Okay, we are almost done with this series on fit. If you haven’t been reading, go check them out before reading on. If you have been reading, I’m glad that you are sticking with me here. Last time we touched on understanding the specific elements of fit and accepting how different these elements can be for different people. So now the final question: how do we leverage this understanding?
That Doesn’t Fit! What I, You, and the Designer Can do About it
So how have I leveraged this knowledge of fit in my gaming experience and how can I leverage it in my life on a day-to-day basis? At a bird’s eye level I have simply avoided games that I believe won’t be a good fit for me like, Tekken and Street Fighter, for the reasons I mentioned previously. In some sense or another we all do this with the genres and specific cases we choose, in literature, movies, and games, but there’s a fine line between ‘comfort zone’ and using the knowledge of yourself and what ‘fits’ to craft the best experiences.
…there’s a fine line between ‘comfort zone’ and using the knowledge of yourself and what ‘fits’ to craft the best experiences. I think it’s often easy to go with a comfort zone feeling, but fall back on the justification of ‘I know what I like’.
I think it’s often easy to go with a comfort zone feeling, but fall back on the justification of ‘I know what I like’. On the other hand, by being aware of the value of understanding the feeling of ‘fit’, and deciding when you want to consume some media that ‘fits’ or when you want to explore different aspects of fit, then it’s easier to take control of those choices.
Looking through a more magnified lens, developing a working understanding of fit has taught me multiple things. It has made me a more patient gamer in considering my characters, for example. The understanding that functionality and fluidity generally trump visual aesthetics and other characteristics implies that I should be careful of judging a book by its cover. If at first glance a character does not appeal to me, I should recognize that if the character plays correctly, that is what really matters.
Take Arakune for example. He wasn’t my first, second… or tenth pick necessarily (though my love of Shino in Naruto may suggest an inkling towards insect infested characters) but I learned to love the concept, visuals and background after attaching myself to the functional aspects of playing with him.
Sometimes playing to my fit in a game means accepting the evolving nature of fit and not forcing things that at one point didn’t need to be forced.
For example I have often struggled with, but am recently coming to grips with the fact that a world that beckons endless exploration is just not as exciting to me as it used to be. With this in mind I have started to ask if I’m doing something because it is what I want to do, or because it is what I think I want to do based on an image of what once fit, which I have not mentally updated.
Let me take a quick detour to address what a designer can do to cater to this fit issue. I’m stepping on my brother’s shoes here a little but it feels like it “fits” so well in this article I just need to mention it (cue lame pun drum roll). I urge you to check out his posts on Deus Ex for a detailed conversation on this, but here is my quick two cents.
Often game designers can create mechanisms that reward the gamer in ways that help the gamer create their own fit. For example, when I played Kingdom Hearts 3D on hard, only 5 trophies were required for the best ending, even though a plethora of trophies are available. If the player would rather invest time in killing monsters there are numerous trophies for that, just as there are numerous trophies for building relationships with the pets in the game.
In Kingdom Hearts Re:coded there are several ways to shift the difficulty experience on the fly, if challenge is a large part of how the gamer classifies their “fit”. Some games may even try to change genres based on what the gamer is looking for (*cough cough* WILA: Deus Ex).
Understanding the aspects of life that are a strong fit for myself has been a great way to keep motivation high towards certain activities and grasping what is holding me back in others. These fit preferences pop up everywhere in life.
For example, I know people that love to run outside on a track or on a trail, but I always get the best aerobic exercise at a gym treadmill. For a long time I convinced myself that I would be motivated to run outside but rarely brought myself to actually do so. By acknowledging my preference towards a treadmill, I have stopped wasting effort on creating plans to run with my roommate and backing out.
Another good example of a time in my life when I did not consider the value of this fit was when I played the violin at a young age. The school I went to in third and fourth grade had all students learning Suzuki method. When I moved to another school in fifth grade we were taught a different style, and I began to lose interest.
At a young age, it never occurred to me that the style I was learning might have a grand impact on my preferences towards the instrument; I was quite convinced that I had simply lost interest in the instrument and should move on, but looking back I am quite certain that the shift in methodology left me in a place of lackadaisical complacence which was not enough to stick with the rigorous training.
These are simple examples, but illustrate just some of the many ways reconciling and understanding fit can aid in day-to-day choices as well as more long term decisions.
Perhaps one of the most relevant discussion points in this space is where one chooses to attend university. I was a BBA and Applied Math BS student at Emory University. One of the Emory questions I got that was clearly trying to hide the fit question was: other than the weather, the academic prestige, the diversity, the (insert any reason you could possibly want to go to Emory), why do you want to come to Emory? I’m pretty sure, “Um… fit?” was everyone’s answer.
I can’t necessarily look back at any of the anecdotes above and pick out an example that perfectly relates to me choosing Emory, but I can look back and thank my introspection around gaming for helping me take fit seriously. I am a stats person so it was hard to break through the barrier telling me that the school with the best numbers is the best pick.
Yesterday I saw a list of school rankings putting Emory behind the other three schools I was highly considering attending (though I’m sure that rank varies list to list, department by department) and did not for a moment have a blink of remorse. Statistics and ratings can never perfectly capture the value of fit.
Statistics and ratings can never perfectly capture the value of fit.
For example, I loved every Megaman Battle Network, even as their ratings went to hell for lack of originality, because the game style was perfect for me and it had the additional bonus of being a summer go-to for my brother and I.
Who knows if I would have had the feeling of fit in any or all of those other schools, but what I do know is I found it at Emory. That simple feeling of knowing I am in the right place from the smiles that surround me, to the teachers I conversed with and even to the intense math test allnighters. I know people that never found fit in many aspects of college and it is always hard to hear their stories of struggle.
So that’s it from me for now. I’m sure I could go on all day about the times certain activities fit me perfectly or other times when I was forced to muddle through a period of complacency, but I’d rather hear from you. Let’s open the floor to any and all fit stories and thoughts.
Let me know how you consider this fit versus complacency duality. Does it play a large role in how you choose A from B or interact with tasks in general? What about education or occupation, have you had to balance fit with practicality or has this not been much of an issue?
Thanks as always, and til next time, game on and learn on!