…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!