The Internet: Changing the Gaming Experience for the Worse

Link Eyes

…the gaming experience was generally mine and mine alone. Or at least, I could pretend it was. It is that feeling that is harder to come by years later.

My earliest experiences with video games were fairly isolated. For the most part I was playing alone or with my brother, mom and some close friends. But that was it. From time to time I would converse with friends about the games I was playing, but the gaming experience was generally mine and mine alone. Or at least, I could pretend it was. It is that feeling that is harder to come by years later.

The internet has helped us make mass strides in expanding global communication, for better and for worse. I appreciate the benefits of how this interconnectedness impacts my life on a daily basis, but I can’t help but miss components of the isolated experiences that are hard to replicate today, as well as miss the part of me that has changed to fit in with this shifting global landscape. There is no specific lesson in this post, just a piece on how gaming and I have changed.

I can’t help but miss components of the isolated experiences that are hard to replicate today, as well as miss the part of me that has changed to fit in with this shifting global landscape.

Why do I play RPGs? This is a complicated question with many answers. I love the story, the characters, the innovations and tweaks on gameplay, the strategies that coalesce and crumble with varying enemies, and I love the challenge. But if I had to put this all into one word, I would say immersion.

It’s the feeling I get when I’m no longer me; when I’m on the Hero’s Journey faced with impossibly daunting tasks and nerve wracking decisions; when I am meeting new friends and enemies by the handful each with their complex skills and motives. It is similar to why many people love sinking their teeth into a good fantasy novel.

Sharing this experience with my brother was always a thrill. We could share ups and downs together, compare strategies and ogle over beautiful moments. Still to this day, even with an ocean apart, we find comfort in our gaming conversations. Having built a similar foundation playing games together, we enjoy hearing each others’ pros and cons, seeing where agreements stand and disagreements arise (hence the gaming blog with him :P). These experiences are and forever will be cherished moments I have built and will continue to build for as long as I am a gamer.

Sharing this experience with my brother was always a thrill. We could share ups and downs together, compare strategies and ogle over beautiful moments.

Isolation helped me foster the personal quest of the imagination. I knew millions of copies of these games were being sold, but in my little world, I went on a unique quest. They were out of sight and out of mind and even when I did think about them, I could convince myself that they had their own unique experience.

Isolation helped me foster the personal quest of the imagination.

But as the internet and gaming in general have grown to encompass vast networks of people, that personal quest seems to fade. These days it is hard to imagine that my “unique” quest has not been treaded numerous times. Between reviews presenting ideas of what to expect, slightly veering us here or there, and guides and forums constantly reminding us that THESE are the best ways of beating this enemy and that dungeon, it’s hard to just play my own game.

These days it is hard to imagine that my “unique” quest has not been treaded numerous times.

It feels like no matter what I do, someone has done it and someone else has judged it. For example, my brother brought up the other day that he was using a specific technique in Final Fantasy XII, and mentioned that later he looked something up and saw that this method was “the thing to do” for a certain boss.

This just creates a lose-lose situation in my mind. Either a once “unique” intelligent tactic is tarnished by being mainstream; it not only becomes judged by all the Robert Frosts out there for taking the road more traveled, but also faces the personal hammer of judgement as the image of “my unique quest” loses its identity. Or the tactics I used are the “wrong” method and led to wasted time and effort. In isolation, this comparison does not exist at all. There is no right or wrong method, there is just the method that I used to bring my team to victory.

In isolation, this comparison does not exist at all. There is no right or wrong method, there is just the method that I used to bring my team to victory.

The omnipresence of walkthroughs and FAQs have also made me somewhat of an impatient gamer. I know people could say “just don’t use them” and that is fine and dandy, but it’s hard… really hard. It’s not just that I look things up from time to time but the gaming experience has shifted because of the existence of guides. Personally, I have begun skipping through more instructional dialog, as a quick lookup online could get me out of any bind that my skimming gets me into.

