While trying to work out why I didn’t enjoy The Room 3 (TR3) as much as I enjoyed The Room (TR) or The Room 2 (TR2) I was reminded of ‘The Doorway Effect‘. It occurred to me that this might explain some of my issues.
To briefly explain: the doorway effect is when you move from one room to another to do something, and completely forget what you were going to do. The mere act of walking through a doorway causes your brain to lose some information and ‘start afresh’.
It doesn’t even have to be a real life doorway. This effect also occurred in tests within a video game.
Traditional ‘adventure games’ rely on puzzles spread through multiple location. A change from one location to another can be thought of as a change from one room to another. Games give you some kind of ‘show me my inventory’ command so you can always remember what you have on you. However, moving from one room to another might well cause you to forget where that heart shaped lock was – which is important when you find the heart shaped key.
Now, sticking with The Room examples: In TR, there was only one room. Everything happened around objects within that room, and you slid seamlessly from one bit to another. Everything was within those objects and you knew that.
TR2 expanded the idea to having more rooms, however – importantly – each room had its own self contained puzzles. Puzzles didn’t stretch between rooms, only objects within each room.
TR3 then kept the ‘multiple rooms’ idea, but the puzzles could now straddle multiple of these rooms. There are even room within room puzzles. If going through a doorway has the potential to make you forget things, then the more rooms involved in a single puzzle, the more likely you are to be lost for a solution to a puzzle.
So, that’s the hypothesis I’m working with at the moment: the Doorway Effect can change how a game plays. I’m not saying it breaks a game, though it does seem to dampen my enjoyment of TR3, but that it should at least be taken into account when designing or refining a game.