Game design and player agency

Player agency, the ability to execute will, is key to game experiences. When a game forces something upon you, particularly something you can reasonably expect to be easily rid of, then it lessens the experience.

Some examples:
If you are forced to keep a bag of bait that you never want to use then it constantly gets in the way via your user-interface (UI). So a good game would allow the player to drop all pieces of the inventory. Removing gear ought not be done via standard play mode, eg. first-person shooting view. It is better done through an inventory screen so it’s not accidentally done in combat.

Control is agency

Automatic use of cover. I understand that this is a console gaming issue mostly but considering how console-ports retain this feature on PC it seems pertinent. Just put in the lean keys and let the player use cover.

Backpacks that you cannot drop. This is an old one. Sure you might lose your entire inventory yet it’s what soldiers do if they’re ambushed. Backpack can get you killed if it slows you down.

Unavailable items that show up all over fallen foes yet are not lootable. You’d just take it off the fallen and fix it, or cobble it together from the other fallen that have the same gear.

Over riding animations, uninterruptable effects, can sometimes be in games specifically to prevent player agency. A stun effect doesn’t need to lock out control when it could make your vision monochromatic and randomly skew your control sensitivity for a time.

There are methods to put in effects without removing player agency. Designers take heed.

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Game design and player agency

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