I played a game!

Grimm Episode 2

I have played American McGee’s Grimm Episode 2 (Little Red Ridinghood -research, you know). And finished it in one go! This may not be big news to you but it’s a remarkable mile stone event for me. It’s been years since I have played a game all the way through. In fact, in most games I tend to not make it past the first puzzle. Because of a combination of lack of skill and lack of patience or tolerance. Call me weird, but I play games for amusement, for relaxation, for making my brain play around with ideas. I don’t play games to become frustrated or caught in the intricate spreadsheet that some clever game designer came up with.

American McGee gets the prize for having made a game that I can actually play. It’s not the greatest game in the world, but it is filled with smart design ideas to help not-so-skilled and not-so-patient players -like me- move on with the fun. It was an exhilarating experience to just be able to play all the way to the end of a game without being interrupted by some O B S T A C L E. I’m too old for that. And frankly, I think videogames as a medium are too old for that.

Take Little Big Planet: a wonderfully amusing experience. Especially when you play with multiple people. Very forgiving and fun. Losing isn’t all that sad and doesn’t happen often. You just play in and with the game. Until you hit the h a r d c o r e levels. Suddenly the game designer forgets about this whole idea of the player finally being able to have some whimsical fun in a videogame and the entire thing turns into a typical try-fail-repeat hardcore fiero trip. Totally misplaced in such a droll environment. What a disappointment!

I read a critical article about Braid this morning that mentions the same problem in a completely different context.

[Initially] I didn’t feel like I was trying to figure out what Blow “meant” by the storyline. The written exposition ahead of each world, while overwrought and ponderous, acted as a tone-poem, setting a contemplative stage for the mechanics.

But I was forced to turn my attention from the game itself because of its difficulty.
When I hit the inevitable wall in Braid, I discovered that, despite being allowed to run roughshod through the game in order to experience and appreciate the narrative, such gameplay would keep me from reaching the story’s end. I was furious. Unlike most video games, Braid requires literal perfection. Every last jump must be made. Every single obstacle overcome.

What’s wrong with these people?

5 thoughts on “I played a game!”

  1. I play games for amusement, for relaxation, for making my brain play around with ideas. I don’t play games to become frustrated or caught in the intricate spreadsheet that some clever game designer came up with.

    I absolutely cannot agree more, and I wish I could wallpaper the offices of all the Earth’s game designers with the above quote. When I was younger and had a better trigger finger and more energy, I was a pretty avid gamer, but nowadays I always abandon games because the mechanics keep getting in the way of the message or story. If I wanted to juggle six things at once while pressing buttons at the speed of thought, I wouldn’t pay for video games–I’d go back to working retail during the holidays. 😛

    You guys rock. Keep doing what you’re doing, so maybe the other guys can catch up to you someday. :)


  2. I hear you. :) One of my mantras is that, if the player stops playing the game but didn’t /want/ to stop, you’ve probably failed them. I also find it discouraging that how you experience a game is partially dependant upon previous games you have played (and therefore ‘know this sort of thing’), and partially upon being savvy enough to know of things like youtube and gamefaqs as means to overcome the annoying parts of games. Players should be on an equal footing when it comes to games.

  3. I don’t know. Sometimes I want a challenge, sometimes I just want to wander around.

    A lot of people have little interest in beating arbitrary challenges some game designer throws at them and just want chill out and wander around some cool virtual world.

    On the other hand some people feel cheated if a game doesn’t challenge them.

    I guess as a game designer you can either ignore one of those expectations or try to satisfy both. I always thought sandbox games like GTA did a good job of balancing the two. I know people who’ve played plenty of GTA but have never bothered with the story.

    Challenging games are the norm (a legacy of the arcade days maybe) and they’re what most players expect. Games like the one you’re developing, and Nintendo’s recent successes, kind of prove that there are at least some people who are interested in non-challenging games.

  4. A game reccomendation for you, Michael, if you haven’t played it already: Rule of Rose.

    I looked up a playthrough and, even with the commentator going on and kinda killing the mood, it was still incredibly emotionally impactful. It’s going to seriously strike me dead when I get around to playing it myself. Anyway, it seems like it has plenty of replay value; it doesn’t really make sense the first time through, but with the end bits there to tie it together, one might understand things that were too confusing before.

    It’s been banned in some places…I hope you can get your hands on it.

  5. It’s not actually been banned here in Belgium. But some ignorant Italian politician made some noise about it at the time and Sony chickened out from publishing it in Europe. I downloaded a torrent of the game but I can’t make it work in our Playstation. Book burning in Europe. Will it ever stop?

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