As I sit here waiting for my new game, I find myself feeling the way I always, I mean always, feel before I get a new game. Excited, sure, but also something totally specific to gaming:
Scared. Ok, my name’s Butch… nervous. We’ll go with nervous.
Not that it’ll be scary. I don’t fear clickers or whatever they’re called. But that I won’t be able to play it. That I’ll hit a wall.
Totally gaming specific. Never worried that I won’t be able to sit and watch a movie, or that I won’t be able to read a book, or hear music.
But there’s always this ambient “Will I be able to enjoy all of this?” with gaming. Or it’s just me. Is it just me?
I have a couple of different angles on the topic.
First, I used to feel that way all the time with a new game, especially if it was a new style of game (like when I played BioShock, and had never played a shooter before). “Will I be able to play this one? Will this be the time I suck so badly I just have to give up?”
I think this was partly because I came to video games well into adulthood, and my admittedly stereotypical image of “people who play video games” did not include “me”: partly because I’m not a dude, but also because I’m not someone who grew up playing them, or had decades of past experience to hone my skills and stuff. As a result, I felt like I was kind of just faking it.
I’m too old! I’m too slow! I’m a grown woman! I can’t actually PLAY video games, and sooner or later I will come across the game that proves this by completely repelling my attempts to make any progress at it, and then I will have to admit that I suck and have no business even purchasing games and installing them and interacting with them via defined controller techniques as laid out in the instructional sequences.
Imposter Syndrome! It shows up everywhere.
This will most likely not be the source of your own nervousness, though.
The other angle is that I think I also used to imagine that all games were basically out to defeat players–that players were in competition with games. Obviously, games will be designed to make you fail! Fail!!! FAIL!!!
And I’m sure some games are really like that (“we aim to drive out 95% of people who try to play this game”–somebody’s barely-conceivable marketing strategy), but I now feel more as if, at least with the games I play, they’re more out to collaborate with players in telling some story.
While tormenting them along the way with fiendish challenges, of course. That’s just good wholesome fun. So there’s still that edge of “can I do this?” but I think it’s more like stage fright. Maybe this is more like what you experience?
Because you’re right, we’re not nervous about being able to sit and watch a movie, or read a book, but we don’t have to perform anything for that to happen. If we had to read every book aloud to experience it, even if we were only reading it to a computer, maybe we’d be a little nervous about that, too.
“I’ve got allergies right now: is my voice too hoarse? Am I going to be able to pronounce all these words?”
I think a touch of stage fright is reasonable with a new game.
“What button-actions am I going to need here? Am I going to be able to hit all those QTEs?”
And then we get into it, and get our game-fingers on, and it works out. And even if we DO come across the game that totally defeats us, the one against which we can make no progress whatsoever, we rationally conclude that this game is stupid and we didn’t want to play it anyway, and also those grapes that came with it are probably sour.
Ha. But really, we would probably figure that it was just design. I mean, some things I DO totally suck at. Certain mechanics are more difficult for me, and others are easier. But so far, I can work around my weaknesses and still play the games I want to play, and it’s cool.
Stage fright, though. That’s what I’m going with.
Stage fright. I like that. Doubting your obvious skills.
Also interesting the “game is out to beat you” mentality. See, I did not wait until adulthood to get into gaming. I started in arcades, and there they WERE trying to beat you. The more you died, the more quarters you fed the machine. It was in their interest to beat you, but to beat you in a way that you felt (often erroneously) that you could win. Sort of like slot machines. They give you just enough of a payout to keep you coming back, with roll after roll of quarters.
So maybe that’s still ingrained in me. That, despite the knowledge that the game costs 50 bucks whether I die a thousand times or never, there’s this “it wants more” mindset buried deep in my head.
Ah, I was going to put in something about how “maybe arcade games were more about players being in competition with the game,” but then I thought “am I stereotyping arcade games? I shouldn’t assume.”
I never played them, but it does seem like the motivation there is different: they ARE in competition with you, over your money, though in an interesting way where they don’t actually want to defeat you so thoroughly that you give up, but instead want to allow you to make progress so slowly that it costs you the maximum amount to complete the game.
I like your slot machine analogy: there does seem to be a lot of similarity there, in that these are machines designed to entice you to continue putting money into them, using hope and small rewards to keep you trying for the big payout (which with arcades games is either “at least achievable with enough work” or “doesn’t even involve returning any of your money,” depending on whether you want to spin it positively or negatively).
Is this related to the term “beating the game,” which you sometimes hear? I never played arcade games, and I never say “I beat X game,” I always say “I finished X game.” Perhaps because I started my gaming career in the magical era of being able to reload as often as you want at no extra charge: I have the luxury of viewing my game as something to be experienced at my leisure because I already own the disc, so I don’t consider myself to have defeated it, only progressed to the conclusion.
I never knew of an arcade game you could “beat” or “finish” the way we think about it. They just went and went, and you racked up points. The motivation was usually they had “high score” lists. You got a top ten score, you got to enter your initials in to be preserved for all time. Of course, sooner or later someone would best you, probably by spending a ton of quarters, to off you went to get more quarters to try and try again to get that spot back. So you were really fighting each other.
