Sound like a production nightmare? Probably, but keep in mind, as it stands now, most games can only be played once. Build the game so that all the areas are used, just not necessarily in the same order, with different dialogue and events based on what you've achieved so far and different triggered variables that impact difficulty level. This creates the illusion of a dynamic, personal gameplay experience without forcing the developers into a thousand scripts, models, areas and contingency plans.
The goal of this example is to get away from the "try again until you win" and amend it so all paths lead to a conclusion, but not necessarily victory. Does it require more work? Yes, but done cleverly, the investment might not be as huge as it sounds, and the results would more than justify the time and money spent.
With the suspension of disbelief firmly rooted, it opens the door for more attachment to the main characters and those around them. If your actions get the flirtatious co-worker killed, it means something, especially when you know that had you done things differently, she may not have died. Actions have consequences and the combination of good storytelling and compelling gameplay might well produce a title where a consumer could truly shed a tear.
This change would redefine the gameplay experience and definitely not be something every gamer would like. The result would be a consumable product - more like a movie - rather than a challenge. There would be goals, action and puzzles, but in a situation where failure simply changes the circumstances of your next experience, everyone would reach an end of some kind. The key to keep in mind, here, is this example is only one way to help spice up the market.
Variety is what will break down the final door and bring gaming into the mainstream.
There is a wealth of emotions that need to be explored. I want games that make me laugh, cry, think and jump in fear. There will always be a place for the traditional game, but if we as an industry can step back and complement that with games that appeal to different senses, the benefit will trickle down across all types of games. A variety of experiences will make them all more interesting. The first step in this long journey is to make the game's story more than just a framework to justify gameplay challenges and attract storytellers who understand the medium and can stitch meaty stories into the realities of a game. After that, the story we create for ourselves can take us anywhere.
Dana "Lepidus" Massey is the Lead Content Editor for MMORPG.com and former Co-Lead Game Designer for Wish.