Author Topic: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup  (Read 15381 times)

Etinarg

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Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« on: June 26, 2013, 09:52:18 AM »
The discussion about permadeath made me think about why we play games (or may why I play games). And why permadeath is seen as an important part of a game to some players, but not to others ("only permadeath gives meaning to the players actions").

I see two basic types of players:

- The ones who play for entertainment
- The ones who play for the challenge

and maybe this one:

- The ones who play out of curiousity

I think "permadeath" is mostly important for the ones who play for the challenge. It might help the discussion to understand that for the other player types, permadeath is not a core feature to their gaming experience, and forcing them to think alike the ones who play for the challenge is futile, because they expect different things from games (being entertained, learning about new things, even if only relevant in context of the game).

Maybe this can help to relax the discussion a bit, and understand that a feature which is  very important thing to some players, is irrelevant or even annoying to the other player types. There is no "true way to play games". As so often, there are many ways, and I'd want to avoid calling one better than the others.

« Last Edit: June 26, 2013, 09:54:31 AM by Hajo »

Krice

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2013, 10:21:57 AM »
Maybe this can help to relax the discussion a bit, and understand that a feature which is  very important thing to some players, is irrelevant or even annoying to the other player types.

It's exactly like that. Roguelikes are in many ways the ultimate challenge for a specific type of player and permadeath is an essential part of that challenge.

Vanguard

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2013, 11:05:57 AM »
But people who play for challenge are looking to be entertained.  And people looking for a challenge are almost always more interested in learning new things about the game than their counterparts.

I don't mind that others aren't looking to be challenged when they play video games, but they should be honest with themselves.  Don't use quicksave every five minutes and then claim that what you're doing is even remotely challenging.

Etinarg

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2013, 12:30:13 PM »
Yes, the groups are not exclusive and there sure are big overlaps. I just hoped it would help understanding each other to see that challenge is not the only one goal in gaming for people.

Myself, I play little these days, and if I play it's for enterainment and out of curiosity mainly. Challenges are good up to some point, but I guess my level of "good challenge" is very low compared to what roguelike players like. I'm not always using savefiles, often I just accept the death because the game was meant to be played this way, but if I ever make a roguelike, or mod one, I would aim at more forgiving game.

Holsety

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2013, 04:54:06 PM »
I just hoped it would help understanding each other to see that challenge is not the only one goal in gaming for people.

I think this is a weird statement. Don't take this as a personal attack, just my observation, but...
What do videogames offer that books, movies and music do not? Interaction (gameplay)! If the gameplay isn't fun, why bother? Early games were challenging. People liked being challenged. Challenge = fun (then). Games that weren't challenging were seen as failures. Being boring was a cardinal sin.
If an unchallenging game is fun to you, consider Visual Novels, or go for a medium that dispenses with user input entirely (movies/books/music).

Personally, I need my games to be challenging. Graphics that I like can only keep me interested for so long. Music I can get seperately from the game. Story won't keep me playing a game that isn't fun. If it isn't challenging I'm going to lose interest.

To me, permadeath is just a tool to enforce challenge. Vanguard was spot on.
I don't mind that others aren't looking to be challenged when they play video games, but they should be honest with themselves.  Don't use quicksave every five minutes and then claim that what you're doing is even remotely challenging.

When I was younger, I thought Half-Life 1 was magical. I was enraptured, glued to the screen.
Then I spent 15 minutes alternating quick-save and quick-load to get through the final boss encounter.
I wasn't having fun then, and when I thought back on the rest of the game a little voice echoed:
"Wow, there was really no way I could have NOT won this game.  :("
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Vanguard

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2013, 08:09:07 PM »
I think games could be appealing for reasons other than as a challenge, but in practice very few can stand without it.

Like, a lot of people play games for their stories, but storytelling in games is a complete joke.  There are maybe a dozen games on the planet with competent storytelling.

