What if every time you booted up a game, everything was different? Your characters would have different weapons, skills, and abilities. Each dungeon had a different map with different enemies, rewards, and challenges and all of these things were based on your own choices and decisions in game?
Game developers have adapted this model and have turned it into a niche known as roguelikes (or rogue-lites, depending on who you ask). The general mechanics are often the same: New games or “runs” generate a randomized dungeon or stage, each player only has one life and death is permanent (no continues), players are given a choice on how to proceed through each stage whether it is to get stronger weapons, heal up, take a short cut and many more options.
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The roguelikes formula
This basic formula allows developers to combine different genres to make memorable games such as Slay the spire, a rogue-like card game, or Hades, a dungeon crawler that has won multiple awards including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for Best Game, 2021.
“Replayability, imaginative world-building, and the sheer amount of combinations that makes almost every run unique and enables the me to add my own personality to the game based on how I play it,” said Jet, a fifth year civil engineering student.
Aside from the obvious strategic implications the game brings, it brings to light an important concept in life: our decisions matter both in the short and long term of our journey. Choice of cards, weapons, or patron deities in your game can make the game easy to finish. However, it may also lock us out of other possible story endings or make us incredibly weak and vulnerable should we face a specific strong foe. These games, in their own way, allow us to tackle head-on how we can take accountability for our own decisions.
“There is a sense of reward if you’ve played the game multiple times. Your insights are tested and you can create and modify your goals by anticipating what can possibly happen next,” said Jet. Newer players to genre may feel that the games are impossible when they start game with bad or unwanted abilities that do not suit their playstyle. Veterans of the genre however would show their insight by building upon whatever is given through their adaptable and calculated planning making even the weaker mechanics look extremely strong.
Openness to experience
From a perspective, the experience of playing and getting better at roguelike games can be looked at from one’s “openness to experience”, a basic personality trait that describes people who are creative and adventurous. Openess can also manifest in our ability to take risks or empathize with others and in the case of the roguelikes, shown in the player’s desire to start new runs to challenge himself once more.
As Hades 2 was announced recently and the high bar set by its predecessor, gamers are looking forward to challenging themselves once again in a challenging but fun dungeon crawler. But beyond the gameplay, roguelikes can perhaps make a case for their genre to be the games that teach its players one of life’s deeper lessons: that when facing the path that lies ahead of you, one must take responsibility for every moment as one moves forward, bravely into the unknown.