What’s the appeal of a stealth game?

It feels like a fairly simple question that should result in a fairly simple answer, but there are quite a few wrinkles that become visible once one stops for a moment and decides to look at it.

For starters, they’re the most realistic of the power fantasies, meaning that games were you hide from people with guns is a more realistic portrayal of what could happen in real life than, say … gunning down a complete army by yourself while recovering from bullet wounds with a speed that would make wolverine blush.

So that’s one basic skin deep reason, but what about the meaty stuff? To get there we should probably define what a stealth game actually is, don’t  you think? Well, in a few words, stealth games are defined by an imbalance of power that grants enemies enough destructive force to be a legitimate menace if confronted up front but at the same time provides the player with an array of tools for avoiding direct confrontation (most of the time it all amounts to not being seen).

The camera will be used to photograph important incriminating documents while the mask serves other purposes: when the guards lay their eyes upon this mask they’ll drop to the floor laughing giving the spy some precious seconds to make his escape.

It’s from here that we can start to decipher why we like to sneak around: Perhaps the most obvious answer is that this dynamic helps maintain with relative ease the feeling of uncertainty and tension throughout the game, because the possibility of failure is always present at every corner and being careless should never be a good idea.

But if you were to ask me what’s the most powerful characteristic of stealth games then I would have to say that it’s the symbiosis that takes place within it between puzzle solving and real-time action. The player has to explore the surroundings, to explore enemy behavior, to explore how the tools available work and how they can be used to avoid confrontation while at some point getting to the objective. The player passes through formulating a plan to executing it and it is in the execution that the most memorable moments happen. It rewards creative thinking while still being entertaining from moment to moment.

And I don’t know about you, but I think that is awesome.

Source of the image: Here.


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