The Product is a game study on player meaning towards virtual objects and how to change that meaning based on the circumstances. It leaves meaning and purpose up to the player’s interpretation. The objective of the study was to test what makes a person define an object in a game and examine the extent to which an object can have different definitions for people or characters. This was explored in The Product through simplistic virtual objects and letting players create their own objective and meaning out of the objects in the game.
There is no given goal in the game but only assumptions as to what choice the player should be making. The player assumptions are formed from the information they obtain from the other characters and environment. The player’s actions in the game are confined to movement, inquiry, observation or choice. These can become even more limited based on what character the player has control of. The non playable characters also react differently depending on what character the player is controlling.
Games like Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream, 2010) and Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation, 2012) are examples of changing player perspective effectively by either changing player character or revealing to the player more information. I find it interesting that players can have predetermined assumptions or strict definitions and categories for a virtual object even while knowing it is a virtual object. By having the player embody different characters or flip the context, it creates a more open way of thinking and exploration within this fictional world and for the virtual objects. When the player gets to a point where the game shifts and the rules are altered, it creates a chance to alter what the player considers to be real or true and – more importantly – change how they react and relate to their surroundings. To get different player reactions out of the same object in different moments of a game was an interesting aspect for me and something attempted in this game.
Throughout the game the player moves around an office-style setting, going between different rooms and as different staff characters. The player can make basic interaction with the environment; if they interact with the objects or other character staff members the game displays thought statements (never direct descriptions) about what the objects or characters could potentially be. In the different stages of play the player will be given a choice to what type of product the company will make and eventually shape the company into their own meaning of what they stand for. Each choice the player makes will impact the type of thought information the player character displays. The objects in each room have different values as the player moves through the different hierarchy of characters.
This game developed into more of a tool to test player relations with virtual objects and see how their play style changes based on differences in the rooms, characters or objects. The complexity of this project became the biggest hurdle in its development; with the demo never reaching past the second chapter. With each decision the player made meant for an exponentially expanding amount of content. It would be interesting to see how this could be further developed with a larger resource capacity.