I’ve chosen to analyze Final Fantasy XIV for this short exercise. From its title, it’s clear that one of its core aethetics is “fantasy,” in the way that the character is the one blessed “hero” of the realm they reside in. This aesthetic is also strongly tied together with the aesthetic of “expression,” as the character customization menu as well as the job (and resulting lore of that job) tie into the intrinsic character development one weaves for their own player character is a large part of the appeal for this game. With a ten-year history, there is definitely a strong “narrative” aesthetic appeal, as well. Finally, as an MMORPG, there is also a clear “fellowship” aesthetic that contributes to some of the core gameplay aspects, in the way that you have to team up with other players to clear some of the content to even progress through the story.
In terms of specific mechanics that tie together to create dynamics that appeal to me:
- A levelling system & incrementally unlocking new abilities for whatever job you are levelling: this builds the dynamic of a progression system that can be used and reused in similar yet completely novel ways, as you level and learn different jobs that have different roles within the entire gameplay loop, with different lore-relevant sets of abilities that have similar (yet distinct!) actions within their role.
- Main scenario quests & side quests: One thing I particularly enjoy about some of the latest installments is that they “force” you to play through certain selected side quests at certain points within the questline that makes up the overarching main storyline, which helps flesh out certain parts of the lore, characters, or regional idiosyncracies that make me end up enjoying the universe as a whole even more.