3 Key Elements of a Great Video Game

The global video game industry is now larger than the worldwide movie and North American sports sectors combined. While many businesses struggled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, video gaming was hugely bolstered by the fact so many of us were confined to our homes, with the industry enjoying a remarkable 20% growth from 2019 to reach almost $180 billion.

People aren’t just playing any old games, though. They want the most fun, engaging and memorable experiences, with some of the best-selling video games of all time including the critically-acclaimed Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. These are different in terms of setting, gameplay and in-game objectives, but they do have certain elements in common. We’ve explored three below to show what exactly makes a great video game.

1. Technically sound

The best video games tend to be technically excellent with high-quality graphics (achieved through 3D rendering), great game mechanics, and an intuitive user interface. And most importantly, they actually need to work properly. You might be surprised to hear how many video games have bugs and glitches upon release, especially those with high-end graphics and bigger worlds. Often these are minor problems rectified in subsequent patches, but this isn’t always the case. The ill-fated Cyberpunk 2077 is perhaps the most high-profile example of this. 

Launched in September 2020 to much fanfare, reviewers and the general public were dismayed to find that the game was borderline unplayable for most. Among the main issues were characters not “working” properly (some would stop speaking mid-sentence and have no facial features) and regular crashes. More seriously, it also had the potential to induce seizures. The game has since been removed from the Playstation Store while developer Projekt Red is embroiled in legal battles over downplaying the game’s issues pre-release.

2. Fun gameplay

Although lots of things contribute to a first-rate video game, people are ultimately playing to enjoy themselves. There are so many aspects that go into making a game fun, one of which is intuitive controls. The best ones simply feel good to play, where it’s easy to perform natural, split-second actions without having to think about it.

This leads us on nicely to the next factor: a video game should be easy to learn but difficult to master. This not only applies to the controls but the in-game tasks themselves. Although these will be simple at first so players can get used to things, they should get harder as the game progresses in order to challenge the player. That said, this point doesn’t really apply to non-story games such as FIFA and Fortnite, nor should a game become difficult to the point it’s unplayable.

In-game tasks should also be fun in their own right. It’s easy to see why shooter, action and sports games are so popular, while the likes of Euro Truck Simulator, Sensible Train Spotting and Waiting In Line 3D are considered among the most boring games ever.

3. An engaging story

As well as being fun to play, a video game must have an engaging narrative. This not only refers to the actual events of the game but its character development and world. Like a great fictional movie, TV or book, most video games require an intriguing plot to keep players hooked.

Take The Last of Us, for example, one of the most critically-acclaimed video games of all time. Ostensibly a zombie survival game, what really wins players over is the game’s suspenseful journey and the emotional development of its two main characters, Joel and Ellie, who forge a father-daughter-like relationship. Of course, the story and its high stakes wouldn’t have worked with boring, wooden characters, and a huge part of The Last of Us’s beauty is how multi-dimensional they are.

The game’s world is also gripping. Set in a post-apocalyptic United States teeming with hostile humans and cannibalistic creatures infected by a mutated fungus, players must navigate through areas like towns, buildings, forests, and sewers in order to avoid or fight these enemies. It’s fair to say the setting keeps players on their toes. All of these narrative elements combined with its soundtrack, dialogue, graphics, stunning aesthetics, and fun gameplay make The Last of Us an undeniable masterpiece.