Sunday, September 28, 2014

Video Games

After playing through a series of video games, I'm realizing a few things about video games if you're a time-pressed adult. The first is that the kind of games critics love aren't necessarily the kind of games you have time for. This is true even if you're a kid, since repeated exposures tend to inure  you to what everyone else considers fun.

The reality, however, is that as an adult, you don't have a lot of time to get good at any particular video game, so games with difficulty settings that are accurate work much better than games that make you repeat something endlessly until you succeed. In other words, Dark Souls is probably not for you (or me).

Similarly, RPGs that have a big grind component are also pretty worthless. There's too much repetition, and all that grinding doesn't build to a story. I think the last time I finished an RPG was Baldur's Gate.  Even then, it felt too long.

Similarly, unexplained difficulty spikes in games are also annoying. I've noticed that Ninja Theory is a big culprit for me, with at least 2 of their games (Devil May Cry and Enslaved) causing me to abandon because I couldn't get through a section and there's no way to see why. Another example is Bioshock, which lets you do the game completely wrong to the point where you can't possibly finish the game unless you restart the game from scratch, and no one who values his time is going to do that. Critics love that about games, but as a general consumer, you don't have time to repeat a 10 hour game.

Strangely enough, certain indie games also trigger that reaction for me. Part of it is that if a game relies on me playing for say, 2-3 hours at a go, I rarely get to that point. Which means that if the game expects me to be able to explore and understand the context intuitively, there's no chance that I get sufficient immersion to be able to "get it." Both Fez and Braid are like this for me. In fact, most platformers are. Again, the key to being able to finish platformers is repetition, and if you don't have endless amounts of time, you're just not going to take to them.

Not all indie games are like this. Flower and Journey come to mind as great games that don't require endless amounts of time.

What does that leave you? AAA games. Those have to reach a wide audience, and so have the easier difficulty settings properly play tested. They have high production values, and don't force too much commitment. The Batman Arkham games are a prime example. The same goes for the Uncharted series, or the God of War series, and even Killzone.

Notice something about that list? Yup, it's mostly Sony's development studios that are producing those games. No wonder Microsoft had to tie up the next Tomb Raider as an exclusive: they really don't have anything for busy parents otherwise.

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