Just about anybody who knows me has heard me describe myself with the following phrase:
"Girl gamer, loud and proud"
And its true. I. Love. Videogames. But not all videogames; to clarify, I love escapist games.
What does that mean? It doens't mean I like playing Houdini through a controller. Let me explain.
To make a good videogame, you need three important factors to kick a**.
Graphics is pretty self-explanitory; everybody loves a pretty game. Hell, I know I spent the first few minutes of Twilight Princess just drooling over the graphics. A well-shown game adds to believability, which helps the player put his/herself in the protagonists shoes; which is what I mean by escapism. Graphics are a big part of what helps a gamer escape into a game. However, I think if tehre was a formal gamers credo, there would be a line reading "Game before Graphics." I've been just as sucked into Zelda 1 for N64, the cartooney goodness of Chibi Robo, and the geometric, dawn-of-3D graphics of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Harvest Moon; Another Wonderful Life, as I was into Twilight Princess or Halo 3.
Mechanics includes aspects of the game such as camera manageability, controller functions (which button does what) responsiveness, and options. If you are constantly having your viewpoint changed against your will, or if the positions your fingers must shift to to accomplish a task is awkward, it is pretty easy to experience the 'escape' a well-structured game brings on. Options, or 'depth' as some people like to call it, is another mechanical part of a game. To illustrate, I'm going to compare Twilight Princess to Ocarina of Time, both of which are arguably two of the best games in the Legend of Zelda series.
I love them both to little pieces, but of the two, I'd rather play Twilight Princess. One reason for this is the options increase of Twilight Princess; in LOZ:TP, I could get the 'hawkeye' item, which allowed me to zoom in on my targets like a sniper-rifle scope, and improve my aim. The crosshairs on my distance weapons didn't hurt, either. In LOZ:OOT, I had none of the above. Though, thinking about it, the absence of crosshairs could be a good thing; it taught me to more 'realistically' aim my weapons if I wanted to hit something, which made the use of my bow, hookshot, slingshot, and boomerang a lot more realistic.
However, my overall choice of weapons and items was a lot greater in Twilight Princess, which expanded the games world and made it more appealing and realistic to escape into. the Spinner was introduced (gawd i love that item) as well as the aforementioned Hawkeye, the Ball and Chain (Also waay too much fun) and all of Link's wolf abilities. Granted, in Majora's Mask, the form changes affected what options Link had, but none were nearly as extensive as the shifts between wolf and hylian in Twilight Princess.
Actually, in majora's mask, the changes to deku, zora, and goron link actually inhibited the options more than they added to them. Each form came with but one or two new abilities (consecutively; flying wtih flowers and bubble-blowing, underwater swimming and fin-throwing, rolling and strength) but each came with an extreme inhibition; almost none of Link's hylian weapons or items were available to his other forms. And the bubble-blowing and fin throw abilities were more like substitutes for the loss of his bow and boomerang than they were new items.
Another part of depth is mapping; explorability is a HUGE part of escapism; it's collossal; I think its fair to say that one can't have escapism if one can't explore. One of the reasons I liked Twilight Princess better than Ocarina of Time or Majora's mask was the mapping; holy s**t was Hyrule huge in LOZ:TP. I got new environments that I had never been able to get into in the previous games; the yeti's mansion, extensive cities, woods that weren't just mazes with trees painted on the walls, and an infinite number of NPC characters with varying routines and their own unique personalities and sidequests; hell, if I was in wolf form, even the little squirrels and pets were available to talk to. You can probably tell that I get excited just thinking about it; and can you blame me? Exploration is an integral part of human nature; we wnat to explore the unknown. That's half of why games advertise new maps and new features on their games; it's something new for you to discover.
And wrapped up in all of the above is the Story. Just about every game that a gamer recognizes as such (ie; solitaire, rhythm city, and suchlike don't count; you can get this in a puzzle book at the store.) have a storyline. Halo has one, Zelda sure as hell has one; mario has one, sonic has one, Kirby has one... I could go on. Even games which don't follow a direct, action-oriented plotline which require you to travel along a crescendoing course, such as Chibi-Robo, have a plotline. Chibi-Robo (the most adorable housecleaning game ever) sets your goal as a simple day-to-day process; clean up the house, run errands, and earn happy points from the family. However, as you accomplish these things, you unlock new areas, and discover the storyline behind the day-to-day life. It has a direction. A game with no direction, for instance, Winter Olympics for the Wii, is to me and I think most gamers, boring and easy to be distracted from. In other words, it doesn't pull you in. Now thats not to say all sports or puzzle games are like that; Mario Baseball is a sports game, but it has a plotline accomplished by the playing of the baseball games; get to Bowser and beat the everloving crap out of him. Mario Party games are another example, same as racing games which have campaign modes. The really good ones have a more in-depth plotline (ie; if you can prove yoruself as a rookie, you'll eventually get to fight and defeat the character who slaughtered your village) which moteivates you, but most can ride on the thrill of buildling your successes until you are worthy of fighting the main villain/opponant.
In other words, a well-made videogame is much more than passive entertainment; one could say it's a plastic-and-wires gate to another world. I think the evolution of games to imitate the pysics in real life (ie; the swinging motion of a wii remote causes Link to swing his sword accordingly in Twilight Princess for Wii) is a great step for gaming; however I'm not sure if I want it to go so far as a fullbody suit; half of the escapism part of a game is the fantasy part; I can work my farm for a week in Harvest Moon without taking a break from the TV and come out with nothing mroe than maybe a stiff neck; undesirable aspects of life such as tiredness and mortality don't apply in games; that's hwy we want to escape into them. If the physics start becoming real, the desirability of those worlds might just go down.