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2013, 10:08:03 PM »
There's a fourth type of gamer, actually - the 100% completionist. I call those guys "expanders" in this blog post:

http://edkolis.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-4-xs-of-game-enjoyment-or-hi-my.html
The Ed draws near! What dost thou deaux?

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Eben

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2013, 10:55:26 PM »
One thing to throw into here is that "challenge" isn't the same thing for everyone. Which means that for some people the enjoyable challenge in a game is to 100% it where for other people it might just be getting through some particular level.

It's also worthwhile to remember that games offer interaction and not just gameplay/challenge. There are plenty of games that have a great story or environment or pleasurable experience in general without having a particular challenge for many players. On the other end of the spectrum many games that the general audience find very challenging are not challenging at all for some people.

For more informed descussions, google up combinations of the following:
Video Game
Player Modeling
Quality of Experience

There has been a very large amount of industrial and academic work on why people play games, and a reasonable amount for video games specifically.

RylandAlmanza

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2013, 01:00:19 AM »
This is a really good watch. I hate watching videos, and usually don't link to them, but I think this makes a lot of awesome points.

Eben

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2013, 01:28:18 AM »
This is a really good watch. I hate watching videos, and usually don't link to them, but I think this makes a lot of awesome points.

That's a great video! I haven't seen the MDA talked about so clearly in a web video before.

Vanguard

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2013, 01:36:17 AM »
There are plenty of games that have a great story

No there aren't.

On the other end of the spectrum many games that the general audience find very challenging are not challenging at all for some people.

That's fine.  I don't have any problems with that.  I guess I just don't like that the concept of difficulty in games has become so warped.  People should be honest with themselves.  Anyone spamming the quicksave key is not looking to be challenged, and should openly recognize that fact.

Eben

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2013, 01:41:36 AM »
There are plenty of games that have a great story

No there aren't.

On the other end of the spectrum many games that the general audience find very challenging are not challenging at all for some people.

That's fine.  I don't have any problems with that.  I guess I just don't like that the concept of difficulty in games has become so warped.  People should be honest with themselves.  Anyone spamming the quicksave key is not looking to be challenged, and should openly recognize that fact.

Perhaps you and I disagree what "story" means. I'm on board with this link:
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/06/12/games-are-the-ideal-place-for-telling-great-stories/

As has been said many times, and is said strongly in the video RylandAlmanza linked, challenge and difficulty are not the same thing at all. Conflating them is a serious mistep.

Vanguard

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2013, 02:19:12 AM »
Perhaps you and I disagree what "story" means. I'm on board with this link:
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/06/12/games-are-the-ideal-place-for-telling-great-stories/

I think stuff like X-Com and Dwarf Fortress tell great stories, because they tell your story, and that's something no other medium can do.  But those are exceptions rather than the rule.

Bioware and Bethesda make Choose Your Own Mary Sue Adventures where your fantasy/sci-fi hero is the best at everything and everyone loves them, and your job is to choose whether they're nice or mean.  Also, the "nice" variant still solves 99% of their problems with violence and racks up a huge body count, but no one has a problem with it.

The Bioshock games are interactive versions of mindless summer action movies, but gamers' tastes have been bent so badly that these games are perceived as deep and profound.

Half Life 2 has good style, but no substance behind it.

That is what is seen as the height of storytelling in games.  Not the norm, but the pinnacle which all others aspire to.

As has been said many times, and is said strongly in the video RylandAlmanza linked, challenge and difficulty are not the same thing at all. Conflating them is a serious mistep.

Ok, then what's the difference between the two?

The dictionary definitions I just checked say that challenge can more or less mean "stimulating difficulty."  Has Extra Credits found some nuance in the word that I've overlooked, or are they just trying to redefine it for their own convenience?