Maybe that’s where the “I have 27 platinum trophies” mentality comes from. Some need to have your metaphorical initials engraved somewhere. The need to be better.
But you never actually “finished.” The ghosts always ate pac man in the end, the space invaders always got to the bottom eventually. So it was infinite. There were always more baddies to kill or dots to eat, and you were always against the other guy.
Good point about not really being able to “beat” games that are really about staving off defeat for as long as possible. I did play Tetris in college…the lure of the high score is strong. And the lure of slowly edging everyone else’s initials off the board. Take that, people who played this game before me!
So maybe “beating the game” comes from the glee of finally having a game you can actually finish, combined with the arcade-born sense that the game is out to get you: there IS an end-goal, and after a bitter struggle with the game, you can actually reach it. Hence, I DEFEATED that game, damn it!
Where again, from my standpoint in the luxurious age of saved games and free reloads, I’m able to feel that as a general rule I’m not fighting the game, just working my way through it.
Although it does sort of depend on the game…I may certainly be bitterly fighting specific fiendish challenges within the game (thank you giant robot in Remember Me). So, there are definitely some times when I hate the game with a fiery passion, and carry on through sheer determination not to let the damn thing win, which is pretty competitive.
This is kind of rare for me, though, and I think even when it’s there, it’s more like an episode in a tempestuous relationship, than an ongoing war. I remain aware of the things that I like about the game, and that keeps me going through the tough times. I didn’t slog through Remember Me just because I didn’t want it to defeat me: I slogged through it because I actually wanted to know what happened.
[Tetris is a good] example. Now imagine feeding that quarters. That’s what you missed, arcadewise.
You know, now that I think about it, they weren’t all that great…..
Some people go in for that [out-to-defeat-you level of challenge]. Dark Souls, for example. I mean, the collector’s set was called the “Prepare to Die” edition, which kind of talked me out of it, but respect to those that like that sort of thing.
Let ’em call us casuals! I don’t care.
Is [not letting a challenge defeat you] your motivation? Cuz mine is a) finding out what the ending is and b) getting my money’s worth by finishing it. I very rarely feel triumph when I get past a part like that. I feel relief.
LA Noire even had a feature where if you just kept dying over and over and over you could just skip the bit and move on with the story (such as it was). I did that once (the bulldozer bit). I don’t know how I feel about that feature. At the time I liked it, but now….. I dunno.
Yeah, I suppose I can see the appeal of fiercely battling a game for hours and hours and finally, triumphantly grinding it into defeat, if you’re into that sort of thing. That’s not really MY thing (call me casual, indeed), but whatever.
Like you, I tend to feel less triumphant than relieved at finally getting past some hideous thing that’s been stalling me for ages.
Was I happy to finally defeat that giant robot? No. Glad it was over, sure, but not ‘happy.’ More like still irritated that it took so freakin’ long.
“Let’s move on and never speak of this again” would be closer to my feelings than “woohoo I finally destroyed that evil bastard!”
But to those who really want the hard core challenge, who take no satisfaction in a victory unless it comes at maximum difficulty settings and after an exhausting struggle, I say more power to you, and have fun with that. I respect your determination.
Me, I’ll stick to my Normal difficulty and my games where I can pretend we all just want me to have a good time.
Good thing there are all sorts of games and all sorts of difficulty levels, huh?
Play how you want.
Yup. Especially when the mental challenge isn’t equal to the physical one. Take that last ogre thingy in TR. I got what I had to do fairly early. But then I had to do it. And do it. And do it. I wanted to say to the ogre “Look, you and I both know that I’m onto you, and you and I both know that, eventually, I will win and you will die, so can we just cut to that point, please?” So when the thing died, there was no “Aha! That’s it.” Because that moment was ten irritating minutes proir.
Play how you want indeed. And don’t be ashamed when you turn it down to easy. And no, I’m no casual. Take that, internet.
I think that’s a lot of it…the frustration of knowing what you need to do and just having to struggle with timing to actually do it is a whole different challenge from trying to figure out what it is you have to do. It gets tiresome having to try over and over and over to jump here, hit there, shoot that in a sequence you know already.
And then, when you actually get to the point you knew all along you would get to eventually, it’s more like “finally!” than “hooray!”
The ones where you don’t know what to do, and you try a lot of things to see what happens…then even if it’s a long time coming the victory has that “aha!” feeling–so THAT’s the secret!
Although I suppose it’s no surprise that us old folks with our slowing reflexes will naturally gravitate towards the mental challenges as opposed to the ones that require us to react with lightning button speed.
Look, internet, we’re not CASUAL: we’re OLD. So there.
Yup. Dodge, turn at it’s back SHOOT IT’S RED no it isn’t. Swear. Repeat.
I think that may be why I tend towards RPGs. Big, epic, tactical fights have more of that. In DA, you never say “ok, I have to push the button…. NOW” you just figure it out. Or puzzle games like Portal. Same thing.
The swearing and repeating really gets to one after a while. I mean, there are only so many expletives.