Gameplay Mechanic -> Emotion
Siren and Fatal Frame 2 both try to do the same thing: scare you. People talk about how we need to put emotion in games but Will Wright points out it's already there - for example, some games make him feel guilt. Other obvious emotions would be frustration and, thanks to survival horror, fright. A thing unique about these two games is that the core gameplay mechanic itself serves to heigten that emotion. With Siren, they do it by letting you see through the eyes of the creatures that are hunting and killing you; with Fatal Frame they do it with a "combat" system that gives you a first person view and rewards you for waiting until the last possible moment before you're hit before you "attack". (Thus the monster in question fills your screen and looks as scary as possible.) These aren't the only things the games do; this stuff alone wouldn't work by itself, but it helps. So, question: can gameplay mechanics be designed that heighten other emotions? Maybe "nice" games like Zelda are designed with that in mind? (Joy of discovery?)
I so wanted to like Siren, but it was pure torture. With both Siren and Mask of Majora game ideas that sounded good on paper turned out to be quite frustrating to actually play. I wonder if those ideas were born sucky, or if additional work could have solved those problems...Siren is the worst kind of stealth game, the kind where your only option is to wait for monsters to finish tediously long patrol paths. Add to that: failure is often punished with death. Add to that: very few checkpoints. Add to that: the frustration is exacerbated by another innovation: you have to do the same level multiple times, and once you've done certain tertiary goals in the level -- (and they don't even tell you what those tertiary goals are) -- later levels become unlocked. Which means you're playing the same waiting game over and over, even once you've mastered it. I think the sightjacking mode is salvageable: allow your character to move while sightjacking, make the patrol paths shorter and quicker, add another gameplay element so that sightjacking isn't the only tool in your toolkit, add more checkpoints, and you've got something. But the idea of doing a level over and over again until you get it perfect, or else you can't advance? Kill that puppy in its sleep. Are there really any gamers out there who like doing the same tasks over and over, and feel alienated by today's crop of "easy" games that have plenty of checkpoints or *gasp* - save anywhere?
Mask is salvageable also - making it so time doesn't run out while you're in a dungeon would probably have made it much more pleasant.
Fatal Frame 2
Fatal Frame 2, by the way, was very cool. Sick story, poignant ending - possibly the scariest survival horror game I've played. Steals overly heavily from The Ring - are wells, crawling women, and film scratches really that scary or did The Ring condition me? A problem for me was that it was actually too gamey - ordinarily I would have been stoked to kill monsters well, earning more points to upgrade my weapon with various special abilities, but that particular gameplay got in the way of the scare and atmosphere. Maybe Ico had the right idea when they made their combat system so rudimentary - it doesn't detract from the experience the way Fatal Frame (and some people say Prince of Persia) does.