choices affects the story progression and eventually the ending.
    2. Many a times, there is no right or wrong for any of the choices you make, which makes every decision a lot more interesting (or frustrating).
    3. Apart from moral dilemmas, there are also numerous times where the player’s choices are based on his level of observation and judgement. For example, if a player does not pick out clues from the messages and dialogues carefully, he might get tricked into a decision that might negatively affect him or other characters.
  5. Lens of Essential Experience
    1. The game does a very good job in creating the immersive experience of being in a fantasy-mediaeval world.
    2. First, the level of detail put into the level design of the world is excellent. The buildings, structures and scenery are very relevant and accurate to the representation of the mediaeval era. Cobblestone floor, stone buildings in the richer district and wooden houses in the slumps. Even the interior design of every accessible building is done intricately. When walking through the streets and accidentally bumping into other NPCs, the collision is visible and the NPCs will react to it (such as shouting or scolding). This contributes to a very immersive and lively game atmosphere.
    3. Monsters roam freely in the wilderness, and unexpected encounters with them enhances the fantasy aspect of the Witcher A player can be travelling near a cliff when a wyvern lets out a cry and flies overhead, or be gathering herbs in the woods and suddenly encountering a Leshen, a powerful tree monster.
    4. Lastly, the Witcher world highlights the dynamics and politics between the difference races very well. Throughout the game, players will interact with elves, dwarves, sorceresses and different factions of armies. For instance, there is a sense of distrust between elves and humans due to feuds in the past, and discrimination against dwarves by the humans and thus dwarves are often only found in the slumps of the village. These dynamics creates a fantasy world that has depth and seemingly mirrors the real world, creating an even more immersive experience.

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Papers Please

Papers Please: This game puts the player in the position of an immigration officer of a dystopian country Arstotzka and thus has to decide who to admit or exclude from the country.

Game website:

Elemental Tetrahedral: The game is aesthetically pleasing, despite it not boasting of high quality 3D graphics and just opting for a 2D pixelated interface. Despite this low level of graphics, it manages to create a convincing world and story with the aid of suitable music where I am in the position of a immigration officer of a checkpoint that lets people into the country Arstotzka that is ruled by a corrupt government. The technology here would be any personal computer, since it does not require a high level of graphics. The mechanics are to make decisions about the people that pass through the checkpoint everyday as well as whether to admit some specifically important people to the story despite failing the specified immigration restrictions each day.


Figure 1: Checking of documents

The Lens of Problem Solving: I had to decide who to admit or exclude from the country based on a certain set of rules that are declared by the “ministry” of the country every day. There are warnings followed by penalization of money and followed by being fired and thus the game ending in the case of admitting too many illegal immigrants consecutively. Speed plays a factor as well as you are paid depending on the number of people that pass through the checkpoint each day with a given set of hours. One hidden problem would be that the money earned at the end of the day will be spent on food, heat and medicine for the family at the end of the day. I had to decide on certain days to not supply heat for my family due to limited cash which in turn led to them being cold and sick the next day, and thus I had to purchase medicine instead with my meager income.

The Lens of Challenge: The number of rules and restrictions increase day by day and it gets increasingly difficult to check for every single restriction for every person that passes the borders. There is a large variety in the rules and restrictions to pass each immigrant. In the later levels I needed to check not only for validity of the immigrant’s passport, but also whether the conversation between the immigrant and me was in accordance with the reason for entry document from the immigrant. I also needed to check whether the height and weight of the immigrant was valid with the ID ticket and if not, body scan the immigrant for contraband items. This variety kept the challenge of the game fresh and not mundane when all I was really doing was checking papers.

The Lens of Goals: The main short term goal in the game would be to survive the day without getting too many mistakes and thus result in being fired and the game ending. The game consists of twenty different endings which are reached depending on my reaction to certain immigrants and people that pass through the checkpoint. For me I found the long term goal to be able to finish and arrive at all twenty different endings eventually. For example there is a organisation, EZIC, that seeks to overthrow the unjust government in the country and depending on whether I admit the members of the organisation into the country I arrive at a different ending consequently.


