Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Killing time - not what games are for, revisited

at 3:33 PM
To make an example here, I'm going to describe an in-game scenario from two different player perspectives. You can guess the identity of the player - it might even be one of your favorite celebrities! The game in question is Sleeping Dogs.

Player 1 says: The world of Sleeping Dogs is rambunctiously engaging, full of micro-challenges that make every second extend and keep me coming back for more. Whether it's street-racing, cock-fighting, drug-busting, or hypen-ating, there's always some objective to drive away to, and while I'm driving, test my own speed-run!

Player 2 says: Sleeping Dogs is full of filler content to pad the game length, milking each gameplay variant to the last drop to keep me occupied with anything but moving forward. Where are the interactive cutscenes and huge boss battles?

Time for the big reveal. Take off those blindfolds! Player 1 is a teenager or someone who is paid to play games for a living; player 2 is every single other person in the world.

Okay, I'm being a drama queen here to make a point. It's not that bad, and Sleeping Dogs is nowhere near the original sinner. The point is that there are two kinds of games. Or actually there's a wide spectrum of games, a spectrum with some identifiable focal points. These can somewhat vaguely be qualified as games for playing and games for experiencing.

Games for playing are like toys, sports, or hobbies. It's almost unnecessary to mention that sports games, party games, competitive FPSs (Modern Warfare) and RTSs (StarCraft), and MMOs fall into this category. I'm not maliciously trivializing those genres - I'm just not going to talk about them here. So what ELSE is a game for playing? Dark Souls is, that's for sure. Skyrim too. Mario, right? And even Zelda.

Wait on a second there, we're moving to fast. You've taken almost every game ever and thrown it into a category. Categories aren't good. They suggest predictability, inflexibility. If all those games are just for playing, are you gonna try to tell me that only story-driven games are for experiencing? That's totally lame. Not only is that not a new observation, but it's siding dangerously close to the "video games aren't art" crowd.

No, story isn't the element of the game you experience - or at least it isn't always. The distinguishing characteristic we're talking about here is still gameplay. Something about Ninja Gaiden teaching you about the fragility of life and Mega Man X exploring how a one expands oneself. OOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhh that reminds me that I didn't do the #1 platformer. Alright, I'll get back to this discussion later. Remember when I revisited Will Smith?


  1. I think this is a stupid dichotomy and when im on a real computer and not in class ill write a blog to respond.

  2. Go for bro

    I hate this post as well