I’ve been talking about videogames for over a year now and some of the time I’ve been thrashing, angrily, against the borders of the terms we use to refer to videogames in genres. I’ve tried to find some core definition of game genres that means I can refer to games like Bioshock Infinite without also meaning games like Final Fantasy VII. What I haven’t, really, properly addressed however is the language I do find useful to describe components in videogames.
The term is conveyance.
First things first, I’m going to introduce you to the place where I first learned the word.
Okay, okay, I know a few of you are already gritting your teeth, because I’ve shown Egoraptor’s stuff to my friends and I know they hated him. It’s a shame, because the object lesson he provides in conveyance at the beginning of Megaman X is so thorough that it really explains it better than I can. What we’re going to do then, is start by trying to provide a clear, single sentence that gives a broad overview and we’ll refine it as we need to:
Conveyance is a feeling that’s amazingly obvious to notice when it’s happening. If you’ve ever been lost playing an endless runner, or a roguelike, or a turn-based strategy game, you know the feeling of being pulled onwards to take an additional turn, to keep on it. While there are many complicated means and techniques for how games can do this, what’s important is to recognise is what it is. There are plenty of good games, with good elements in them that are often called badly paced, or even bad games, because the thing those games do badly is conveyance. I hated how Mass Effect strung all its parts together. I railed against Deus Ex: Human Revolution for the same reason, where it tried to tell me to do three different things at once, while telling me they were all equally important and needed doing urgently. I praised Arkham Asylum for its exceptional pacing.
Conveyance. Don’t need to know how it does it, or with what it does it, but the game does it to you. Now you know what to call it.