There was a time where games were a new concept for people, video games to be exact, as we had outdoor games like sports or hide and seek along with having indoor games like monopoly or cards. With the invention of moving images and giving people the ability to control these images came a new entertainment system, the Gaming Console.
We were happy enough that these consoles existed, they were something we could do whilst sitting down, having something flash in front of our eyes that could draw our attention away from whatever troubles we had in life, or to merely pass the time until dinner was ready. We didn’t need graphics, story or amazing mechanics, we just needed a button or 2 to press and see a reaction, something we couldn’t do in real life to the same effect. But with the changing of times and technology there were improvements made to the genre of gaming and this also had an effect on the people who used these entertainment systems.
Easier controls, better graphics, long stories, amazing art, new-age ideas, fantastical worlds, original settings, out of this world theories and much more. Gone were the thoughts of “This is amazing” and “I don’t need anything else” and they were replaced with “This isn’t as good as the other one” and “I want it and I want it now”. Starting a game now comes with a tutorial, a fully laid out plan for the game and customisability to make the game your own but this gave us a distorted view of what games were and what they are meant to be.
Games started out with little to no detail with a colour pallet as small as 8 colours/shades, with the new-age-gaming system we can now have thousands of pixels at once per character as well as their models having over 30,000 polygons each. Back in the infant days we were lucky to get something in colour, even more so a character that could have noticeable stubble or unique characteristics. Now we are bombarded with characters that are colourful and in-depth to the extreme of lifelike models that can sometimes be mistaken for real life people.
With companies having to compete with one another this just drives them even harder to attain the best quality of style and aesthetic, sometimes throwing away all artistic design and open-minded development to simply make characters realistic. Games with unique looks and themes can only really make it in the industry through luck and the word of a “celebrity”, games like Flower that fall by the wayside have some great styles but people either didn’t get “hype” to notice it, whilst games like Limbo with a dark setting and use of little to no colour picked up steam by word of mouth and not on its own standings.
It has been ingrained in our minds that games need to look immaculate and life-like to meet the standards that others have set for us. While most people are coming round to the idea and themes of Cel-shaded games, some Gamers hate Cel-shaded styles because they are unrealistic and look as if characters are drawn and not lifelike but Cel-shaded is a STYLE and not an ERROR. Being artistic with a character doesn’t mean putting barriers on the artist’s creativity, it is one of the reasons we are stuck with the same looking characters and portrayals because it is the supply meeting the demand.
Another reason people are so focused on graphics not meeting their expectations is the overuse of CG and Pre-Rendered trailers to advertise their game to add “Hype” to their release. Some games only show this side of the game and never show any real footage of the game being played until close to release, while some need to do this to gather interest others do it simply because they have no game to show at that point. People see the trailer and think “Oh wow, it looks awesome” when in fact all they see is a fun generated scene that you won’t be able to control or see for the majority of the game.
CG Trailers create false “hype” for a game, showing a game that doesn’t exist to advertise their own, some of these can have amazing results like Bullet Witch or Constantine that end up being horrible in gameplay departments in comparison to their great marketing. It has become a sort of ritual to show off these Pre-rendered trailers and people await anxiously for the release only to see all the flaws in the game behind the pretty poster and it isn’t the games fault, it is the idea we have before playing the game.
Gratification and Delayed-Gratification
Gratification is the feeling we get when we open up a chest, hit a new level, or unlock a new skill, delayed gratification is something we learn to experience when something is just out of reach so we work for it, when we eventually get it we get an even bigger boost in reward.
“If I go right I can complete the level now, if I go left there is a chest behind 3 more enemies…”
Games do this to some great affect, with RPG’s giving us Mimic chests that attack us for trying to plunder them, sometimes being incredibly strong, but when you defeat them they give an even better item then any normal chest would on top of experience and money. While other games simply put something out of the way and require some platforming to get to, only to give you a health potion or something you would find in any other chest, this still has the delayed-gratification effect but it is something we gain ourselves, especially explorers and completionists.
However, with games becoming easier over the years, rewards are thrown in our face with little to no effort. Some games giving you enough XP and Money to get everything by the end, or giving you the ultimate weapon halfway into the game without the need for grinding. This is fine for a while or if they have some importance along the line but when you’re given an Assault Rifle mere minutes after a pistol you will use that and forget about whatever you had beforehand, besides those who get emotional attachment.
“I’m not a Dwarf, Ffffffffff”
Random games can display delayed-gratification to amazing effect, be it deliberate or accidental, while others completely take it away. There are those that pin you as the epitome of everything in existence, with all the skills and with the ability to obtain everything in one run, this doesn’t work with other games that allow for different classes though. Rogue Legacy is a great demonstration of delayed-gratification, through the Dwarf descendants, the magic users and the equipment you gain along the way. The Dwarf is the only one who can go into the small holes in the wall, whereas only mages can attack enemies through walls so you need to decide between power or control and what you might find in your random castle.
Delayed-gratification can also be found within levelling systems, both chosen and automatic, where you have the ability to grind all the levels, points or nodes to become the ultimate badass. Shadow of Mordor does this in a gradual way, but the end result really shows off what kind of character Talion is meant to portray, a powerful force that will clear out the orcs. Once you complete the tree you will have skill for every occasion and a move to counter all the leaders you will face, something you will have trouble doing at base level.
