In a previous post, I described the general categories of the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI). In this post, I will be explaining the components in the progression category: Ability, Character, Goals, Plot.
The progression category is represented in green. The components in the category have to do with how the game goes from one point to the next. These components describe how the player goes through the game and how the game is won or lost, as well as describing growth
The ability component is based on the player progressing through the game by obtaining new actions. Actions work like keys that the player needs to find in order to surpass obstacles that prevent the player from completing the game. It is otherwise known as gating, as it provides a gate which needs to be unlocked by a specific ability. Games that require the player to perform specific actions to continue the game will have stronger ability components. The actions that unlock new areas in games with strong ability components need to be actions that are found or upgraded, or else the actions are contributing to another progression component. Even a game that simply hides keys for locked doors around will have some ability component, as unlocking a door with a key is an action that must be found. Players strong in the ability component want to open up areas of games by finding new actions and abilities. They like having obstacles to overcome which are comprised of spatial and mechanical parts; something must be traversed or done in some special way that must be discovered. These players like growing by gaining a number of actions which have recognizable purpose in the game.
The character component describes a progression where the growth of one or more characters is required to continue. This growth can be on any level, mental, emotional, physical, etc. It is important, though, that the character growth is not as a result of searching the game space for some action that will allow them to continue, but is more related to a gain of power. A character might get stronger and be able to defeat more powerful enemies as a result, but if the only way to defeat those enemies is to find a special weapon that allows the player to damage them, then this does not contribute to the character component. Games that provide characters that level up and increase in statistics will be stronger in the character component. Some games will do this not with numbers, but with changes in feedback. A good rule of thumb is to determine if the character is growing as a result of internal growth or external growth. If it is internal growth, it is the character component. Players who are strong in the character component want to get through the game by making their character(s) stronger and more capable. These players want their obstacles to be something that becomes easier over time.
The goals component describes progression through clearly defined objectives that the player must complete. The game will set up goals for players and tells them that if they want to continue, they must meet that goal. Games strong in the goals component will have these goals more clearly stated or obvious. Games where the goals are implied are weaker in the goals component. Goals are usually performance-based, requiring the player to perform the game well enough to reward them with the next part of the game. Games that rely mostly on goals for progression tend to be laid out in stages, each of which has an individual goal. Players strong in the goals component want the game to tell them what they should be doing, and give them clear objectives. Progression for these players is more like a test than like an obstacle.
The plot component deals with a steady progression from beginning to end. The game advances because the series of events in a game dictates it. Games strong in the plot component march steadily along towards an end, providing the player with events one after another. The plot component is often doled out via narrative feedback to the player. A game strong in plot might have scenes rather than stages. Events in games with a strong plot component are laid out in a sequence. The events have to be understood in order to continue on to the next one. Players strong in the plot component want to play a games that need to be understood in order to continue. These players want to be able to follow the game from start to finish and have it make sense, due to the string of events that occurred. Many players who are strong in the plot component play a game to experience a story.