02 May 2011

Iron Grip




I'm not the most determined person. I'm too fixated on taking it easy these days and that is probably a good thing. Or not -- in fact, I actually started this post almost five months ago. Anyways, when it comes to games sometimes you have to hang on and fight through the learning curve, failure, and frustration before breaking through and truly enjoying a game. Texas Hold 'Em is a prime example and one that I've explored on this blog before. EVE Online comes to mind as a notorious example, as does Dwarf Fortress. Specifically it is Dawn of War 2 that's been bothering me lately.

In a previous post I expressed my dismay with real-time strategy games, their annoying communities, and my general lack of skill with the multiplayer aspect of the genre. Every so often I go back to Dawn of War and try again, get mad and keep it installed to play as my beloved Orks from time to time. I revisit this question partially because I recently purchased the latest expansion, Retribution, which so far has been sub-par at best. The nagging question, though, is at what point do you just stick it out? When do you grit your teeth and bear it, plant your iron grip until you start winning?

Certainly that's a question of personality, values, and overall grit. Some people live for the challenge of the game, other people just want to have fun. My feeling of late has been that there are enough challenges out here in the real world to deal with and it is generally not worth my time to struggle through the challenge of game unless the game is ruddy good.

On the other hand, however, fun is oftentimes amplified when it is gained at the expense of great pain and toil. It is much more rewarding to have a serious fight on your hands and prevail than to face a glassjawed opponent who will lay down the very moment you bring out the big guns. I would love to lead an army of Orks, stamping and shooting, over a mound of dead Space Marines after a trying and wearying battle and yell out an excited "WAAAGH!!".

The question, then, is that of measure which I will return to soon.

Another place where grip and guts are required is in one's fidelity to a game, especially of the online variety. It's no secret that I am practically married to my beloved LotRO. But like a real marriage it requires dedication! I find that when I look around the internets at those new games that pop up every month, with their glossy new graphics and "innovation", that it draws my eye away form Turbine's Middle-earth. When I follow the many excellent blogs that decry the fun still to be had in LotRO, I am excited to play and continue playing and to stick it out for many play sessions to come. And the time I have in the game is enjoyable and rewarding. However there is still a measure to be attained.

With a competitive game, like Dawn of War, that measure is a simple equation:


Time + Challenge = Reward + Enjoyment

Alright, that's poor algebra (I never made it in calculus, God save me) but I think you get it. The time you put in plus the challenge to be had should be equal to the rewarding feeling and enjoyment you reap. If it's not then you should back away slowly and have your WAAAGH!! elsewhere. With a fairly casual and non-competitive online game this equation equals out with relative ease; I can log in for an hour, play a few quests, see a beautiful sight, farm in the Shire, and log out with some modicum of enjoyment and accomplishment. The levels on either side of this scale are never very high, that is to say there is not much challenge and the reward is not so great, and I daresay that is part of the appeal. When the scales remain balance but are weighed down with greater challenge and greater reward it really works and those moments are worth sticking around for.

Some people get high off seeing the former side of that scale tipped unfavorably and then working their respective asses off to see it balanced. Others, like me, just want enough to feel like you've done something with your time. At the end of the day, sticking it out with a game is as subjective as the kind of pie you enjoy (even if your pie of choice is crumb cake).

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