Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Feb 24th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under lose, fail



pic from mitchellhperkins.blogspot.com

Video games have the ability to draw from the full range of emotions and reactions from the human mind, and can still be considered good even while focusing on drawing out such reactions as frustration and annoyance into its core design. It feels good for the mind to overcome a challenge, so the feeling of relief that comes after the period of high challenge feels all the more sweet. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, whether building the game from the ground up to be in this way, or to give a robust set of free form tools that allow for a unique experience with each new map. Horror games and games designed to be tense, difficult experiences can easily feel like they're drawing from the natural curiosity of humans to see what lies behind the next door.





Games that add random elements can also easily cause a chain of events that draws different responses from the player. This element of randomness can also give depth, allowing the exploration of different mechanics in order to alleviate the stress of frustration of disasters. Strategy games are excellent for this element of stress that is added into the weight of every decision on the player's mind. Something that helps the mind prepare for these issues is to have experience with them already. The player is familiar with what to expect, and can formulate a plan based on what they viewed and experienced. The ability to 'try again' with little if any punishment beyond loss of time is inherent to the design of video games. Failure is an option. A valid option.

In some cases failure early on can lead to a restart, while failure later in the game just leads to a change of tactics, an overall survey of options that will lead to the next step of success. Whether its finding the next tier of gear to equip, conquering a powerful foe, beating a difficult boss, there comes a time where failure is as valuable as success. Its not uncommon to run head first into an enemy that just has the hard counter for what the player's been building, and dependent on the game's rules, can lose and fail in the blink of an eye. What caused the failure? Was it simply bad luck such as an ambush mixed with critical attacks? Did you stumble across the big boss while you're still wearing basic leather and cracked iron weapons? Was your plan just terrible? All of these, and more, are all valid pieces of reflection.

How does a player plan for failure? The only true option is to allow it to run its course. See what is learned from the slip up, and think more deeply of how to proceed past the next challenge. One of the great challenges of designing a game also involves these questions revolving around the challenging sections of a game. Outsourcing some elements of a game's development is used to cut corners. In some cases it can cut these important corners involving difficulty. This can destroy the game's difficulty curve and leave a more serious game feeling unfinished.

Whether the player enjoys a game one on one against a friend, as part of a larger online group, by itself, or however it wishes to enjoys its games there's an expected element of enjoyment from random events lightening up the gameplay. What can at times feel monotonous and like nothing more than a time waster, feels fresh after fighting hard and losing, or having well designed elements of random, emergent gameplay leading to unique failures that are remembered far longer than the most mundane successes.

The factors of gaming lead emotional responses to react in different ways than watching a movie, show, reading a book, or nearly any other form of entertainment. Everything feels much more personal, even if you know its just the random AI of a random world making a random decision. This can make stories experienced in gaming feel much different and deeper, even if the pieces that built them are as shallow as those lining the last story you read. Having well designed difficulty mixed with random elements is one of the best ways to ensure a unique experience with every gaming session.


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Comments
 
Difficulty/challenge in games has always been one of those things that I've never understood how a developer is able to make work, and impresses me all the more when it's done well. A developer who spends years with a game, coding it, playtesting it, replaying it, I would think would be too close to the experience to be able to judge a game's difficulty. It's also impressive to me the different ways a game can tune the difficulty. Games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne balance their combat to an almost perfect level of balance to ensure battles are challenging but fair. Games like Super Meat Boy and other fast-paced platformers use their quick pacing to their advantage, and combine that with a near-instant after-death reload to egg the player to keep trying even after 5, 10, 20, or more deaths in a row. And then you have the strategy games you mentioned. Most strategy games I don't stress too much over, but ones with perma-death, like Fire Emblem, have me constantly on edge, weighing every move and attack with obsessive scrutiny because I don't want to lose a character I've become attached to and have relied upon as a cornerstone of my fighting team. Finally, there's a game like Doom, where item placement and your weapons are balanced to keep you at a wonderful place where you go back and forth between being close to death and then full of health and a bunch of ammo. In my opinion this is one of the most thrilling ways to do difficulty well, as it allows for feelings of success and the on-edge feeling of really having to work to stay alive. Great subject for an article, thanks for writing it!
 
If you have not played Spelunky, you need to.
 
Good article!  In years past, I've had a problem of taking game difficulty personally, in the sense that, when I screw up in a game, die in a critical spot, or fail a mission time after time, I have a tendency to be very hard on myself.  As I'm playing through The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I'm trying to take a different approach.  I'm trying hard to take a step back, look more critically at the situation I'm in, and try to figure out what it is I'm doing wrong, or could adjust in order to be successful (or get closer to that goal) the next time.  I'm finding that results in less yelling at the TV (or self-efacing), and more overall enjoyment of the game's inherent difficulty.  You really do have to look at each failure as an opportunity, rather than a chance to beat yourself up, and I've failed to do that for a long time.  It's refreshing for me to approach it in this way, and I'm finding that some of the games I've given up on in the past might be a bit more welcoming than I believed.  Of course, there are always going to be games with unfair difficulty, poorly designed areas where things are artificially too hard, or levels that just stump you, but that's all part of the experience.

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