Use Attacks to Hamper and Incapacitate Players Rather Than kill
Keep in mind that there is plenty of room for non-lethal attacks and ammo that can be used against enemies to tone down the violence while keeping the action. The player character can zap enemies with a stun gun or electric shock, a tranquilizer dart or even just a big bean bag that smacks them silly. The coolest games that I can think of using this non-lethal combat is the Batman Arkham series. In that game you play as Batman and use devices and brains to outwit and out maneuver enemies, then beat them up without hurting them fatally. You can even design gameplay elements for your games that freeze, scare, misdirect, confuse or even teleport enemies. Remember to be merciful to your digital creations whenever you can, and sometimes a comical non-fatal attack can add humor to your game.
Taking Away Their Control is Effective But Don’t Overuse It
When you take away control of the action from the players it gets their attention immediately, especially if it’s suddenly in the middle of gameplay. You can use this technique to introduce a new character, gameplay element or a change to the level itself. You should consider the consequences of taking control away frequently and understand how each time affects the gameplay at the moment.
Make It Clear to Players That They Have Taken Damage
You should use everything at your disposal to let the player know that they are taking damage, which means that there should be visual cues like the player character’s image becomes battered, red flashes on the screen and stars, lines or other “action” sprites that come off of the point of impact to show that impact has occurred. There should also be audio cues like a sound effect, a dip in music for really hard hits and even a slowing of all the sound or a piercing ringing sound to accompany an epic attack. If you have access to a rumbling controller or other vibration component in the input device for your game you can use that rattling vibration to add shock and realism to the gameplay experience. You can even have on or off-screen personalities that make comments about that events as they happen. This brings in that extra pressure for some players to beat/appease the personality. The enemy itself can taunt the player too, which we’ll get to later.