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Ice-Pick Lodge forums • Why do we play?
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 Post subject: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2010, 19:54 
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Something that had me thinking a little. There was an article on genre conventions in this months Games TM and it got me to thinking. Why do we play a certain game over another or indeed replay them?

There is a large importance placed on narrative and storytelling technique and how it would seem to be the next focus for gamings evolution. If I'm honest this really puzzled me. I looked down the collection of games I have and not one of them have I played or replayed for its story. In many cases it's simply been something that's gotten in the way or been an irritation getting in the way of the experience and the atmosphere - experience being what I would then assume is why I play a title.

It's probably one of the best examples and an appropriate one for this forum but Pathologic is a case in point. The story was good, with an interesting twist,then another twist. But it's not the storyline that kept me playing and replaying but the tense, desperate atmosphere of decay conflicing with hope that keeps on clawing me back.

To use a different example, I spent a few days tinkering and adding to Morrowind and now I play it to have a wander round the island and just enjoy the atmosphere before even thinking of getting stuck into the great house rivalries. Apparently there's a main storyline somewhere ;) wouldn't worry too much about that though.

Why do you play and replay titles. I'm hoping that there'll be some responses that play because of narrative as a motivation as I'd be interested to understand that.

What are peoples views on importance of narrative, interactivity, function and reward? :)


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 24 Aug 2010, 00:35 
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It's the same when we read and reread good books. Kids are especially guilty. They can gnaw at one and the same story for ten times without getting bored while skipping another. I remember asking myself this question when I watched my little one reading a book/watching a cartoon/playing a computer game. I have made a conclusion that the main point is love. So simple, isn't it? Not the storyline, not the atmosphere, not the language (all these are important of course too). But if the author makes the reader LOVE his creation and its characters - that's when the things become interesting.

The way the author does it is another matter.
Now imho: 1. It's subtle, not straightforward. No opinion-pushing, just pumping up the facts. It's for the audience to decide which side to take if any. 2. Creating hunger. Hunger is the motor of love. No serials, sequels and prequels, only piece goods. 3. Mixture. Concoction. Clash of impossible things. One big oxymoron. Not for the surprise effect, but for giving the whole picture. Making parallels.
That's all basically. The perfect balance of the new (oh how interesting!! I'd like to feel again how interesting it felf back then) and the familiar (oh it strikes a chord with me! how clever!!) makes us replay and reread.
All the rest is individual)


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 24 Aug 2010, 12:39 
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ooh, intertesting topic :D I thought about it as well, and after much editing apparently I got a pretty organized post.

First of all, I should maybe say that I don't expect the same thing from all games. I can appreciate a wide variety from the most retarded to the most complex.

I guess there are largely three ways in which games appeal:

1. the skill challenge - present you with something to do (shoot bad guys, build cities or arrange building blocks), something that you initially suck at. This makes most people want to prove that they CAN get better at it, and they keep playing and replaying until they kick ass. These games don't need a story or cool graphics at all (look at Tetris!) but they are still the most replayable of the bunch.

2. a good story - I think there are still very few games who truly rely on this. Most of them have a story because it's needed, not because they actually have something to say. Pathologic is a good example, and old King's Quest VI comes to mind as well :) I'm sure there are more, but my gaming experince is limited. Now, I actually have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, not having to deal with cliches and infantile excuses for a plot is a great experience. On the other hand, complex stories make the game feel less like a game and more like something else: maybe a book, or a play in which you have to act your part, especially if you want to get 100% of quests like I do. It's a more limited experience than in games that don't rely on a story all that much. (I strongly felt this in Pathologic and it's probably my biggest criticism for the game.)

3. providing an environment to explore - there are games where you don't give much damn either about the story or the skill challenge, but still manage to waste hours casually walking around. For Hicks it's Morrowind, for me - the Gothic series.

Now, I personally think the first category of games, if done right, is by far the most replayable. Build the reflex, keep ramping up the difficulty, and you can hypnotize adults with falling squares of different colors for hours. It just works (probably by stimulating some primitive part of the brain).

The third category is also replayable, but obviously the magic is harder to achieve: "living", large worlds are hard to build, and the matter of taste comes into play as well.

The second category of games are the most interesting, but in my opinion the least replayable. I love Pathologic, it's my favourite game, but I don't know if I'll replay it once I'm done with all three characters. It's like a good book: the effects stay with you longer, it's not a short-term satisfaction, so there isn't much reason to replay it, except perhaps when you're older to see if you understand it differently (as I do with good books).

Edit: Hicks, can you please link to the article you mentioned?


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 24 Aug 2010, 13:52 
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I play for escapism, veering from killing time, to mindless fun e.g. RPGs RTS, MMOs, in general just mainstream games, on the on hand, and on the other to enrich, develop and enlighten myself with more unique and thought provoking games like Pathologic.

