Critical Play: Theme Only Games

For this critical play, I played PopCap Games’ “Plants vs. Zombies”. It is a Tower Defense mobile game that I greatly enjoyed when I was a kid, and this new critical play has shed some new light on my understanding of the game. 

The narrative of the game is pretty simple. There is a mob of zombies that are about to invade your home, and the player tries to use an arsenal of zombies to defend their house. There are different types of zombies, from the most basic ones to Gargantuar zombies that are huge in shape and have very high health. There are also different types of plants, correlating with different roles in a typical tower defense game: sunflower that produces the sun which could be utilized in purchasing other plants, pea-shooter as the most basic offense; nuts as the defense; cherry bombs as bombs, etc.

The narrative makes the game intuitive. The plant and zombie narrative is more approachable for players who are not military buffs but still a big fan of tower defense games. The functions of each plant is very much correlated with our common conception of these plants, thus the players do not need to remember the functions of each plant, and can just let their common sense guide them. For example, the sunflowers, known for always facing the sun and absorbing the sunlight, are the energy source in the game. 

The narrative also gives the player a purpose. Imagine the game when stripped off all the plant and zombie language. It will be hard for players to understand why they are trying to progress from one level to the next. Now, because of the narrative, the player knows that they are defending the house from zombies. Newer zombies and newer plants occur in the next level, and seeing the missing slot on their Suburban Almanac, the player will play through the levels just to fill these slots, just like collecting stamps. The humorous descriptions of the plants and the zombies are also fun to read.

In general, the narrative sets the humorous tone of the game, and strengthens the magical circle. The players immerse themselves in the game better because of the narrative. 

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