How to Look at Atmosphere in Video Games

© Copyright 2017 Kristian Saflor, Ryerson University

When you walk into a room you haven’t been in before, the first thing you notice is the room’s atmosphere. The lighting, the architecture, furniture, colors are all attributes you take note of when entering a room you are completely unfamiliar with. In video games, the player is often forced to observe and analyze the atmosphere and environments the game puts them in. Atmosphere in video games serve as a sort of outline of the game’s focal tone, the way in which furniture and obstacles are placed in a level can say how easy or difficult it will be to progress through it. What does the atmosphere in a room or level say about the game’s mood and themes?

Saflor, Kristian. “Darkened Home”, Ryerson University, 2017.

Look closely at the picture and try to identify the genre of the video game. It is important as the player of the game to ask questions and analyze the levels you go through. Not only does analyzing various objects help you progress through the game, it enables the player to put themselves inside the video game and form a connection to the world the video game creates. To feel connected, one must observe all aspects of the video game’s level design. The use of colors are fundamental attributes to creating the focal tone and atmosphere of a video game level. The use of colors in set pieces are essential to how the player feels about the environment they are put in, the use of blacks indicate the absence of color (Elkins 207), and the use of whites indicates the use of all colors (Elkins 207). One can associate a level with vibrant and bright colors with a happy and lively tone, and a level lacking color and vibrancy with a mysterious and foreboding tone. Drawing on the photograph once again, how is the lighting set up? What do you notice about the texture? How does the use of textures create the atmosphere? Smaller details like shadows and textures further magnify the tone and emotion of a level’s atmosphere. Paying attention to cracks in floorboards, shattered glass, ripped up furniture further pushes the player into the world of the video game. Little details relate to how we view the atmosphere and environment, a single scratch on the walls of a seemingly normal room can drastically change the way the level is perceived by the player. It can illustrate a sense of mystery, or foreshadowing of future events that may unfold.

As the player, atmosphere plays a big part of the gaming experience. It is more than aesthetic; it enables the player to be in the game and become fully engaged by building emotion based on what you see. Atmosphere builds upon the player’s interaction with the game on an emotional level, how they feel about a particular level or room and how it speaks to the player in terms of how they view the game as a whole. The atmosphere is its own entity in video games, and just like characters, story, and music, it offers meaning in a new level; it relies on the player to make their own connections based on who they are and how they feel about the world they are put in by the video game.

Works Cited

Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.

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