In the world of video game design techniques, level gating is one you’ll likely come across. Let’s break it down.
When video game developers put together their game, there are always a set of design elements they have to implement. Level gating is one of those elements, and it shapes how you progress through a game and your potential enjoyment of it.
But what exactly is level gating? Why do developers use it in video games? Let’s find out.
Level Gating in Video Games
Level gating is a design technique where higher-level enemies obstruct you from exploring certain areas or completing certain quests until you typically reach a higher level. It can also be that you literally can’t explore certain areas in a game until you’ve reached the minimum level. You’ll mostly find level gating in role-playing games (RPGs).
For level gating to work, enemies must have pre-defined levels and stats, and the developers purposefully place them around the game world. And, though you could technically defeat these enemies whenever you like, the game highly discourages taking them on at a relatively low level.
When a game implements level gating effectively, you’ll feel a real sense of progression as you level up and defeat enemies that you could either barely defeat before, or couldn’t at all. You can feel your character getting stronger as well as your understanding of the game’s combat mechanics improving, leading to a sense of satisfaction that feels earned.
There’s also a sense of thrill in trying to defeat enemies that are a higher level than you, if the developers have made the game’s combat mechanics engaging enough to warrant doing so.
However, if a game implements level gating poorly, then playing it can be a chore. With poor level gating, you might feel an artificial barrier from progression, with uninteresting enemies that are essentially damage sponges or way too underpowered to warrant any challenge.
Also, in order to progress through a certain area, you might have to grind in order to level up your stats and progress. Depending on a game’s mechanics, especially the combat mechanics, this can either be a way to learn and improve, or it can be a horrible, repetitive experience that might put you off the game altogether.
Level Gating Needs Balance and Context to Work
Level gating can create a rewarding gameplay experience. But, on the other hand, it can lead to a game feeling restrictive and repetitive. That being said, this may not be the fault of level gating in and of itself.
Whether or not level gating works depends on how the developers balance it, how it fits within the game, and, of course, how satisfying its gameplay loops are.
Gameplay loops define most of your hands-on gaming experience, though you mightn’t realize. Let’s explain this design mechanic.
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