Are you being Rewarded Enough? An Interesting Perspective on Video Games
Mass Effect 2
Are You Up to the Challenge to Reap Your Rewards?
Any avid gamer can tell you the reason they play the game will ultimately have something to do with the challenge. What they don’t often realize is that by completing these challenges they are rewarded. Almost every game has a challenge and reward system, which is what keeps them interesting. Some games go to greater lengths by incorporating challenges within challenges, also known as mini games. The simplest explanation of this challenge to reward correlation is : To get this item, upgrade, etc, you must complete this task. For instance in Mass effect 2 the main objective is to save the Galaxy from impending doom, if this task is completed you get an achievement (Xbox 360) as well as various in game items.
Challenges are often used to unlock in game content as well as achievements. A few examples include main objectives, mini games, recruiting team mates (party members), killing enemies, positive or negative actions (renegade/paragon), using characters from previous installments in the series, searching for items, earning money (credits) and various mission assignments. These challenges will be discussed in depth to provide more insight into the mind of the gamer and designer.
The first type of challenge is the main objective. In Mass Effect 2 the main idea is to save the human population from the collectors, a hybrid race of beings that have been kidnapping whole human colonies. This ultimate goal is broken down into manageable missions, starting with recruiting your team. In the beginning you are given dossiers on several party members that you are able to attempt to recruit. The idea is you find out what planet the individual is on and beat some type of mission to persuade them to join your team, you are rewarded by having them join your party and by credits, upgrades and research items.
There are many members that can be recruited, but you start out with Jacob and Miranda on your team, as they were on Project Lazarus funded by Cerberus which brought you back from the dead. Then you are able to recruit a scientist named Mordin from Omega after helping cure a plague. You can recruit an Asari Justicar named Samara after helping her track some drug traffickers on Ilium. There is a powerful biotic, Jack, code named Project Zero, who can be obtained after freeing her from prison. You can recruit a character from the first Mass Effect, Garrus, code name Archangel, after helping him eliminate mercenaries on Omega. Next up is recruiting Grunt, a baby, but fully engineered krogan, after helping his creator. There is another familiar face from the first mass effect in Tali Zorah, a quarian tech specialist who can be recruited after saving her life on a mission. You have the option to recruit Thane Krios, a Drell assassin, after he murders an asari overlord on Illium. Legion is a Geth infiltrator that you can have as a party member after encountering him on a derelict reaper vessel. There are two more squad members available for your party through Downloadable Content (DLC, Zaeed and Kasumi who each have their own missions for recruitment and L’iara T’Soni from the first Mass Effect is a member option on a DLC mission, but she is only temporarily on your squad. Now that the team has been rounded out , it’s time to talk about the different challenges and rewards presented along the way.
One of these challenges was to survey unknown planets by first traveling to their nebula, then system, and finally arriving at the planet itself. The purpose of surveying is to collect data and resources and occasionally a side mission, these are obtained by scanning the planets’ surface and launching probes whenever anomalies are found. The resources found by the probes are used for upgrades to your skills, armor and party, as well as for purchasing research upgrades. These upgrades, though optional, are an integral part of the game. Without them , it is extremely difficult to defeat enemies ,to the point where critical mission failures almost become unavoidable. An achievement is awarded if you fully upgrade a weapon, and another for fully upgrading a skill to mastery level.
Your weapon options are as follows; heavy pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and heavy weapons. Each weapon can be upgraded several times until there is nothing left to research for that weapon, and achievements are awarded for various ways of killing enemies. Some of the requirements of the enemy kill challenges (achievements) are : Perform 30 headshot kills with any weapon on humanoid targets, Shoot and kill 20 enemies while they're knocked back by a punch, Hit 20 different targets with multiple biotic powers to combine the effects and Kill enemies with 5 different heavy weapons during the game just to name a few. On top of receiving the achievement and associated gamer points, also gained is ammo and credits during the process of completion. This gives the player something else to focus on while also furthering progress on the main objective.
In conclusion, there are many incentives to play a game and continue playing, it is ultimately up to the designer(s) to make the challenge difficult enough to keep the player’s interest, but not so difficult that the player gives up. One way to handle this is by making use of optional missions and this is used quite often in the Mass Effect series. Another way to prevent frustration and loss of interest is mini games and mini challenges , and both are implemented in Mass Effect 2 to the approval of a multitude of gamers. There are many more challenges and rewards than have been highlighted, every good game has them. Play games until one piques your interest, maybe you’ll be hooked as the designer intended.