02 March 2012

Tidiness is Next to Compulsiveness

Yes, I know the correct noun is compulsion.

I got to thinking about game features and what I like and why I like it. It's an interesting thing to dwell on because, for one, it's good to reflect on what we like and why we like it and find what needs are being met by our behaviors and compulsions. In addition, it's fun to see what role games play in our need to meet our needs.


What I've decided is, for a start, I really like patterns and rhythm. I know I have a musical mindset and that lends itself well to order and rhythm. In addition, I'm a tidy person (if not a fixedly clean one) and so I value order which is a pattern in and of itself. Some of the games I've enjoyed most over my years are citybuilding games. Not so much SimCity, though I do like those games, but more the ancient civilization series by Impressions Games. This includes Caesar, Zeus, Pharaoh, Emperor, and the like. They are fun games and they're run on a grid system so, while it allows for nigh infinite flexibility in city design, there is a sense of order as all things must align to the grid. I recall the enjoyment of fully designing my city on pause mode, mapping out all the districts and streets and trying to be as attentive to detail as possible (my sense of order and achievement are curbed my laziness). Sometimes I would do all of this on "pause" mode, then unpause to see that there was no way the city could support its own infrastructure as there were not enough people there to fill all the needs. Such haste.

As an aside, I wish the Facebook building games were less about grinding out tokens or clearing the land and more about actually making stuff.

By the same token, certain platformers -- and I say certain because I largely dislike platformers -- and shmups work on a sense of pattern and rhythm. The feel of timing your jumps just right or memorizing the patterns of enemy waves in bullet hell type shooters.

If I like patterns, I really like achievement. I'm not sure where it stems from and I don't feel the need to psychoanalyze presently, but I do enjoy a feeling of achievement in games. This is where the leveling system in RPGs feeds my obsessions and there is also need to be at the top of a leaderboard in FPS games. This is something I've wrestled with in my old age, getting over that need to grind out levels or be the best. It hinders enjoyment, especially when one is "grown" with rather a lot of responsibilities and lacking the time it takes to get what you think you need out of such games. Another interesting thought, though, is the rhythm to combat in both RPGs and shooters. For most RPGs there are the ubiquitous hotkeys, full of those wonderful abilities granted your little hero. Part of the appeal of the combat is timing and ordering the use of these skills to achieve maximum effect. It's not unlike the notes and instruments of a song, as everything must work together properly to compose the effort. First-person shooters have a rhythm of their own.

One of my favorite FPS from the last decade was the original Left4Dead. Facing wave after wave of zombies required a rhythmic attack to ensure maximum efficiency. My favorite weapon was the shotgun as it allowed a heavy beat to follow; boom, click, boom, click. Precision in aiming, firing, moving on to the next enemy.

So it's fun to ponder why our favorite things appeal to us. Oftentimes it's the most convenient medium by which to get in touch with that which brings us life, in some form or another. Now, why do I like cooking...

2 comments:

Andrew Isley said...

I love the feeling of control that mastering a game or gameplay system brings. I love to learn how to "game" AI enemies and min/max my character for max effectiveness.

I know a lot of people find this boring and ruinous, but I like that games have hard fast rules (unlike life), and learning how max your potential within a clearly defined rule set gives me a strong sense of control.

shipwreck said...

I'd wager half, maybe, of all gamedom should find that boring. A lot of people get sucked into games for that very reason (the control thing)!

It's funny, I like maxing out a character for the sense of achievement. The control I get from games is being able to get what I want out of it and put it down.