Spyro: Year of the Dragon is an incredible game because it has so many elements that keep bringing gamers back for more. Spyro is a dragon whose goal it is to collect as many gems and dragon eggs as possible as he moves through levels in an effort to beat the final boss at the final level: the sorceress. Each level is packed with portals into other worlds that have their own challenges and rewards: the chance to play as other beings, mini games featuring hockey, racing, skateboarding, interactions with unique characters…the world that Spyro lives in seems to go on forever, to the delight of gamers.
In order to get at the deeper meaning of the game, it is important to first outline what elements created the strongest emotional attachments. Fistly, a large portion of the game is dedicated to the constuction of the beautiful, detailed landscapes that Spyro is always acting in. The main levels are so beautiful, whether they be sprawling, grassy plains or a mystical setting with a night sky and crystals jutting from the ground. The smaller worlds that are entered through portals are littered with details that make it feel worth paying special attention to everything. This, when looked at on a greater scale, reveals a fascination with the surrounding world that is all too uncommon in real life. In real life, many of us are familiar with this feeling of appreciating the sheer beauty that is around us when we are traveling. Normal life is simply considered normal, and does not inspire us to look deeply into everything the way that landscapes in videogames like Spyro do.
The next big emotional attachment comes when Spyro finds one of hundreds of dragon eggs; this is one of the very best moments of play because it is an immediate reward (there is one upon the completion of every task) and it is frequent enough that it creates a mad desire for the next one, but it is not an experience that comes easily. Once a dragon egg is obtained, there is a deeply gratifying series of seconds in which a choir seems to sing as sparkles surround the egg and it hatches to reveal a baby dragon (a different one everytime) with its own name. The emotional attachment that goes with this moment can be attributed to the human desire to help others; at this moment, the gamer has saved a cute, baby dragon that smiles gratefully before it disappears into safety. The name attached to it makes the attachment seem real.
The landscape and saving of baby dragons make Spyro: Year of the Dragon a game that is easy to become attached to. The explanations for the detailed emotions associated with each experience can be tied together to say that the deeper meaning embedded in this videogame is that there is a lot of wonder and satisfaction that is attached to being in the moment and helping the people aroud us. It is all too uncommon for individuals to appreciate the surrounding area or to give too much thought to the people around them, let alone do both at the same time and with energy.
One aspect of the game that is easy to go unnoticed is the vast use of color. Everything in every single part of the game, from the little purple dragon himself to the gleaming gems littering landscapes, exists with a pop of color. These colors are so vibrant, they are a huge contribution to the beauty of the landscape itself and to the wonder associated with every part of the game. Real life is often depicted in dull, faded colors, and one can learn from this game that the use of vibrant colors can have a profound impact on mood and perspective.
Another mechanism that the Spyro game uses to keep players involved is the ability to run from place to place, and even the ability to glide. The gliding is a fun extra included in the game to make getting from place to place a more entralling experience, but the ability to run is definitely more deeply attached to the human desire to get things done as quickly as possible. In real life, people cannot really run to get things done; they can powerwalk, they can drive, they cannot run. This makes one think, how fun would it actually be to be able to literally run from one job to another? It is a satisfying experience in games like Spyro to be given a task and then to run right to it, having the control and freedom to take on a task as one desires. The makers of Spyro were intimately aware of greater human wants and needs, and took care to nurture them in Spyro: Year of the Dragon.
With credit to Ian Bogost, one other thing we can “do” with videogames, as inspired by Spyro: Year of the Dragon” is motivate people to live life, or put more simply, “live in the moment.” If people can run around their actual lives (even if they are not actually running) and find a way to truly appreciate each moment, to talk to the people around them, and to go out of their way to help someone in need, improvements in quality of life would be profound.
This does not have to sound far fetched. If one wants to literally run, one can go for a run through a village, around a neighborhood…it is not uncommon for runners to stop to talk to or help out surrounding people. Even if one does not want to run, speedwalking through grocery and department stores (as so many of us do), we can slow down for a moment to help someone who is struggling or compliment someone on what they’re wearing. This is the kind of awareness that the creators of Spyro are generating with their game.
Spyro: Year of the Dragon, is a game that is full of missions that need to be solved by talking to others and that are incredibly rewarding when they are solved. The various challenges all boil down to helping someone else out and looking carefully at the surrounding area for clues, which inspires feelings of humanity and an appreciation for the landscape. The deeper meaning of Spyro: Year of the Dragon is to live fully in the moment, and it does so by inspiring feelings of goodwill, appreciation, and accomplishment.