Oh No I’m Toast!: Mastering Videogame Secrets in Theory and Practice

Kristina Drzaic

Kristina Drzaic

Secrets are a ubiquitous part of contemporary videogame design, yet are largely unexplored within academic discourse and often dismissed as extras. I contend that secrets play a fundamental and influential role within a given gamespace in terms of the way they affect a videogame design and player experience. As such this paper will investigate the nature of secrets in videogames. I shall find where secrets exist in a game and how they function as moments of gameplay. Then I will explore secrets historically and look at how the meaning of secrets have changed and evolved over time. It will be shown that secrets create a window to an underlying structure of gameplay, a meta-level that subverts the regular play of a videogame. Further, I will argue that secrets are a space where players engage in unstructured play, free from the constraints of a game design. Finally I will demonstrate how secrets can be used to personalize or redesign the experience of a videogame and/or remake the game design itself. In order to make this argument I will break down what secrets can mean specifically to players through two very differently structured games: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Animal Crossing. Knowing why secrets matter in a gamespace will reveal a reason for why videogames are compelling as a brave new form of media.

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