GamerSushi Asks: What Are You After?

Calvin and HobbesOne 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.

Mass Effect

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

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

7 thoughts on “GamerSushi Asks: What Are You After?”

  1. I want a world I can lose myself in. I want a universe that feels larger than just the story I’m playing. I want characters I can relate to, that feel real. Games like Mass Effect, Skyrim and Xenoblade have all done that recently. I can’t really define it any better than that, but when I play those games, I just feel lost in the experience.

    The other side of that coin are games like the Call of Duty’s where it feels like there’s really no point to shooting a bunch of faceless bad guys. There’s no effects on the world at large. Sure you save the world like in any other game but it just doesn’t feel the same.

    I guess that’s what it all comes down to, how the game feels

  2. I’ve thought about this a lot, and it’s hard to really put words to it. There are game that after playing them for a few hours, when I go to bed and shut my eyes they keep going. My friends and I used to call it “Tetris vision”, because it always happened after Tetris (still did last year when I played it on Wii with my roomates). It also happened with Minecraft. And with more “hardcore” games like Skyrim and Fallout 3.

    I don’t know what it is exactly. I just know after the first few hours of a game, this post-playing effect happens to me that it will go down in my history books as a great game, even if by all accounts and reviews it was a flop or not the best. Just does something to my brain.

  3. I agree that knowing one’s “Price” is beneficial for gamers, reviewers, and developers. Games are meant to entertain, so they need to be effective in how they satiate our expectations and demands from games.

    I think the biggest litmus test of my “Price” as a gamer was the difference between Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2.
    In AC1, I loved the simplicity of the game, and the Free Run mechanic never stopped impressing me. It was fun to just soak in the vistas from atop the Viewpoints and walk amongst the citizens going about their daily routines.
    In AC2, however, the atmosphere felt…different. I can’t really put into words why viewing the cities and walking the streets wasn’t as immersive. It might have been because AC2 felt much more game-like, whereas AC1 felt like I was in a city with a few simple, believable rules. Too many features had been added to AC2, and the atmosphere of being a blade in a crowd was lost. The streets felt more artificial because instead of it being just people walking by, each cluster of people were forced to fill certain gameplay features and elements, instead of being organic parts of the world. Ezio wasn’t a stealthy assassin, he was a adventuring noble out for revenge. That’s why I really wasn’t impressed with Brotherhood’s Assassin Network system. Too many Assassins, too much oversight. I liked Assassin’s Creed 1 because I had only a few weapons, my Free Running, and a few tricks that I could exploit, like hiding among Scholars for example. I enjoyed AC2, but I wasn’t as immersed in its world as I was with AC1.

    I think that’s my Price. I want to get lost in a game’s world, to know more about a game’s universe, to feel like the game’s sound, visuals, gameplay mechanics, and story all come together to present a consistent, engrossing experience that I will remember. That’s a pretty vague definition, but then again that’s probably why I can appreciate all genres of gameplay and story.

  4. “For some the thing we’re after is a tight-as-hell gameplay mechanic, for others it is the ability to slip into the skin of somebody else, for still others it is a wide-open space filled with shit to do.” – Unwinnable

    A lot of the things he mentioned for Skyrim, I hold to be true. I think this is because of what huge games Oblivion and Skyrim were to me. Part of the “Whats the sweet spot” for me is on games of that type. Oblivion, Skyrim, Super Mario 64. Big wide open games are defiantly a big sweet spot for me. I think story and content will play a large part in the game, but its easy to overlook small shitty details like how horrid the camera was in SM64 or how bad characters acted in Oblivion. I know that that is one of my “prices”

    Another one is something I just mentioned, the story. Games with a story that drag me in, forget about the rest, I want to play out that story. While playing Uncharted 1, 2, and 3, I feel like I sometimes want to just have the game go on auto pilot. I want to watch the game as some epic book or movie. Story is hugely important for some videogames, because without that draw, I dont WANT to finish it.

    I feel like those are two of my bigger gaming “hits”. Games like Uncharted, Halo, and the TES series are games where I can overlook flaws due to something bigger inherent in them.

    Games/game-types I find hard to forgive on are games like FPS and turn based RPGs. I play plenty of FPS games, but something interesting story-wise, and game mechanics need to be introduced. If not, you are just another fish in the sea. The Gears of War series went that way. 1 had me hooked, then it just became cold turkey, which is sad, since I hear only great things about the game. Other series such as the FinalFantasy series are ones where I just can not get into them. I played one turn based RPG, .//hack sign, and its been the only one that hit well, and that was due to its story. For me, those two types of games really are the ones Im picky about.

  5. Cossack, that’s actually a fascinating look at AC2. You see, I’m the inverse. Iloved AC1, but I disliked its simplicity. AC2 added that much needed depth I required for full enjoyment.
    I think my price is essentially: Do something new that grabs me (XIII, Mirror’s Edge, Portal) or else perfect one of my favourite gameplay mechanics (Skyrim, Half Life 2, Arkham Asylum). Most of those games have flaws that stand out or else do have them but I’ve shoved them to the back of my mind due to my price being paid.
    Damn, that was a nice one Eddy. Again, the reason why I keep coming back here: It always provides food for thought.

  6. @ Skuba: I also enjoy when a game innovates or polishes a mechanic or entire genre. It’s why I enjoyed CoD4, because it was a finely crafted game that knew what it was doing; but I hated MW2 because all the new features muddled the original Call of Duty flair of, yet again, simplicity. CoD4 had a bunch of guns, some perks, and the bulk of the gameplay depended on map control and accuracy. MW2 had killstreaks and whatnot which replaced skill with points.
    I don’t hate Assassin’s Creed 2 for its newer features, but I didn’t get the same atmosphere as I had in Assassin’s Creed 1, so I was disappointed more than anything else.

  7. Smooth gameplay. I can overlook below average graphics for smooth gameplay. Command & Conquer: The First Decade consisted of games that by modern standards had graphics that were limited by the technology of the time. However, today, even my crappy desktop can load a skirmish match of Command & Conquer Generals in under 60 seconds.

    So the best tactic to meet my standard of smooth gameplay is wait until some future technology becomes obsolete and use that to play the top-of-the-line games of last year.

    Platform-wise: the Call of Duty games on PS3 are super smooth when it comes to jumping into online matches. They successfully byspassed my ’60-second’ rule by developing the plot as the level is loading.

    Assassin’s Creed, while one of the most epic games I’ve ever played, quickly got placed on my shelf because of all the loading screens with Desmond/Altair/Ezio standing in the ‘White Room’ of the Animus. I know a Family Guy cutaway portrayed Purgatory as just white nothingness, but I can’t imagine a worst kind of Hell to spend any time in.

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