Holsety

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2013, 07:07:34 AM »
One thing to throw into here is that "challenge" isn't the same thing for everyone. Which means that for some people the enjoyable challenge in a game is to 100% it where for other people it might just be getting through some particular level.
Challenge is indeed not the same for everyone. Differences in skill/ability allow a gamer to subjectively experience the challenge rating of a game as higher or lower than what it was designed to be.
Playing a game to "100%" it is exactly as challenging as the regular gameplay of the game, but it DOES provide a reason to play. It's a goal, not a challenge.
For example, I  thought the first Zeboyd Penny Arcade game was easy enough to complete asleep (no challenge) but I didn't raise the difficulty. I still played it for the goal of maximizing synergy between my classes (further lowering challenge). Because I enjoy that.

It's also worthwhile to remember that games offer interaction and not just gameplay/challenge. There are plenty of games that have a great story or environment or pleasurable experience in general without having a particular challenge for many players.
Gameplay is the purest form of interaction possible, and I'll go as far as to say it's the only one.  The rest is just the game engaging the player on an emotional level. Like I said, if not for the gameplay, why not be in a different medium altogether? Becoming emotionally involved is fantastic, but you can do that with any medium. It's not "real" interaction.
Games like the Last of Us, Uncharted and Heavy Rain might be fun for some people...
But to me they look just like the old Laserdisc Video Games, but with better graphics. Oh snap!

As has been said many times, and is said strongly in the video RylandAlmanza linked, challenge and difficulty are not the same thing at all. Conflating them is a serious mistep.
The guys at EC are a bit too smarmy for my taste. (That damn voice filter!)
As for their mentioned core aesthetics, almost every one that's not challenge/difficulty/actual gameplay can be found IN A DIFFERENT MEDIUM.
They claim difficulty and challenge is not the same thing, quoting Kirby's Epic Yarn, a game that is impossible to lose. I can only say that that game HAS NO challenge BECAUSE it has no difficulty. To me the two are joined at the hip. A game with no difficulty has about as much challenge as to be completable by just about anyone willing to press buttons long enough, and I feel gamers should have a bit more self-respect than that. To me, playing and enjoying Kirby's Epic Yarn is the same fucking thing as talking at the TV while watching Dora the Explorer.

Story in games: It's either something the player invents on his own volition (Dwarf Fortress, Sandbox games), something that's there but not in the way of gameplay (Etrian Odyssey, Cave Story (?), Red Dead Redemption) or something that's extremely prominent in the game (Heavy Rain; aka I WISH I WAS A MOVIE INSTEAD).
I don't count Oblivion/Skyrim under the Sandbox category because the story
a) is bad. I'd almost call it objectively bad. It's just shite, and people don't pick up on that because they have been systematically culturally starved all their life with garbage like the big bang theory and 2 and a half men.
b) has no fucking connection to the gameplay really. You could have replaced Alduin the dragon with Grobnar the Space Emperor, all the swords with space swords(tm), all the mer and men with eldar and space marines and you'd have had a game that plays just about the same. The game is "story-independant". It's only fantasy because fantasy sells better to the white male gamer demographic. That's not "story in games" in any way I'm willing to respect.

Yes, Planescape Torment had a good story. But when you hear a lot of people saying they "put up with the shitty gameplay" "in order to finish the story", don't you think it would have been better as a book? Or a visual novel? Or an animated movie? Was the greatness of the story amplified in any way by it being in a videogame?
For Cave Story I could say that it was. Sword and Sworcery can claim the same.

There's a lot to be said about the intrinsic value of games and everything connected to them, but I think people should try and evaluate whether we as a society have lowered the standards we have on the entertainment we consume. Also honestly think on what it means to be a videogame, what you expect to get out of it as a consumer that you cannot get elsewhere.
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Krice

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Re: Why to play games - permadeath discussion followup
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2013, 08:45:46 AM »
Games like the Last of Us, Uncharted and Heavy Rain might be fun for some people...
But to me they look just like the old Laserdisc Video Games, but with better graphics. Oh snap!

You might represent one narrow type of player who wants nothing but action and challenge. Don't think it's the only way to enjoy games. There are lot more things than "mood" or emotions that story may give. For me one of nice things in RPGs is exploration: simply visiting and finding new places. The older I get the less I like fighting against enemies and trying to become a demi-god in stats.