A video game’s replay value or replayability refers to the potential that a game holds to be continued after its original completion by the player. While many games offer a sense of satisfaction upon conclusion, some in particular may leave the player wanting more, and for a variety of reasons. Factors that may influence a player’s decision to return to a game that they have already finished – sometimes regardless of whether or not they even enjoyed the game in the first place – usually boil down to personal connections to content within the game, and/or the game having more to offer than what the first run may have you believe.
The foremost most common factor that influences a player’s decision to replay a video game is a fairly obvious one – that being a general intrigue in what the game has to offer. This can involve interest in a combination of different aspects such as storyline, genre, game mechanics, and graphics, all of which can enhance a player’s experience and ultimately leave them wanting to go through it again. Simply put, people who enjoy first-person shooter games such as BioShock are more likely to replay a game that offers this. People that enjoy light-hearted games might give Dream Daddy another go. In the same way that we have different preferences for particular genres in film and music, our personal interests will impact which games we pick up, and which ones we don’t want to put down.
Furthermore, as technology progresses and game mechanics become more advanced, players often find themselves not only being able to better immerse themselves within the game’s world but also form better connections to the characters that they interact with. As characters become more complex and increasingly have more distinct and discernable personality traits, individual players are able to relate more to particular cast members within the game.
This is particularly true for plot-based games, such as The Last of Us, wherein interactions between characters and the ability to create deeper relationships between them as the journey progresses leaves players feeling more invested in the story they are playing through. Similarly, games which include occurrences within a narrative that are easily relatable to everyday life also helps to enhance that connection between the player and the game. In this sense, players may feel some sentiment towards certain characters upon a game’s completion because, in a way, that player has experienced their journey with them.
Another factor that often influences gamers to replay a game is if performing certain actions or following different paths leads to different outcomes. Notable for their replayability, games that follow a choice-based story are often easily picked up again for their ability to offer a new experience. A great example of this is the choose-your-own horror Until Dawn, wherein every play-through could result in a different outcome. While maintaining a basic storyline, the actions or inactions of characters can drastically change what sequentially occurs next based on which option is chosen when the player is presented with two choices.
Ultimately, a character’s survival or demise could depend on a split-second decision, which in turn alters the game’s ending. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is another notable example of a replayable game for this reason, as its five alternate endings leave players wanting to see them all. For some, the ability to complete a game and be provided alternate outcomes or endings based on judgements made throughout the story is intriguing enough to have them open a whole new save file – and in cases like these, endure the horror all over again.
Similarly, games that include hidden lore, or those related within particular franchises tend to include ‘easter eggs‘ for players to discover – some of which can only be found if you’re paying super close attention or have already stormed the wikis and know exactly what to look out for. Games such as Five Nights at Freddy’s and Legend of Zelda are notorious for including hints within the gameplay that reveal more content or provide answers to seemingly small oddities within the main gameplay. An extension of the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, FNAF: Sister Location Custom Night, takes this concept to a new extreme, offering series-resolving cut scenes only if the game is replayed with certain characters on particular degrees of difficulty. The desire to access this type of extra content lures players back, wanting to experience every detail the creators hid inside.
Ultimately, a video game’s replay value is completely subjective, and players will likely only replay games that suit their personal interests and needs. It is however interesting to note what factors commonly illustrate a universal desire to replay a game, and how this may change over time as video games become more realistic and immersive than ever before.