Games are Fascinating: Lust

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Business Books
Tags: , , , ,

I bet that got your attention.

Lara Croft Wallpaper
“I know, we’ll sell them on her winning personality.”

There’s a story about how Lara Croft got her notable attributes (and obviously I’m not talking about her guns). When increasing the size of her bustline Toby Gard, her artist, intended to give her a “modest” 50% increase. Except he misclicked and increased the proportions of her breasts by 150%. After a good laugh was had by the design team, the mistake stayed and a marketing strategy was quickly decided on.

 Sex sells. Everything from beer commercials to non-profit drives to save sea turtles has used (ahem) titillation to get us to buy into their product. PETA makes a big to-do every year about how their sexy vegetarian ads are banned for being too hot. Coke bottles have got their shape because the designers took inspiration from the curvy female form.

But when we talk about Lust as a trigger for fascination it’s not sex we’re focusing on. Lust is about the “I want that. I want it now,” impulse. It’s about craving. Whether the object you’re drooling over is  juicy cheeseburger, a fast sports car, a shiny iPad, or a lovely pair of legs, – it’s all hitting the Lust trigger. Lust flirts with us to build our craving. You don’t have to go very long to see this used in video games. Beyond Lara Croft’s biology defying bust, Lust has a much larger part to play. It tempts us with shiny new consoles, screenshots and video from the next big games,

Teasing and flirting is the first pillar of Lust. It’s also the reason that Lust is so hard to maintain as a mode of fascination. Once the craving is met then Lust no longer holds sway. This is perfect for a technologically heavy market like video games. Even if you do get the newest XBox, there’s still the Wii and PS3. Or handheld devices. Or lovely new games filled with brilliant new gameplay. There’s always something new to crave. The industry is there to both instill the craving and to fulfill it.

The second pillar is to appeal to all five senses, or at least as many of them as you can reach. The media that video games can reach seems limited. Impressive visuals and immersive sound in games are not surprising. But video games can reach their product line outside of the screen. Soft, fuzzy plushables that you can hug. Soundtracks that you can buy and paintings you can admire. There’s even been game-based food to try to hit the illusive senses of taste and smell. (Truthfully I can accept Mountain Dew. Gamer grub, on the other hand, I have a hard time believing trips the Lust trigger for anyone.) Video games are not just about what you find in your screen and the companies that bring them there. There’s a whole range of non-digital peripherals.

The final pillar is to stop thinking, and start feeling. This is the mindset that a really good video game achieves. This frisson is hard to get because all the parts need to be working together: intuitive controls, bug-free play, immersive sound, and more. And even then, this pillar of Lust may not be right for a game. Strategy is a key mechanic for many games, and by definition it requires careful thought. But for a game like Flower (shown in the video above) you can take a much more relaxed and “unthinking” approach. This is a genre of games that is just starting to make some ground.

  1. Craig says:

    Good point.
    “The industry is there to both instill the craving and to fulfill it.”
    Game developers have done a good job of recognizing that in the last decade. Relatively newer FPS games have the ranks, perks, and gun attachments. MMOs have exotic mounts, achievements, and gear. Steam has their own achievements for games that don’t naturally have them. All to give us that fulfillment, but teasing us at the same time. I think a great deal of the Lust factor is intimately tied to the Prestige factor, and game developers know it.

    Gamer grub huh? Wow, that makes me a little sad…

    • LX says:

      Definitely. There’s always one more “gotta have it” achievement or vanity item. I gave *Brink* a test play a few weeks ago and was astounded in how much of the game seems to be designed around getting you new outfit parts.

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