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Talking ’bout my G-G-Game Generation

March 23, 2012

Dear Reader,

It’s becoming more and more apparent to me, both through my buddies and my own experience as well as through blogs I’ve been noticing pop up in our little community, that people of my “game generation” are getting a bit fatigued with the games we’re being presented.  I mentioned a few correspondences ago that I had redownloaded several previous MMOs I’d enjoyed that had since gone Free to Play (or at least free to try), and was going to give each one another run for its money.  Unfortunately, what happened instead was I loaded them up and was almost instantly bored with them.  “That’s strange,” I thought, “I used to enjoy these games, at least to some degree.  What’s going on?”

The more I pondered the question, the more I became convinced that I’m just getting tired of the same-old-same-old.  Even when it’s well designed, has great graphics and animations, and provides the security of a familiar game structure (like Star Wars), I can’t make myself be interested.  This follows with what Raph Koster says, but extends it, as well.  He says the destiny of all games is to become boring, but I think people in my game generation are finding that to be true with whole genres.

I can’t begin to list every game I’ve played genre-by-genre.  I started to do so anyway, but found it simultaneously exhausting to try to remember every game I’ve ever played and somewhat arrogant, like all these games were bragging rights.  Suffice it to say, there’s been a lot, and I had only gotten through the RPG genre and was fearfully looking towards the shooter genre.

Let me put it this way: Mathematically, if I played just two hours of video games a day (on average) since I got my Nintendo (which wasn’t even my first “computer,” but it marks the first great uptick in my video game time), I’d be nearing not 10,000 hours, the Gladwell standard of expertise, but 20,000: double expert, and that’s pretending it was only two hours a day as an average.  Three or four might be more accurate, even as a longitudinal average for the past several decades.

What happens when you’ve devoted so much time to a single (sort of; each game is different) cause?  I’m not sure.  For me, it’s become an issue of tolerance, as in the medical form.  I’ve developed a high tolerance for games, so it takes more and more for me to get excited.  Tobold wrote on the professional angle of this recently when he discussed whether game reviewers should be old hats or new ones, but I believe there’s a personal toll as well; the more we’ve played, the more fun we’ve had, the harder it is to keep finding it.

In the past, when this type of genre-tolerance has risen up, a new genre appeared.  Consider RPGs changing from text-based adventures to party-based first-person perspective (think Darkside of Xeen or Wizardry) to more “flowing” hex based games like Baldur’s Gate or Fallout.  In the later models, the party system was maintained, though with some caveats about having to build your party.  As those games began to run old around the time of Baldur’s Gate 2 or Neverwinter Nights, we had MMOs on the rise.

Shooters are no different.  I think back to my old Atari and Commodore 64 “bottom up” shooters like the classic Space Invaders.  Then we get side scrollers, like the original Duke Nukems.  That turns into Wolfenstein 3d, where they finally merge the shooter idea with the first person role-playing perspective.  From there there’s been relatively little development of that genre, except perhaps the over-the-shoulder shooter which has recently become more popular (though I can’t stand that weird off-to-the-side perspective).

Games have evolved a lot, but recently due to the wild success of MMOs, particularly WoW, I feel like innovation’s taken a hit while companies instead focus on money-making ventures.  I’m sure there’s innovation out there, but I’m just not sure where, and I want the innovation.  The second part of having developed a high tolerance to games is the need for that stronger hit.  I’m an addict, you see, an old-school “started playing when I was only seven years old” addict who needs more and more to get the same rush of exhilaration.  It’s not a good feeling to constantly not get it.

To be clear, that’s not to say I dislikethe games I play.  I don’t.  I’ve really enjoyed most of them (Don’t buy Spellbound 2, by the way).  I’m impressed with innovation, enjoy kind-of-new gameplay, and revel in the fun I do have – and I do have fun.  I just don’t have the fun I used to have, and it doesn’t last as long as it used to.  I thought for a while it was something to do with me, personally.  Perhaps I simply was a being a brat, hard to entertain, ungrateful for what I had.  I don’t know, though.  The more I think about those 20,000 hours (or likely more), the more I wonder.  How many more hours does it take to move from expert to burnout?

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and desperately seeking new game innovations)

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Syl permalink
    March 23, 2012 4:20 pm

    Some very good points. I feel similar, but for me innovations are still appealing especially on the technology side of things. A lot can still be done there, if I think of VR, augmented reality or also better AI for example. The Wii has probably profited most from going down new roads in such terms over the past years. Personally I wish progress was even faster though, give me the full, FP virtual experience already!! hehe.

    I notice how film is in a similar phase; many old stories are being re-cooked with better technology, effects and sounds, 3D (not a fan) etc. (SW among many) or then really big, new releases are all about the package (avatar). The focus is less on new stories, although I don’t believe you can ever exhaust that. At some point the pendulum will sweep back.

