One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics has to do with the idea that every man has a price. Calvin says that his price is two bucks cold cash up front, to which Hobbes muses aloud that he’s not sure what’s worse: that everyone has his price, or that the price is sometimes so low. What’s funny is that the more I think about it, the more this is actually true in gaming, too. Everyone’s got a price in terms of what they want from a game. And while the Bill Watterson comic touched on this in a more sinister way with morality, I think it’s what actually helps us enjoy games overall.
These thoughts started brewing in my head after an excellent piece over on Unwinnable, titled, Bullshit Vs. The Thing You’re After. In it, the author touches on every gamer’s price and what it is that makes gamers tick. And I think I totally agree.
Basically, the hypothesis is that every gamer is after something. Whether it’s a particular character design, character type, weapons system, level up perk, shooting style, football player recruitment, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the thing we’re after as gamers. It differs from person to person. The idea is that once you get the thing you’re after, every other aspect of the game – design, story, pacing – all that becomes bullshit that distracts you from what you were after to begin with.
This is why we can play some games and be bored to tears by a story but be enthralled by another, similar story. It’s the reason why we’ll excuse bugs in some games and crucify other games that have them. If the game has that intangible thing, if it pays our price, then we’ll take any other issue that it’s got on the cheek.
When I think about it, I’m totally forgiving of some of the crazy glitchiness I’ve found in Western RPGs such as Skyrim or Mass Effect. Yet, if I were to encounter those bugs in a shooter, that’d be Game Over, day one. That’s because Western RPGs tend to circle closer to what I want than most shooters. It’s why when a shooter is terrible polished, I stand up and take notice. I’m the same kind of forgiving with other things, too. The Halo series, for one. I’m a fanboy. I’ll excuse almost any lame story thing it tends to throw at me because I love the golden triangle of melee, grenade and shooting that it’s established. Call me crazy, but it scratches the right spot.
Perhaps this is the same reason that I was so hard on Uncharted 3 when I played it, or even Final Fantasy XIII. Likewise, I can see why some people excuse some of the huge flaws in those games, for the same reason. If they have that thing that you’re after – nothing else matters. Not the silly story, or the aiming issues, or the pacing. It all falls to the wayside for the sake of the game.
And honestly, this is how reviews can simultaneously be maddening and helpful at the same time. If you really dig into what reviewers are saying when they talk about games they’ve played, you can find nuggets of the things that matter to you. Talking about reticules, screen lag, character design, soundtracks, sometimes it all gets so mired down in crap that I don’t care about that it drives me nuts to read video game reviews. What I want to know is does it hit that spot? That one that I’ve been searching for.
So, I guess I’ve rambled about all of that to ask you guys a question: what is that thing you’re after when you play video games? What games hit you right where it counts, so much to the point that you’re willing to overlook flaws, bugs, glitches and glaring problems? What games do you find it hard to forgive?
Source – Unwinnable