Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 3, 2019

Email: Not playing unfun games

You make a great point about not playing games if they are not fun. A few years ago I started playing Ocarina of Time again and I quit during the Forest Temple. The game just isn’t fun, but it has the reputation of being one of the best games ever. There is this sort of mentality that you *have* to play through it at least once, but I don’t care. Who am I trying to prove something by playing a game I’m not enjoying?

Recently my brother told me he was playing Ocarina as well, and his reaction was the same as mine: he was not having fun. I just told him to stop playing if he didn’t like it. So you haven’t played this “obligatory” game? Who cares.

I think this idea of playing games to completion comes from how expensive games are, especially if you are young and can only get one or two games per year at most. You spent 60$ on this game and you aren’t getting a new one anytime soon, so you better damn well play it and you are going to like it. I played through all of Wind Waker back in the day, because this was the game I had spent 200$ on (you have to count in the cost of the console as well). Of course Wind Waker was a great game, or at least that’s what I had convinced myself of. Today of course I have access to many more games that I would rather play any time over Wind Waker.

When Final Fantasy XIII came out people were saying “it gets good 20 hours in, when the world opens up”. Seriously, twenty hours? You could beat several games which are fun from start to finish in that time. But of course if you spent 60$ after years of hype, and perhaps bought a console just for it, then you will suck up those 20 hours and you are going to like it.

This is why I have come to like “arcade-type” games. You turn it on, play as far as you can get before running out of continues and that’s it. Then you come back later and you perhaps make it a bit further than the last time. You keep chipping away at it bit by bit, and maybe some day you will beat it, but probably not. And that’s still fine, because the fun comes from playing the game, not from hitting the goal by spinning the hamster wheel long enough. I think games like the NES Zeldas hit a really nice sweet spot, they have a goal to complete, but it is still about the journey, not the destination. It is just more satisfying to hit an end goal than to have the same level on endless repeat.

I think the ‘Keep playing for X amount of hours, and you will like it…’ is certainly driving much of this.

The origin of ‘play for X amount of hours’ has to do with understanding the gameplay. Once you click with the gameplay, then the game becomes ‘fun’. The problem wasn’t the ‘game’, it was just you understanding the ‘game’. An example would be a young person playing Super Mario Brothers for the first time. They die to the first goomba. They want to quit the game. I say, “Keep playing.” Then they discover how to ‘jump’. Then, Super Mario Brothers makes more sense and the game becomes realized.

However, this is not the situation that is going on with most games. All games are written like RPGs these days where they hope you get invested in the characters and story so you want to play through to see what happens. Of course, this is not how RPGs actually are (and have been co-opted to mean ‘Cinematic Games’ instead.. i.e. “This game has giant shitty story because developers suck at making novel gameplay…”).

From the 8-bit/16-bit era, a rental was long enough to know whether a game was ‘fun’ or ‘not’.

Today? I’d give a game an hour or two. That is demo time. Some might be even harsher and demand only 15 minutes. However, this ‘play for 30 hours and then the game gets good’ shit needs to stop. Final Fantasy 6, in its entirety, was 30 hours!

“Gamers are older, today, Malstrom,” sniffs the Hardcore Gamer. “They don’t have time to replay games.”

Yet, they have time to play games, they don’t like, for dozens of hours because the Internet Gaming Forum told them to do so. No, the reason why they have huge backlogs is because they have more spending money and keep buying shitty games ‘because the Internet told them to do so’.

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