“This guy is too hard, and I can’t parry!!!” *Parry skill is 2 nodes away*
The problem with nowadays is that people don’t understand the feeling of Delayed-Gratification, with entertainment a finger press away with mobile games or play-while-away games that gather you resources to spend at regular intervals. It is too easy to get rewarded from a game, either by a “You Did It!” voice or achievement that pops up after you did a miniscule act.
Hype, Co-op and kindred spirits
3 subjects? HL3 Confirmed!!!
Hype, the word everyone throws around and something everyone will experience in their life, be it for something new or for a continuation of something you love. Games are no exception, trailers and information will flood your news feeds, your phone and your friend’s mouths, when something is announced you will learn about it one way or another. While this is ok there should be some sort of moderation, but we are in an era of Internet-Hype that doesn’t help our situation and being the social creatures we are, our Kindred-Spirits will change our own views and move us towards a game we wouldn’t normally touch.
Kindred spirits come in many forms, from friends at school or work to even people online that share similar interests. When they say something is good you will join in to be a part of their world and when you buy a game they recommend and complete it, it is something to converse about and this allows you to crawl deeper into their friendship circle. After a while, we all get indoctrinated into these circles and will follow like sheep, whether our kindred spirits know of us or not, they say-we follow.
As an extension to us being social, we have a deep seated need to play with others, from the early days of board games, to nowadays with co-op campaigns to help one another through a game or multiplayer to dominate others and show your skill at your favourite game. This feeling can sometimes overwhelm people to the point they won’t purchase a game solely based on the reason that a game has no co-op option or multiplayer segment. While this notion is fine for most games, some games would simply not work in a co-op environment and would require a lot more development time to implement.
Combining Hype, our social nature, and the things we hear from others we get our final disposition to purchasing a title. If we hear nothing but bad things we will simply not purchase a game, if we hear good things we will purchase it if able, and if our friends constantly badger us to get a game we despise, just to play with them, we will eventually succumb. If we could ignore these 3 factors that create our disposition we could choose the correct games for our own tastes, but as people know it is hard to change who you are.
Comparing one game to another
This is one of the things I hate the most about gaming in this era, the stupid and baseless comparisons between games in similar genres, one of the latest ones being the hatred between fans of Persona 5 and Final Fantasy 15, saying one is better than the other when they are completely different games, both in style and gameplay. This continues on with my previous section, disposition will cause consumers to be split into 3 categories, 1 for each game and then another who will buy both.
If you take games apart, no-one is the same, all FPS’s have something separating them; *Gears of War (*Shooter) has the chainsaw and gore, Fear has horror and slowmo, Army of Two has heavy focus on Co-Op and customising, Halo has the sci-fi and multi-level arenas and so on. Putting games into “camps” stop people from experiencing something great, a Pokémon clone might be your favourite game of all time, but since you were told not to play it you never gave it a chance and it will forever be lost to you. People to this day still don’t know of Studio Ghibli’s first game (Technically) Jade Cocoon which is my favourite game of all time, even to this day with its amazing ability to age.
Not only does this stop people experiencing games, it also diminishes your time and view of games you play, one after another. You might play Halo 3 one day then GOW3 another and start to compare them to one another, when that shouldn’t be done, the game should be viewed on its own merits and not spat on because another developer made something better. Everyone is a victim and a perpetrator of this and it is normal as are built to find the best things in life to decrease time spent on lesser things, but with gaming it shouldn’t be so as the fun you had with a game shouldn’t be tarnished because you found something better.
Master Miller – “You might be able to erase the markings, but the memories will never disappear.”
Graphics don’t make the game, gratification and its delayed form are your rewards and should be cherished, disposition should be avoided if possible and comparisons shouldn’t equate to decisions. Your games will never be the best they can be if you let these aspects rule your life with games and purchases.
Graphics aren’t the game, a game is something you interact with and have control over, play the game for its gameplay and mechanics and if graphics are thrown in for good measure then that’s a bonus, not a necessity. Kicking a football or moving a piece on a board is the control you have in the game and the rules are set beforehand and discussed, you cannot talk with a pre-rendered pre-made movie.
Gratification should be sought after and not hated if it backfires on you, sometimes you’re not the badass you think you are and you need to find a way to make yourself that badass you envision yourself to be. The character you play is something you are given, or sometimes altered, you won’t always be able to hit that top level or ultimate chest the first time through.
Hype is good in moderation, but do not let it decide the quality of the game before you have it in your hands. Co-op is not a core aspect of a game, it is an addition and not every game is meant to be cooperative, Solitaire is a single-player game where you use your own intellect to beat the cards. Kindred spirits are meant to be your friends and guidance, not a leash for you to follow and get tugged away from your would-be-favourite-game.
Comparisons are not meant to be in the gaming world, at least not to the effect of destroying your image of previous experiences. A game is what it was meant to be and not something to compete with another game in the future or a rival company, your experience with a game is your own and should not be depicted by what another game teaches you.