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The video game console turned fifty years old in 2022, and a lot has happened since its birth. Video game graphics have accelerated from chunky pixels to elaborate 3D models, improving tremendously in as little as a decade.
Graphics are not the only aspect of gaming that has changed, however. Plots have become much richer, taking gamers places they never expected. Gaming has now eclipsed the film industry by a long shot. In recent years, many cinephiles and gamers agree that the more compelling stories are not from the silver screen but from video games.
Since video game stories are more elaborate, developers have also been able to insert fascinating new game mechanics into specific plot points. While they might seem like minor details, this combination of mechanics and story creates an immersive, seamless experience. Despite their complexity, many gaming mechanics use the same technology: RNGs.
What are RNGs?
A random number generator (RNG) is a device that produces random numbers. Developers use them to simulate randomness, like finding rare items or landing critical hits.
Slot machines are one of the best examples of how a simple RNG works. These machines use computerised electrical impulses to spin the reels. Like rolling a pair of dice, a series of gears spin when someone pulls the slot machine lever, and three reels produce different symbols each time. Then, a metal piece, called the cam, stops the spinning in its place after a designated amount of time. Of course, a lot more goes into how slot machines work, but that is the basic explanation.
However, most brick-and-mortar slot machines use “true” RNGs, which means there is a piece of hardware responsible for generating the random number. On the other hand, video games use pseudo RNGs, which use algorithms to pull random numbers from massive data sets.
RNGs are what create that spice in a video game. They’re why you find new Pokémon, why you sometimes get great loot in Fortnite, and why you make a critical shot in Counter-Strike. Without RNGs, our beloved games would be monotonous, and some wouldn’t even be possible. RNGs are especially necessary for sandbox games, where players wander through virtual worlds, come across side missions, and scavenge for resources to build things with.
Of course, some games don’t use RNGs. Games that rely on repetition, like Guitar Hero, don’t need to have random numbers to work. The same goes for multiplayer games like Street Fighter, where most actions depend on the player rather than external factors.
How each game uses an RNG depends on its mechanics. In one situation, developers might use RNGs to influence the story. In others, RNGs might determine what sort of awards you get. Despite the multiple uses of this device in gaming, some people have several reasons not to like them.
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Pros and Cons of RNGs
There are many pros to RNGs. First, they vary gameplay, so it doesn’t get monotonous. Since they shake things up, gamers see different things every time they play, which makes them take chances they wouldn’t if the game were always the same. RNGs always keep gamers guessing.
Imagine if Tetris had the same sequence of flying pieces each time you played. It wouldn’t have the same magic of quickly jamming pieces together to see if they’ll fit or not. Without RNGs, Tetris would be a dull memory game. Sure, it’d be easier to win, but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
On the other hand, sometimes RNGs make players feel like their skills have been ousted. In competition-based games like Magic: The Gathering, RNGs overshadow gamers’ risks and make them feel like whatever action they take won’t matter. RNGs can gloss over the tug and pull of competition, which ruins the game for some people.
RNGs play a massive role in gaming. By generating random numbers, they produce different outcomes in the game. They help give games a natural feeling instead of a jarring, predictable experience.
To most gamers, RNGs keep them on their toes. In many circumstances, they are what give the game its replayability. The RNGs in puzzle games, card games, and RPGs vary the action and let players experience new things.
However, some gamers believe that RNGs make their skills obsolete, particularly for competition-based games.