Monday, December 17, 2012

A day for Session Play

at 4:13 PM
Really not feeling the energy to grind out a post today. Mayhaps the fog lies heavy on the soul. Allow me to enjoy you with a poem:
the rain falls sad and slow
as I look out my bedroom window
Not much of a poem, was it? More along the lines of a maudlin goth platitude. I'm not even in my bedroom, nor is it raining. I guess true sorrow is always a fabrication.

Let's crack into a new topic. Maybe we can muster the strength just to make a scratch and leave all the hard work for later. I kinda wanted to talk about logical stopping points - those places where the game tells you "set down your controller and power down for a little while". That balloons into a massive subject quickly; the nature of session play and longevity. Strangely, this is one respect where games and books have a lot in common and movies are bumped to the sideline. I read a piece by some dude at some point in the last year or two that you don't need to bother with, because I'm going to summarize it right here. He posed the question: if it takes you the same amount of time to complete Dark Souls or A Tale of Two Cities (or it mighta been War and Peace), shouldn't you come away from each similarly enriched?

The immediate response (and I think I read a companion piece that covered this) is that, well, games are play. They satisfy a completely different desire in our mentality, which would need to be satiated regardless, and which War and Peace can't touch.

I'm not going to tackle this debate head-on because I find it to be, you know, contrived. Frankly I don't give a shit how long it takes to read a book, and regardless, it's my personal observation that books only seem to be effective at a very specific window in an individual's life. As if citing the lame kitchen-sink tomes doesn't discredit the argument immediately. Nonetheless. Part of the fabric of gaming is the understanding that you'll be returning to the same work repeatedly.

A long time ago, this separated games into two categories: those where you could save, and those where you couldn't. Shit, back even further the division was between the games that let you continue and those that reset when you died. These days you can't tell as easily, but the divide is still there. It's something about games to play vs. games to experience. Some games (Sleeping Dogs, Skyrim) draw you back with predictability. You know you're going to get the same beginning-middle-end experience each time you sit down, and each session functions as a game within a game. These games take after Mega Man. The other kind draws you back with unpredictability. You pick up the controller because you want to know what the next giant boss will be or when a train will unexpectedly crash into a helicopter (e.g. Vanquish, El Shaddai). These take after... Alien Soldier? To get arbitrary up in here.

Alright, there's your starter. Gets that topic going.

1 comment:

  1. I started playing Final Fantasy IX because I need breaks between writing papers for finals and it got me thinking on this subject. The distribution of save points in the game seems only tangentially related to amount of time/distance/challenge between them. I have no conception if one of my play sessions will last ten minutes or an hour, making it even harder to justify playing. I maybe get how its supposed to make the game more suspenseful, but it just makes the whole experience needlessly stressful.