God Fingers

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Graphical interface components in computer games that display players' current point of interact.

A God Finger is a game element that allows the player to affect the game world, but which cannot be affected by events in the game world itself. It is quite often a mouse pointer similar - or the same - as found in graphical computer operating systems.

Examples

Point-and-Click adventure games such as the Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and Myst series (as well as later installments of the King's Quest series) use God Fingers both to indicate where players' characters should move and how they wish to use items in their inventories.

While it is unclear in the Sims series what the pointers used to select Sims or game items represent, the cursors in god games of the Black & White series are literally God Fingers.

Many real-time strategy games, e.g. the Command and Conquer, Starcraft, and Warcraft series, make use of God Fingers in the form of a cursor that is used to select individual units or groups.

Cursor*10 shows an unusual usage of God Fingers: players control one cursor for a limited period of time trying to complete levels, and then has to work together with the recording of this cursor for continuing to complete new levels. This goes on until the tenth cursor is used, during which the player has to share the game space with the nine previous cursors.

Using the pattern

While the design of God Fingers themselves are pretty straight forward - they are pointers that players should be able to use to indicate where they wish to interact with Game Worlds or Levels - what interactions they provide offers some options. Moveable Crosshairs are special cases of God Fingers.

The simplest use of God Fingers is to manipulate Game Items directly or indicate what Game Items Avatars or Units should manipulate. A slightly more complex alternative is to let players select Avatars or Units they wish to use. This can be followed by either using the God Fingers again to indicate where these should move or what they should attack, or using menus to select actions; for games allowing many types of interaction (e.g. the Sims series) this may be changed to first selecting an Avatar, then the item or other Avatar to interact with and finally selecting what type of action should be done. However, God Fingers can also act as Focus Loci for actions that are independent of Avatars or Units or to specify the effect areas of ranged actions, for example, by selecting an area by stating its boundaries.

Given the freedom of focusing or trying to interact with any part of a Game World, God Fingers are the most suitable Focus Loci to make use of Clickability.

Diegetic Aspects

God Fingers are typically outside the Diegetic Consistency of games but exceptions are possible, e.g. by placing the player in the role of a god as the Black & White series does.

Interface Aspects

God Fingers is an Interface Pattern. They are not compatible with First-Person Views but are quite natural ways of modulating God Views - especially since they can allow panning and scrolling so that new parts of Game Worlds can be viewed. They can be weakly combined with Third-Person Views through locking players' views onto Avatars or Units when these have been selected (the Sims series supports this for example). Fog of War can modulate God Fingers by letting players navigate Game Worlds using the God Fingers but without revealing information that the players' Avatars or Units could observe.

Tooltips can modify God Fingers by providing gameplay Clues or explanations of game interface components if players hover the God Fingers over relevant part of the game interface.

Consequences

God Fingers are Geospatial Game Widgets that function as Focus Loci for players, allowing them to navigate Game Worlds more or less independently of where their Avatars and Units are. They can also be used to select these or what actions these should do, making players omnipresent in the Game Worlds. By doing so, they make it easier to handle Attention Demanding Gameplay in games but may also limit the use of Surprises and the feeling of Spatial Engrossment as God Fingers since players can have. They are Non-Diegetic Features.

Although possible to offset by Fog of War, God Fingers may be problematic to combine with Detective Structures in Open Worlds since players can view places and events unrelated to any specific Character.

Relations

Can Instantiate

Focus Loci, Geospatial Game Widgets, Non-Diegetic Features

Can Modulate

Attention Demanding Gameplay, Avatars, God Views, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

Crosshairs

Can Be Modulated By

Clickability, Fog of War, Third-Person Views, Tooltips

Possible Closure Effects

-

Potentially Conflicting With

Diegetic Consistency, First-Person Views, Spatial Engrossment, Surprises

Detective Structures together with Open Worlds

History

An updated version of the pattern God's Finger that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].

References

  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.

Acknowledgements

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