Additionally, I find that I am becoming less willing to adventure to the corners of the earth (or whatever planet the game is on) to find everything. One of the things that made Suikoden 2 one of my favorite games, was the expansive nature of it; I would check back on places I’d been to, finding new quests and characters. Like accidentally slipping through a forest brush happening on a ninja town, or finding Pesmerga just chillaxin at the back of a cave knowing he is a bamf. I’m sure I would not have had the same experience I did with the game if I was looking up where and when to get certain characters, and it saddens me that I would not be able to put that same completionist effort in today.

I have seen this transformation similarly in my mom. Take her back to her Zork days where she had pages upon pages of self created maps chartering her voyage. Now fast forward to today where she looks up hints whenever she gets stuck.

For example, she did pretty much everything in Ocarina of Time when she played through on the N64, but looked up things like the location of the Poe ghosts and all of the missed Golden Skulltula when she was replaying it for the 3DS. It’s not that I judge people’s decision to do that, it’s merely sad to reminisce on how we used to interact with our games, and how that has changed for me.

It’s not that I judge people’s decision to do that, it’s merely sad to reminisce on how we used to interact with our games, and how that has changed for me.

Also, I feel like games are leaning more and more on the fact that there is a social network of answers. There are less “rumors about the cursed book” or whatever intense side quest is awaiting you through some super intense chain of events, simply because developers know word of mouth is so strong.

Two examples that come to mind are the Zodiac Spear in FFXII and one of the best sets of equipment in Suikoden 4. Both are obscure-to-the-point-of-ridiculous finds that are not even remotely hinted at in the game (to my knowledge). Even worse are instances of this that have storyline consequences, such as the ridiculous measures required to get 100% in Final Fantasy X-2.

Someone is going to be the completionist that young Dylan was, and tell the world about it, so why bother leaving hints; or worse, someone is going to crack the game open and just see what the code says, and then tell the world. Having elements in games that are relevant to the game and are completely random and unhinted at in any way is one of my pet peeves.

Tier lists are another example of how pervasive the internet can be on perception. I’m particularly sensitive to tier lists as a Super Smash Bros. Melee Yoshi player. While I understand that official tier lists are generally a pure ranking based on wins and losses in tournaments, I still can’t help but think that they create a self fulfilling prophecy for the characters.

Again, the very existence of the tiers create a bit of a lose-lose situation; I either play a character that is well treaded, leaving me with many examples to teach myself the mechanics but always being known as just another “Fox player” that maybe plays similarly to this that or the other guy; or I am left with a hefty uphill battle with a character that people have shied away from and there is an “I told you so” waiting at the end of each loss.

There seems to be a strong obsession with ranking in this manner. Even personal tier lists for RPGs exist. I remember looking at a tiered listing of the Final Fantasy VI characters long after I had played the game, and just laughing because the list pretty much took a dump on every character my brother and I used. On this one, I just chuckled and found solace in the road less traveled. I’m fine with people throwing out their opinions in this way, as long as they are not entirely pervasive and judgmental, though this line can be hard to draw.

I’m fine with people throwing out their opinions in this way, as long as they are not entirely pervasive and judgmental, though this line can be hard to draw.

I have always respected the competitive nature of fighting games, FPSs and strategy games, but the progression of gaming in the social networking direction is a sad one in my opinion. There is this growing (and personally, quite frustrating) feeling of keeping up with the Jones’. People are spending hundreds of hours in games with no real goal but to progress and compare themselves with the rest of the world.

People are spending hundreds of hours in games with no real goal but to progress and compare themselves with the rest of the world.

There are always those people who spend far more time than you and perhaps spend some money on a free game to make their land look prettier than yours, or to have some extra achievement. It is a world that is based almost entirely on that comparison aspect. A farm in Farmville means very little if the person next to you has a farm that is twice the size. There is no skill or intellectual attachment and development involved. Someone who has played it for 100 hours is not likely any more introspective of their experience than someone who has played it for 5.

