When I was younger, I watched my mother play a slot game online. While it was like many others of its type, colorful and loud, and lining up the cherries made you feel like a winner, it had a unique feature too. Every time you lined up the right things to trigger a bonus round, at the end of it you were rewarded with a snippet of story. That part was the whole reason I watched, and I begged my mother to write down any I missed.
Over the next few weeks or maybe even months she played, she copied down the snippets of story she unlocked in her careful and beautiful script that I could never imitate. There wasn’t just one slot machine; there were several. Each one had its own theme and story, be it Arabian, Medieval, or Western, among others. I devoured those tiny snippets, which were only a line or two, and I even deigned to play slots myself just to get more. (At that young age, I didn’t approve of gambling. I’ve since made my peace with it although I don’t often indulge, myself.)
I remembered this part of my childhood when I began to think about the best reward for video games. As I’m sure many of you are, I’m an avid gamer. Although I love my fictional worlds, I’ve come to learn that levels, treasure, imaginary items or creatures can’t follow you in life, but a good story will never leave you. I even questioned my little sister on the subject (who has been inducted into the video game life since she was big enough to hold a DS and wants to develop games for a living), and she gave me the answer I had come upon myself: that the story and the process of finding it out was the best reward.
I even realized this when I started playing Disney Infinity, which sadly, has been cancelled for future iterations (which was a disheartening mistake). It was a wonderful game that taught programming fundamentals and stretched my creative juices in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to, and that is a blessing. I’ll never stop playing and I cherish everything we got, but I’ll always mourn what we could have had.
The relevance it has to this article is that after the game has been out for awhile, the main game content tends to run out. You’ve completed the play sets (developer-made main games), you maxed your characters, and you’ve unlocked the items. Why keep playing? What kept us all playing for months on end? Simple Answer: The Toybox.
The Toybox was a mode in Disney Infinity since 1.0 where players could create their own levels and games, and the community was one of the strongest I’ve ever seen. You might not always have some sort of achievement or even exp to earn from playing the community-made toyboxes, but you always had a unique story you couldn’t get anywhere else. All the best boxes had a strong story along with diverse and creative gameplay, and this is what kept us playing when we had nothing else to gain.
While novels don’t necessarily give you tasks to unlock the story, I think the feeling is the same, and I intend to explore that theme in the future with experimental (at least for me) formats.
What do you think about the best reward and what can it apply to?