There’s a general perception in today’s world that video games have gotten bigger. Really, it’s not a perception so much as an undeniable fact. Whether we’re talking about games on next-gen consoles, games that can be downloaded on mobile devices, or even games you can access online, there’s been a lot of expansion in capability and scope in the past few years alone. But looking at things this way implies that the increase in the size of games is all about design—that games are built in bigger worlds and last for more hours. These are certainly factors, but another interesting way in which games have made themselves seem larger is by increasing the focus on perks and rewards.
As they relate to consoles, perks and rewards are essentially different achievements that can be unlocked within games. In this particular form of gaming, the idea comes across like nothing new. Going way back, console games have long allowed for opening up new territories, abilities, costumes, weapons, challenges, etc. The subtle but significant difference in more modern games is that these sorts of rewards can be earned in a non-linear fashion. That is to say, unlocking new features in the past almost always came with logical, inevitable progression through a game, whereas now gamers can focus more often on meeting certain goals to unlock side missions, mini-games, new maps, etc. The whole idea was exemplified recently when Fallout 4 became one of the most popular releases of 2015. US Gamer’s guide to perks within that particular title shows the amount of detail and focus that can go
into meeting goals simply to expand and improve upon the experience.
The evolution of gaming perks online has also become fascinating. For a lot of online games—PC versions of console titles, exclusive titles, Steam downloads, and MMOs—things work very similarly to the way they do on consoles. But another major branch of online gaming uses different versions of perks and rewards for the purpose of expansion. The core concepts are demonstrated at Gala Bingo’s VIP page, where it’s made clear that users can benefit from “climbing the VIP ladder” to receive exclusive benefits and bonuses that enhance their gaming capabilities. This builds significantly upon the core fundamentals of how online gaming sites have always kept players around, which is through the reward potential and competitive, visual, and audio appeal of bingo and casino arcades. Now, specific perks can be aimed for, attained, and used to create a bigger and better experience.
Perhaps more than anywhere else, mobile gaming has embraced the expansion of experiences by way of achieving goals and unlocking perks and rewards. The concept is made clear by a number of different games, but none more so than Popcap’s Plants vs. Zombies 2. When this game was first released as a follow-up to a very popular original, there was some outcry that Popcap had succumbed to the often annoying “freemium” model by which a free game demands in-game payments to be fully enjoyed. The truth is, while PvZ 2 offered in-app purchases to speed up the game, the real fun of it was in playing enough to unlock the same benefits you could get with purchases for free. Taking that approach, PvZ 2 was actually a gigantic game built for hours upon hours of play geared toward unlocking new features and challenges. And the same description fits countless mobile games.
Think about some of these practices and trends the next time you open up a video game, and you’ll begin to notice just how much of an impact the idea of perks and rewards has had on gaming. Designs are certainly getting larger and more complex, but a lot of what’s making games feel more expansive has to do with the constant incentive to keep meeting challenges and striving for more.