To game publishers, the theme aesthetics of video games are often crucial in determining whether the game is successful or not with consumers. Often, results are best when games pursue a certain appearance wholeheartedly, be it retro or steampunk, space or earth. Of course, functionality determines part of the decision towards a certain theme; an obvious example is that platform games require…well, platforms. But the details and overarching atmosphere of the game relies on a theme that will appeal to consumers and will set it apart from other games competing against it in the market, particularly those of the same genre.
A strong piece of evidence signalling that the scenery aesthetics of video games are important is the fact that critics Rock Paper Shotgun chose to devote an entire article to the nature in the Dota 2 underwater themed “Reef’s Edge” terrain, which they introduced on May 4th for the 2017 Battle Pass ahead of the International. Since Dota 2 was released on July 9th 2013, Valve – the game’s developer – has introduced numerous new terrains for the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), including desert, immortal gardens and winter gamescapes. The alterations to the usual terrain do, of course, create occasional difficulties in terms of the heroes (of which Dota 2 has over 100 for players to choose from) possessing abilities not suited to the new terrain. A notable example from “Reef’s Edge” is that the Broodmother’s webs were not easily visible under water. However, for the excitement, novelty and interest that new gamescapes bring to players, it is surely worth it.
Similarly, Hearthstone’s expansions continue to feature new, distinctive themes. With each new theme, the developers take the opportunity not to rework already existing cards but to gradually introduce new ones, thus allowing players to build up a progressively larger range of cards to use. The Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion, released on August 10th, works into the game’s pre-existing lore and develops upon it, generating excitement as well as new playing possibilities for players. The theme is highly apparent in all of the new cards released for it, resulting in a strong campaign.
Also displaying the importance of themed aesthetics for video games, the Vegas Casino blog conveys that even when games have a highly similar format and share the same premise, aesthetic themes completely change the atmosphere of each game, turning them into individuals that stand apart from one another. It is clear, also, that it is not just the appearance of a game that determines the value of its theme, but that sound also plays a considerable part in creating the desired atmosphere. For example, the “Magic Shoppe” slot game uses “creepy music” in order to generate a spooky atmosphere in to accentuate the aesthetic theme. As with movies, television shows, theater and dance, music adds emotion, depth and even sense of location to the performance; the same stands for video games.
It is crucial, therefore, that video games contain the necessary appearance and sounds in order to convey the theme that they are aiming for, not only to create immersion for players but to increase the chance of people opting to play the game in the first place.