Game after game come out in this realm, just with a different face. This is coming from someone who has played some of these games, both on Facebook and Kongregate. I’m writing a blog about how I’ve learned from games… and honestly I don’t think there is much to learn here. It is a little hard to swallow seeing generation of people that have shunned gamers find some kind of enjoyment in this realm of gaming, especially when they often think of themselves as the Sneetches with stars on their bellies because they aren’t geeks that play the more hardcore games.

It is a little hard to swallow seeing generation of people that have shunned gamers find some kind of enjoyment in this realm of gaming, especially when they often think of themselves as the Sneetches with stars on their bellies because they aren’t geeks that play the more hardcore games.

Anyways, that was an intense rant about my opinions on some of the negative impacts of the evolution of technology and gaming. I’m not generally a ranter so please read the counterpoint piece that will be up on Monday, where I hopefully bring some balance to this issue. I will consider the many benefits of how interconnectedness has made gaming a greater experience, so until then, let me know how you feel about some of these negatives. Has the mere existence of the mass communications made it harder to find a “unique” experience? Hold off on the positive (of which there are many) aspects of globalization on gaming for now.

Thanks and be sure to revisit the discussion in the next post. But until then, game on and learn on!

~Dylan

12 thoughts on “The Internet: Changing the Gaming Experience for the Worse

  1. A Voice

    There’s a lot that I want to say in respect to this. Too much, I think. When I am able to pare things down to the essentials I will comment again.

    Reply
    1. connorbros Post author

      Mysterious! I eagerly await what you have to say (whether it be approval, lambasting or somewhere in between haha). Hope you check out the post on monday too. I’m not entirely one sided on this debate.

      Reply
      1. A Voice

        I’ll pare my thoughts down to two things that the internet has done to change gaming for the worse: a disturbing acceptance of more and more buggy games and a disturbing acceptance of negative behaviour.

        In respect to buggy games, we’ve always had them and this cannot be denied. However, with the advent of relatively inexpensive and ubiquitous broadband connexions, we’ve see a sharp increase in video game patching -even on consoles. I’d say this started between 2000-2004. Before this time, games truly needed to be as bug-free as possible because there was no real way to make sure that people could access a patch/fix with ease. Now even console games are released with a plethora of bugs and, at least but certainly not only, because patches could be deployed with great speed. Development has become remarkably sloppy.

        In respect to negative behaviour, people truly act the way they want to act in the absence of societal sanctions. There are very few societal sanctions when playing online games and people recognise this, even if only unconsciously. What we see are more and more people choosing to act like a ‘troll’ and as though the interactions that they are having are not with real people, that their behaviour doesn’t affect real people. Why does this take place….I don’t know, I just see the effects and recognise that the absence of real societal sanctions participates in this. I mean, when you have a company like Riot issuing what they call ‘permabans’ but they only affect the account, not the person using the account, we see that even what we can call ‘leadership’ accepts this behaviour.

        The arguments that I have are much more nuanced than this, but for the purposes of a comment I’d like to leave it at this. Your thoughts are welcome and, with that in mind, I’d like to direct you to my ‘The Disaffected Gamer’ series of posts on my site.

      2. connorbros Post author

        Thanks for the comments. I will definitely check out The Disaffected Gamer when I get a chance.

        You make some great points. I think the first one you talked about is likely caused by a lot of pressures. I’m not in the business so I can’t really say for sure, but I feel like games have become vastly more complex (and expensive), and the quickening pace of society and that increased interaction between the producer and the consumer has made people overly impatient. This combined with the patch fallback plan has led to an increase in incomplete/rough around the edges releases.

        The second is so true and is such a sad degradation of a society. I don’t even play games online too often but the kinds of stories I hear about how people act and what people say is beyond ridiculous. It’s pretty true of the anonymity provided by the internet in general. Things that could very easily be a logical, point-counterpoint debate in person just instantly become flame wars of ignorance and hatred.

        ~Dylan

  2. diceinabox

    Really enjoyed this article and I particularly agree with your opinion of tier lists. I experienced something similar playing Pokemon. Players complaining because a character is over-powered or from a higher tier frustrates me. ‘Back in the day’ before I had Internet access I could happily use whichever characters I enjoyed using (without being a bully of course) and I felt like it was making my own choices instead of following a popularized strategy or conforming to some unofficial rule book. The amount of over-analysis in gaming blows my mind!

