There seems to be conflicting argument over how game save functionality should be applied in games. While there are those who argue that game save should be designed early into the development of the games and not be left until the end (“The save mechanism is often another element of game design that gets left behind or left until the last minute” (Oxland, 2004:139) , there are others who stress the importance of letting players save to leave the game and live in the real world. “The reason games need a Save feature is so we can grab some time to live our real lives between games” (Rollings, 2004:114).
Marcin Szymanski writes in Game Design Perspectives (2002),
…when saving becomes an in-game mechanic, such as when the game requires the player to collect potions or other items in order to save, suspension of disbelief is destroyed (Laramée, 2002:112).
According to Szymanski’s statement, Resident Evil’s saving system would destroy the player’s suspension of disbelief as players need to collect objects and place at save spots in order to save. However , from a MDA perspective, the aesthetics support players to pick up ink ribbons to enable them to write at the typewriter, as collecting documents is a part of the player’s mission. Utilizing the player’s inventory space is consistent with the design of other objects, using space. Consistency is the core of creating suspension of disbelief, which is also referred to as immersion. Marcin Szymanski also writes,
What if she has no more Save Potions? What if she is too far away from a save spot? Saving the game should be used for its intended purpose: to allow the player to return to the “real world” when they need to (Laramée, 2002:113).
Allowing the player to save certain progress is not always granted. It opposes arguments like “…you simply must allow the player to save his game whenever he wants, wherever he wants, and as many times as he wants” (Bates, 2004:24) which is similar to Szymanski’s argument of allowing the player to return to the real world when they need to. If it is a part of the cohesive design, players may not need to save, as it breaks the consistency of the design in the game world, which does not support the suspension of disbelief. As an example, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, player progressions are saved through temporary and permanent save functions. Some of the player’s progress will disappear, such as minor items and the non-playable characters’ recollections of the player’s character , as it is a part of the game design that the player manipulates time. Players are given the opportunity to store their funds, but other than that, certain resources will disappear. This is similar to Grand Theft Auto’s garages and parking slots – players can store their vehicles if they want to, otherwise vehicles will disappear.
These are arguments of convenience for players to save and return to the game whenever they see fit. But these arguments also create other problems that affect the cohesion of a game. The disruption of game challenges in order to avoid possible penalties, in other words saving and reloading as an act of undoing previous unwanted consequences, is arguably damaging to a game’s consistency. This paper argues for consistency of a game world with the save components. Outcast is an example that combines Bates’ argument of allowing players to save anytime (Bates, 2004:24) while maintaining consistency in the game world. It does so by introducing a penalty of attracting nearby enemies, to prevent players from abusing saving and reloading.
Last Window: The Secret of Cape West has features that support saving as a part of the game world, but the game still uses common conventions such as the word ‘save’ in the journal, so this could be considered not to be a part of the immersive game world. The game save feature can be further integrated into the game world by using bookmarks of different colors in a similar fashion to the Last Express egg files. Using the word ‘bookmark’ instead of the word ‘save’ in the journal can also further integrate the save feature into the game world. Outcast has abandoned such conventions by not mentioning the word ‘save’; players are instead informed that the gaamsavv can imprint one’s essence. Outcast is immersing game world and game design, because the player is allowed to save anywhere at any time, but is not told that the gaamsavv serves this function during gameplay, the name only implies it. Grand Theft Auto could also avoid this convention by exchanging the word ‘save’ for ‘sleep’ when approaching the bed.
While MDA does not look at a game in terms of immersion, it may be used as a tool to examine that which / whatwhat players perceive in the game world[/annotax] . The rules by which the players interact and what they perceive is based upon the aesthetics, dynamics, and mechanics.
As Gordon Calleja wrote in In-Game from immersion to incorporation (2011) the use of the term immersion varies greatly (Calleja, 2011:25). Save function is stated to break immersion as it is an act that takes the players out of the game world. Consistency is the key word and the core to creating immersion. The purpose of this analysis was to provide knowledge about games that have consistency in contrast to games that do not. Consistency can be achieved by a cohesive design through all game components. As seen in many games that were mentioned in this paper , it is possible to incorporate save functions as part of the cohesive game world. Through this cohesion it is possible to make saving a part of the game design and game world, which can be used in several ways to emphasize player experience and to create immersive play. Since it is possible to create a complete save system that is cohesive with the game world, there are no reasons why game save should not be an essential part of the game’s design or play.