I love story focused games, like Planescape: Torment, though it's the overall ambiance; a synergy of its theme, setting, music and art direction, and the writing, I really love, which all enhances the story the game unfolds, and then there's the combat that subtracts a little from it. And said game has the appropriate interactivity and choice and consequences for me, though more would idealistically and theoretically be desirable but would but would probably end up distracting from other spheres of the game, in the same conjunction that I love Planescape: Torment but its combat sphere is quite mediocre.

Another upcoming indie RPG that have picked my interest is The Age of Decadence, with its inspired falling Romanesque low fantasy setting, and one of it's focus points being to try and figure out how the present relates to the past, separating fact from fiction, besides the veering faction struggle for what remains of the empire.
But what I really interest me is the overarching story of the game that the overall ambiance of the game tries to envision.
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The danger in happiness.--'Everything is turning out right for me now, from now on I'll love every turn of fate--who wants to be my fate?' ~Nietzsche


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 25 Aug 2010, 00:47 
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@Sprite not sure about an online link, I was reading the print edition, this months with Deus Ex 3 on the cover. Had a look round but it just had a synopsis of the issue.

http://www.gamestm.co.uk/magazine-issue ... -issue-99/

I like the three categories you use to illustrate with. Simple and effective. The point about Pathologic particularly stands out. This is liable to go round in circles as I try to explain what I'm thinking :D Please have patience. Pathologic was gunning for something more with its story and despite or because of the translation to English it had a mystique that it felt wrapped in making it all the more involving.

To some extent I get the feeling we give films, books and music a little too much credit and because of that we're automatically looking down on games. Been guilty of it myself but more and more it's seeming unnecessary. Here come the circles - there's an issue of complaint by the UK's Defence Minister Liam Fox , the issue is to do with the next Medal of Hono(u)r title and how in multiplayer the player can play as the Taliban. Seeing some of the comments about this story - some made me laugh, others despair. Here's one from yahoo news: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/blogs/talking_ ... e-comments

And a portion of one of the comments in particular.

"I think the comparisons to films such as Antichrist and Clockwork Orange, both violent and disturbing for their time, are peculiar. The game could not be considered, like those films, to be a work of art. It takes no artistic or moral position and offers only a simulation of murder without raising any questions at all in the player's mind."

This is what got me to despair and laugh equally, not in regards to the game the article focuses on but on games in general. When we have the interactivity of a game then the morality is within us. We're choosing the actions that we perform? I'm not loosing my marbles am I? Pathologic, we choose adherents, to kill or to cure. Deus Ex, stealth, carnage or a mixture? Mass Effect 2, Paragon or Renegade? In theory you could play GTA IV and obey all the traffic lights "help" the police catch the crims they chase and spend the day wandering round the park. All comes down to the players choice. When we're involved and interacting surely that's a good thing, compared to sitting infront of a tv and just zoned out watching.

Ramble over ;)

There's a strong feeling with this forum that a lot of us are playing to see and find out about new things, to have views and ideas challenged and new experiences.

*hugs for all*


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 25 Aug 2010, 15:22 
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I think it's safe to say that people on this forum don't share the same prejudice about games as some who commented there :p

From my point of view, the whole discussion about morality in games is stupid. If you have sound moral principles, you can play a hundred games about terrorists and you'll be fine*. If not, you don't need a game to turn into a criminal.

*Actually, you might not stomach playing them. For instance, I can't kill innocents in video games. If it happens, even in a game where it doesn't hurt your reputation or anything, I reload.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2011, 06:40 
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To some extent I get the feeling we give films, books and music a little too much credit and because of that we're automatically looking down on games. Been guilty of it myself but more and more it's seeming unnecessary. Here come the circles - there's an issue of complaint by the UK's Defence Minister Liam Fox , the issue is to do with the next Medal of Hono(u)r title and how in multiplayer the player can play as the Taliban. Seeing some of the comments about this story - some made me laugh, others despair. Here's one from yahoo news: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/blogs/talking_ ... e-comments And a portion of one of the comments in particular. "I think the comparisons to films such as Antichrist and Clockwork Orange, both violent and disturbing for their time, are peculiar. The game could not be considered, like those films, to be a work of art. It takes no artistic or moral position and offers only a simulation of murder without raising any questions at all in the player's mind." There's a strong feeling with this forum that a lot of us are playing to see and find out about new things, to have views and ideas challenged and new experiences. *hugs for all*


I would tell them to play Pathologic, but they suck too hard. The gaming industry is already censoring its self anyways, with the silly games aimed at "casual," players. The only games that are violent are GTA, and all of the silly FPS's, but how many different ways can you show someone getting their head shot and having it be offensive.

Also, Clockwork Orange is good because its offensive and unnerving. Many people have the tendency to sympathize with a protagonist, but Alex is written to be unsympathetic and unable to have any sincere remorse for his actions. The violence and law breaking are just used to develop the quality of him being an character you don't sympathize with. The way I read the book it was tough not to feel bad for what he was going though because it appeared to be the fault of the society that made him that way. Other people just read the book and think its an excuse for torture and violence, but some people think its one of the best books ever.