    Reply
    1. connorbros Post author

      Thanks for the comment! And I have definitely felt this with Pokemon. I played all of them up through Black/White. Haven’t gotten around to B&W 1 and 2 yet. I always played them in a chill manner, just getting through the game, leveling the Pokemon I liked, with little attention to stats… but my brother got into higher level training with breeding, nature, IV and EV considerations. And when the stats and move lists and matchups are so data mined certain concepts pop out… like Pokemon A is strictly worse than Pokemon B or, Pokemon C only works well with one of these 3 move sets and it’s a waste to do anything different. And it can easily taint the experience of using an “inferior” Pokemon or the like.

      ~Dylan

      Reply
  3. feelingblind

    Sometimes looking up too much information ruins the game. There is something to be said for exploring and figuring things our for yourself, and for the most part it’s possible. I know sometimes developers don’t do the best job at teaching the player what to do, so there are time when you’ll look something up and be astonished that you were somehow suppose to figure that out on your own.

    Reply
    1. connorbros Post author

      Thanks for posting again! I totally agree. Guides can be helpful or detrimental. Hopefully we can find a balance and use them to make the most out of our gaming experience.

      ~Dylan

      Reply
  4. Sootopolis

    “Having elements in games that are relevant to the game and are completely random and unhinted at in any way is one of my pet peeves.”

    Your comment here really resonated with me. One of the (many) games I’m playing atm is Tales of the Abyss on 3DS. A friend started playing it too and mentioned a side quest he’d read of in a guide. I don’t use guides and I’d totally missed that side quest because initiating it was so utterly random there was no way to know of its existence!

    You have to be in a certain town and fire at a certain notice board until a particular NPC appears and talks you into taking on a side quest for him. Like wth. Even firing at that notice board is bizarre because you have to be standing at a particular angle for it to work in the first place, and it takes many, many tries, and much questioning of your sanity, before it actually works. Being the completionist that I am, I backtracked to that town just for that, anyway.

    Reply
    1. connorbros Post author

      Thanks for commenting! It can be so frustrating! I actually never beat Tales of the Abyss… Dust and I tried to do a marathon of it when he was in town, but didn’t have enough time to finish it sadly 😦 … same thing with Valkyrie Profile 2. He finished both of them eventually though. But yeah, I love the Tales games but they have some super random side quests, and I can think of at least 2 missable quests in Tales of the Abyss (if I remember correctly)… those are always frustrating! And points of no return always make me cry (damn you Golden Sun!). I saw a used Tales of the Abyss for the 3DS at the store yesterday and almost picked it up. Maybe next time.

      ~Dylan

      Reply
      1. Sootopolis

        Ah, Valkyrie Profile 2…You did better than me, at least you started it XD….It’s one of many, many games on my To Play list, even though I bought it way back when first released. Same with Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age. So many games, so little time 😦

        I really recommend Tales of the Abyss though, despite its frustrations, it’s so much fun! I’m a big fan of the Tales series and wish more would get localized (Symphonia on GameCube is my all time fave but since I don’t tend to use guides I must have missed tons of stuff. I’m almost too scared to find out). From what I’ve heard, Abyss is already pretty hard to find in a lot of places. It’s worth buying before the price skyrockets.

      2. connorbros Post author

        Yeah all the Tales have been awesome. I didn’t get too much into Tales of Destiny, but Dust and I played ToD2 a ton and we have been hooked ever since! Symphonia was amazing and I really loved Abyss from what I played… I played like 7/8ths of it or something, we just never got to finish it together. I think we played the last boss when I visited him last year though. We played through some of Graces too. I just don’t have anyone around me who will play through them with me and the multiplayer experience was what solidified the Tales games as epic so it’s hard for me to get super pumped about them. I know Dust and his girlfriend can’t wait for Xillia.

        ~Dylan

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