When playing any video game, you tend to look for a number of key components that appeal to your specific tastes. Maybe you’re more concerned with a dramatic and compelling story, or perhaps it’s intriguing characters that draw you to a specific title. Whatever it may be, gamers can agree on one major element of a game that can make or break our opinions on it.
And that would be its atmosphere. Without the proper ambiance, video games fail at their most crucial function, which is to either scare us, excite us, make us reflect on real-world issues, or evoke some other such emotion. Without that, it’s just several hours wasted that’s the equivalent of mindlessly grinding in Minecraft or chasing the Victory Royale in Fortnite.
On Reddit, hundreds of gamers weighed in on the notion that atmosphere can either elevate or ruin a video game. The OP takes note of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the connotations of that Rockstar title, which are the strong colors, the music, and the way the characters interact with one another. Those positives have stuck with us for generations. Now compare that to Mafia III, which is basically a bootleg GTA anyway, and how its poorly generated atmosphere makes it forgettable and erases all potential it had.
And everyone else understood the assignment. Suggestions came flooding in for video games that have performed excellently in the atmosphere department. Some examples include Bioshock, which wouldn’t be so massive without such thought-out characterization; Portal, starting out with sterile rooms that crumble away to reveal the run-down facility behind; and Subnautica, forcing the player to experience a contrasting sense of self with one moment fortunate enough to soak in the environment and the next at rock bottom, literally.
And an effective atmosphere doesn’t just refer to conventionally well-made games, either. Take The Simpsons: Hit and Run. It didn’t gain a reputation that precedes it by being a “good” game, it just nailed the atmosphere of a wacky, cartoonish adventure, reminiscent of The Simpsons TV series. It’s nostalgic, so that’s why it’s withstood the test of time. The same goes for other old-school games like Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, and many Super Mario titles.
Each world is uniquely catered to that specific franchise, usually boasting memorable characters, iconic landmarks, and sound/lighting that matches the theme perfectly. And that’s why we keep coming back for more… because nailing an atmosphere establishes a brand. Now, the audience knows what to expect and associates specific characters, colors, or even music with that video game.
And that’s really all there is to it. What stands out to you about your favorite game? Is it the atmosphere that reels you in? We’re willing to bet it is.