Figure 2: Branches for different situations that lead to different endings

The Lens of Meaningful Choice: There are also varying conversations between the immigrants and the officer sometimes that try to “guilt trip” me into choosing to admit the immigrant even though he/she may be violating some rules, for example an immigrant begging or bribing the officer to admit their spouse or themselves. At times I find myself admitting an immigrant because “her son is in the country waiting for her” even though she has an invalid passport, since the only penalisation for me is just a warning slip from the ministry. It also makes me more cautious to not exceed the limited admissions for error since I have already given one “chance” for myself away for a virtual mother to reunite with her virtual son. The game successfully made me believe that I was making a meaningful choice through these interactions.

A friend’s observations:

The Lens of Meaningful Choice: He was not successfully “guilt tripped” into admitting any poor person that could not afford valid passports and just denied them entry without any hesitation. The game had not successfully imposed upon him the guilt of denying a woman from reuniting with her lost son, which indicated a certain level of detachment that he had from the game, and he may not have believed he was making a meaningful choice.

The Lens of Surprise: He was surprised when there was suddenly a terrorist attack on the customs which led to it shutting down for the day and abruptly cutting short his day. There were also some rules that were not explicitly stated that he missed, such as checking whether a person with long hair but had a passport that indicated the person was male needed a body scan before the person could be admitted. He was surprised at the depth of the game’s long list of rules and how it could trip up the player.

The Lens of Curiosity: He found himself being curious about what each ending entailed depending on the different meaningful choices he made such as admitting members of a revolution into the strict and unjust country that gave him such meagre pay from working everyday that could hardly feed his family. He was also curious what would result if he did or did not accept a monetary bribe to admit a particular important person into the country, or to admit someone that the boss had specifically asked him to allow entry. At each ending the game tells you which ending out of the twenty you have arrived at which invokes curiosity about the other respective endings.

The Lens of Story: The symbolic “Glory to Arstotzka” which is said by the officer and every person who has passed through the checkpoint and also at the end of each day somehow stuck with my friend and he himself even said it after one of the endings to the game. The sentence somehow can invoke two different types of feelings, one of which would be the obvious patriotism to the country, and the other being a feeling of being oppressed into saying it every single day as a form of propaganda from the government. This symbolic sentence was key to creating an ambience of being in this world where the country’s government was corrupt and supported the storyline of the officer that actually had the power to admit people that were going to overthrow this exact unjust government.


I found the difference in emotional investment between my friend and I into the game particularly when he was indifferent to whether or not the people that passed through the checkpoint “needed” to enter the country through the conversations. This indicated that what may resonate with one player may not affect another and it is important to try to create a game that successfully invokes intended feelings into most of their players as much as possible to be impactful. A game like this depends very much on the choices you make and whether or not the player is successfully “guilt tripped” into choosing something would lead to a different ending and therefore these conversations and ambience in the game play very important roles. I myself found the game to be quite successful in doing so despite the not realistic graphics. I realised that my friend had also turned the volume down while playing the game as he preferred to listen to his own music. This might have been a factor towards him being more emotionally detached from the game due to the lack of ambience.

Both of us found the game to be increasingly challenging, and despite a supposedly mundane game (to just check immigration papers) we did not find ourselves being bored even after a long period of time. This may have been due to the variety of papers provided to check for as well as checking the height and weight of the people that passed through. There was also a list of wanted criminals provided that we had to check and detain if they came to the checkpoint. Sometimes we also needed to check for specific names to admit or deny regardless of the validity of their documents. The game also successfully kept us curious at the end of each day about what would happen next, as there is some kind of “event” to take note of each day. For example on one of the days your direct boss, Dimitri, would ask you to admit a specific individual regardless of her papers. I had detained the person and Dimitri fired me and had me arrested. My friend on the other hand had admitted the person and was allowed to continue the game the next day, just getting away with a warning.


Figure 3: Glory to Arstotzka

The symbolic “Glory to Arstotzka” seems to have stuck with both of us, as discussing the game led to us randomly declaring this phrase during conversations. Even on the NUS Confessions Facebook page there was a post discussing this particular game, and many comments in reply consisted of this sentence as well. It seems the game has successfully created a symbol for this game and through the lens of resonance it is special for people who have played this game.

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