In contrast, the most offensive movies I have ever seen was "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," its basically torture porn that hides under the ambiguous genre of being art. It's god awful. However, even though I cursed at it and continue to make fun of it, I wouldn't think it was right to get rid of it. The thing that makes most civilized cultures work is the ability for unlimited ideas, and for society to decide what is best for it.

/end silly rant on censorship


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2011, 15:18 
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I am a serious mod addict, so I get alot of play time out of Oblivion & Fallout3 style of games.. for oblivion alone I had 25Gigs of mods and 9-10 for fallout 3.
I had clocked up 50hours on each (oblivion +50 totalling 100 because i played it twice) and I HAVE NEVER FINISHED EITHER OBLIVION OR FALLOUT3! haha

so yeah.. i like games with replayability, even if i dont finish them :)


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 13 Jan 2011, 15:20 
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To some extent I get the feeling we give films, books and music a little too much credit and because of that we're automatically looking down on games. Been guilty of it myself but more and more it's seeming unnecessary. Here come the circles - there's an issue of complaint by the UK's Defence Minister Liam Fox , the issue is to do with the next Medal of Hono(u)r title and how in multiplayer the player can play as the Taliban. Seeing some of the comments about this story - some made me laugh, others despair. Here's one from yahoo news: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/blogs/talking_ ... e-comments And a portion of one of the comments in particular. "I think the comparisons to films such as Antichrist and Clockwork Orange, both violent and disturbing for their time, are peculiar. The game could not be considered, like those films, to be a work of art. It takes no artistic or moral position and offers only a simulation of murder without raising any questions at all in the player's mind." There's a strong feeling with this forum that a lot of us are playing to see and find out about new things, to have views and ideas challenged and new experiences. *hugs for all*


I would tell them to play Pathologic, but they suck too hard. The gaming industry is already censoring its self anyways, with the silly games aimed at "casual," players. The only games that are violent are GTA, and all of the silly FPS's, but how many different ways can you show someone getting their head shot and having it be offensive.

Also, Clockwork Orange is good because its offensive and unnerving. Many people have the tendency to sympathize with a protagonist, but Alex is written to be unsympathetic and unable to have any sincere remorse for his actions. The violence and law breaking are just used to develop the quality of him being an character you don't sympathize with. The way I read the book it was tough not to feel bad for what he was going though because it appeared to be the fault of the society that made him that way. Other people just read the book and think its an excuse for torture and violence, but some people think its one of the best books ever.

In contrast, the most offensive movies I have ever seen was "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," its basically torture porn that hides under the ambiguous genre of being art. It's god awful. However, even though I cursed at it and continue to make fun of it, I wouldn't think it was right to get rid of it. The thing that makes most civilized cultures work is the ability for unlimited ideas, and for society to decide what is best for it.

/end silly rant on censorship
completly off topic, but its true. People are not criminals, society creates them and its as simple as that, which is why im actually against the idea of prisons. or at least how they are run today.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 24 Jan 2011, 03:22 
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@Yani

"how many different ways can you show someone getting their head shot and having it be offensive" There was something about that comment that got a smile out of me. There was a moment while playing Armed Assault 2 where I was leading a team through a small town clearing it of hostile forces. Sweeping a street I caught sight of a rifleman in less than a second I'd seen him aimed, fired, swept the street both ways and looked back at the target which was going through its death animation. I'm not sure if it's possible for bog standard violence to be offensive anymore but that second in Armed Assault was strangely unsettling, I ended up walking over to check the body but I couldn't find it almost as if it had never existed. All around me though the firefights in the town continued.

What would everyones opinions be on how heavily they become invested in the experience of a game compared to a tv series, a short story or a piece of music?

I've found more and more that unless there is a mystery to join in with solving or trying to figure out what is happening say for example in an H P Lovecraft short story or a TV series like Castle I'm feeling a great deal more involvement in a game be it having enough food and ammunition in Pathologic or waiting for a rainstorm to end in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

@J_4mes

Oblivion without mods is an unthinkable travesty. I really need to find the snail racing addon for it! Some wonderful person put Chess, Tetris and Donkey's into Morrowind :lol: . It was a shame to see the kneejerk reaction by Activision/Blizzard when there were the videos released to do with a Starcraft 2 mod that planned to turn it into a MMO. It'll be interesting to see what happens next there.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do we play?
PostPosted: 24 Jan 2011, 04:50 
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What would everyones opinions be on how heavily they become invested in the experience of a game compared to a tv series, a short story or a piece of music?
A game offers more types of stimulation (challenge, frustration, feelings of accomplishment, the possibility of either feeling heroic or loathing yourself for what you did). Music probably gets the most visceral response and is appreciated on an abstract level, which is a nice thing. Words are still the most versatile of all mediums and not having control over the story possibly leads to more surprise/shock. I can get very invested in any of them, can't pick favourites here.


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