A #videogame's lifeblood is the mechanics. They are essentially the game's rules that dictate what you can do and how you can do it as you play. One particular mechanic has become very popular in recent years. This mechanic allows for a great deal of customization and problem solving that can be approached from multiple angles. I'm talking about crafting. Yes, having the ability to make your own stuff in game has really taken off.
Games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dead Rising, and Stardew Valley have almost nothing in common, except for the fact that they all feature the ability to craft. So let's take a moment to talk about crafting systems and why it's so much fun to craft.
The most obvious reason as to why crafting is such a massive thing these days. Some games present you with a lot of problems at once, especially if your character requires food and water to keep going. For some games it's a simple matter of arming yourself for whatever challenge awaits you. In other games it's a matter of staying alive. In games that focus more on survival, crafting can present a solution to multiple problems at once by allowing you to build whatever tool you need to get the job done.
Need to grow crops? Make a hoe. Need some firewood? Build an ax. It's a form of problem solving that puts the reins firmly in your hands. No finding tools in chests for you; you gotta make that stuff yourself. Games like #Don'tStarve, Stardew Valley, and especially Minecraft feature the making of tools and other non-weapons as a means of survival and/or achieving a goal. Speaking of which...
Picture an #RPG. Any RPG. Remember the thrill of going into a dungeon, finding a treasure chest and getting a kickass weapon inside that's several times stronger than anything else you're carrying? Well, imagine being able to make such a weapon yourself. It's safe to say that one of the biggest selling points for a crafting system is giving players the ability to create their own means of dispatching their foes. Being able to craft one's own weapons in the game gives players a large amount of freedom, allowing them to equip themselves in whatever way they like within the game's limitations.
In games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, you can create and upgrade weapons and armor using the raw materials you find on your travels. On the other hand, games like the Dead Rising series allow you to combine existing items to create new and exciting was to mow down the zombie hoards. My favorite is the Blitzkrieg from Dead Rising 2, which is essentially a battery-powered wheelchair with assault rifles taped to it.
I give extra props to Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 for the #gameboyadvance. Not only do you get to make your own weapons, but the crafting system grants you several options, including: five weapon types to choose from; roughly 40 materials, each one producing their own weapon for each type; the ability to add more materials to existing weapons to improve their stats, enchant them with an element, and even give that weapon a special attack. Who needs weapons you find in chests when you have that much freedom to make your own monster murdering blade of ultimate power?
You Have To Work For It
Unfortunately, crafting materials don't just pop out of the void and onto your crafting table; you have to go out and find them yourself. This forces you to leave your safe haven and search for the materials you need. For some materials — especially ones that require mining — you really have to go down deep. If you're lucky, you'll find what you need in the quantity that you need it. If not, you'll probably find yourself making multiple expeditions to get what you need.
However, all that pain makes the finished product all the more sweeter. Why? Because you went out and got the materials you needed. You fought through the monsters and solved the obstacles in your way. It gives you the feeling that you earned those materials, accomplished something, and thus earned the finished product. You're not done yet, though. Games with weapon crafting usually have different materials of varying worth and usage. Take Dragon Age: Inquisition for example. As you progress through the story and unlock more areas to explore, better materials become available for you to make things with.
You Become Part Of The World
Immersion is important in games. Developers aim to get your gamers invested in the world they've designed. #Crafting is an effective mechanic for immersion, because it helps make the player into an inhabitant of that world. This is doubly true for survival games, in which you make tools, build shelters and make weapons for hunting and self-defense. These are all things that are required in order to survive and thrive in these computer generated worlds.
The amount of freedom players have for crafting also adds to the immersion. Let's take eating for example. Most survival games allow for both hunting, gathering and farming. If you don't like the idea of killing nonexistent animals, you can just grow crops and pick berries. On the other hand, you could be a complete carnivore and kill every animal you see. It's up to you.
Let's Take A Minute With Minecraft
You just can't talk about crafting in games and not talk about Minecraft. This game is one of, if not the best example of a game that is built around crafting. Heck, it's in the title itself. To begin, the game starts you off with nothing. You are alone in this newly generated world with no food, no shelter, and no tools or weapons. So you punch some trees, set up your crafting table, and get to crafting.
At this point, Minecraft is your oyster. What do you make your home out of? Wood? Bricks? Diamonds? (OK, that last one isn't likely, but given some luck and a few years, you could probably get the job done.) Once you're all good on the home front, you need to start thinking about survival. You need to eat after all and those animals and crops aren't going to harvest themselves. You also need a bed to sleep on, a furnace with which to cook food, torches to light your way in the dark, chests to store things, and fences to keep your animals safe.
That sounds like a lot of work, and it is. However, I have a question for those who play Minecraft: Have you ever just stood back and looked at your home base? Take a look, just to see how far you're come from punching trees. I tell ya, it is many different flavors of satisfying.
So those are the reasons why crafting is so important for open-world games. Tell me about your experiences with crafting in the comments below!