Friday, July 15, 2011

Do All Kids Play Video Games Like This?

Cracked has an article today called the 5 Crucial Lessons Learned By Watching Kids Play Video Games, and it got me to thinking about my own experiences playing games as a kid and an adult... because I've played games for over 25 years now, and I have seen some of these changes happen over time. I am not really going to reiterate what John Cheese has said, rather I am just going to comment on the 5 things he discussed.

1. They Don't Tolerate Losing. You know, I don't mind dying in a game if it is a learning experience, even if that death ends the entire game for me (like Way of the Samurai, which was literally one life and it deleted your save file too). I can deal with difficulty based on the gameplay dynamic. No, the thing I discovered as an adult that I can no longer tolerate is chinzy, cheap puzzles. You know, the kind of puzzle or quest to find an item or whatever that requires pixel precision or advanced knowledge of an area you are visiting for the first time... the kind of stuff that is unintuitive and designed specifically to stretch out a game. I will give one of these missions/puzzles only so much of my time before I look up the solution in text form or on Youtube, because with so many other things I could be doing, or even so many other games I could be playing, spending unproductive time solving an arbitrary puzzle isn't worth it. I just want to get to the next thing in the game.

2. They Have No Tolerance for "Grinding" I remember back in my SNES days playing Final Fantasy IV, and there was a particular sidequest where you had to climb a tower and fight a boss to get a special item. Well, there was an easy way you could win by using a particular combination of spells. I didn't know that at the time. So I just kept playing the game and building up my levels until I could take whatever that boss was going to dish out and survive long enough to kill it. And this was not some isolated incident... I mean, I did stuff like that recently in both Disgaea and Persona 3 FES. But then I hear stories about games that discourage you from grinding by either making your enemies level up with you (and gain additional skills which will make them much harder) or they keep decreasing the amount of experience you get for killing them (Borderlands does this). Don't get me wrong... I don't enjoy grinding, but at times it is a necessary evil in a role playing game. It is something I am willing to put up with in moderation.

3. If They Want to Read, They'll Buy a F'ing Book You know, I was all set to disagree with this point. Then I thought about the sidequests I've been playing in the aforementioned Borderlands and I realized that while I wasn't pushing a button to skip through a lot of text, I was just looking at what a quest entailed and not reading the backstory or the in-game, in-character reason why I was doing something. But I think this is something that I've only recently started doing in games, since I used to be married to lots of text and narrative in a game. And I don't mind reading information in a game at all. I mean, I spent 4 months at the beginning of the year playing a game that was predicated on just looking at lots of numbers and making decisions based on your interpretation of them. But I do think that lots of reading may be a thing that is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in most games.

4. They Press "Y" to Skip, as Fast as They Can I think I might be in the minority here but generally the first time I am going to see a cutscene, I watch the whole thing. On subsequent playthroughs, I may skip it, but when I am playing a game which a narrative, I sort of want to see how things play out in the cutscenes, even if they take forever to watch. It is part of the overall experience for me, so even the bad ones are still worth watching in my opinion. Like I said, I know others might not agree with that, but that's how I play things. I can see how to some people if you aren't actively participating in the action, then you aren't really playing a game, but I think of cinematics as part of the grander experience. I don't think they are going to go away for a while.

5. Don't Like it? Break It. I have been known to go full psycho with tweaks and cheats in a sandbox. But I never save whatever I am doing... I just use those kinds of codes when I am blowing off some steam outside of the game's larger narrative. But I generally don't cheat in the way the author discusses when I am playing for keeps. Cheats are for fun in my eyes, not plowing through games. If I wanted a tank in GTA:SA to have, well, I'd steal it. If I wanted one just to see what would happen if I drove it off the top of a mountain, then I'd spawn one. I do like exploring how far you can go within a game's programming, with and without cheats, it's true. But I too find myself on the goal-oriented side of things.

Now the thing I am wondering is if I am going to notice my niece doing the same kinds of things when she gets older. She already plays games on the DS/PSP at age 4, so her skipping a wall of text is understandable. However, are those activities something that all kids are doing or just the author's?

And has anyone else who played games as a kid and adult noticed some of these shifts in the medium?


Semaj said...

1. Couldn't agree more. It gets worst with the online gamers. especially when they blame you for their loss.

2. Yep, I can't count how many hours I spent grinding on FF7. I kind of wish I didn't do as much, come to think about it.

5. I am guilty of number 5. I love cheat codes for GTA. But only to fool around the city. (like seeing how many cops I can get to attack me or put on the riot code)

I don't use it to beat the games though

MC said...

For two, I think of Persona 3, as I "studied" a lot for that final exam.