  2. March 26, 2012 2:43 am

    Nope it’s not you – thangs r boooorang just now on the new idea front – on the other hand the financials deserve more than popcorn, (pizza, lager!) Watch em wiggle! I am getting my jollies mostly by dibby dabbying about amongst the ever increasing offerings in a multitude of flavours of “free”ness. The creative juices pouring into how to get my attention and make me part with a penny are truly aaaahsum!

    • March 27, 2012 10:35 am

      Yeah, and I attribute a lot of that boringness to actually be the success of other games. When everyone is after money and grubbing for a piece of the pie, things tend to be replicas rather than new designs. Of course, there’s always artists out there who care more about fun than profit, but there seem to be fewer than in the past when video games weren’t as mainstream or consolidated under a few large roofs (like EA, MS, and so forth). At any rate, thanks for the comment!

  3. March 27, 2012 1:29 pm

    Interesting, but yes burn out does happen, even amongst the most stalwart players. I find it necessary to try different aspects of the games I play to keep them fresh,even if outside my comfort zone. I’m not a hardcore expert at any mmo, but instead I flow through games and enjoy them for what they are. There is still tons of content in many of the MMOs Ive played that I have yet to see. Things that I enjoy, a REAL storyline. Most quests are kill ten ratz, yes I got it. Even raids are somewhat the same. But, the the game developers create an engaging storyline for it that has your toon travel the world, I still get a kick out of it. Take for instance, in Age of Conan (my current enjoyment) Doing the Destiny questlines all the way to the end is a huge engagement. It has plenty of cut scenes and it makes a difference. Now, does it get old over time? Yes. Thats why I also search for quests that specificly draw me into a storyline for immersion. I used to do a significant amount of RP as well, it just got very taxing over time. For RP aspect, creating a storyline other than Tavern piss takes a lot of coordination. I have seen it done a few times, but rarely consistantly. This is a shame, but it is the truth. Crafcting systems that make you research. I love this, SWG pre NGE had the most awesome crafting system around. It allowed for so much experimentation. Age of Conan will be doing something Simular. But what makes the gaming industry frsh? NOT playing it every day. Walk back to it like an old favorite TV series.

    Why are games getting boring though? Well the industry wants to make money. Investors will only drop money on a project that has minimal risk. Ergo, if we want more exciting content or mechanics etc, then it’s on the players to stop buying into the same old same old. I guess in the end, games have to engage you on different levels, both physical (stimulation), mental(same), and emotional. There has to be a tie to the game you love. Interestingly enough there has been a project going on to revive the SWG pre NGE on private servers, because people LOVED that game that much. IT’s the attachment to a genre that helps to keep workin a series.

    I also look at MMO’s as a marraige contract of sorts. I only get out of it what I put into it. Same in return. When an MMO stops trying to improve etc, then I ahve no emotional attachment. Like marraige, MMOs have skins (ie beauty, graphics, looks, etc) but those fade over time. So, it becomes a partnership. The mechanics don’t need to be spectacular. The attachment does. Just my two Copper. Good seein ya Stubborn!

    • March 28, 2012 4:04 pm

      Good to see you too, Mhorg. I find your theory of attachment to MMOs interesting. I may actually do a write up on that; what should we compare our attachment with an MMO to? You use marriage; you get out of it what you put into it. How about a job: work and reward. Or a parent/child relationship: it trains you how to behave in certain situations. Whatever anthropomorphic shape we put on our relationship to a game, though, the end result is that it’s truly only one way. The developers aren’t catering to you or I, but to an idea of what they think a player is. It could coincidentally be just like you or I, but it also might not (and frequently is not).

      I too, wish for an MMO that has a more organic crafting system, something that rewards players for the time they put in better than simply with junk that’s useless after 1 tier of raids goes by. The highest quality crafters should be just as valuable to the community as the highest quality raiders, but instead only a few professions get all the glory while the others collect dust.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • March 29, 2012 5:33 pm

      Stubborn,
      Interesting topics. When looking at a job, it is purely reward based when successful. Failure on the other hand sets you backwards if the job is demanding…perform or be fired. I suppose Progression raids could be equated to this. But I am thinking that the job reward based might not work as well. If we look at WoW, we see there is a ton of achievements you get for completing certain tasks as a reward for your long work on the game. Yet, this doesnt seem to fulfill people after awhile. I am thinking it puts a stop gap for a bit, but there still is something…magical if you will that is missing. I never bought into the achievement series and never was a hardcore raider as I find it can actually destroy the social relationships with your fellow guildees. Immersion on the other hand, expanding the world (read deeepening the marriage relationship through communication of needs and reciprocation) makes for a lasting commitment when looking at a game. Work theory does not fulfill the social emotional levels to keep the balance. The big three I mentioned earlier, bio physical, mental, emotional need to be balanced for each player for a full commitment to the game.

      In example, I have played WoW for several years, but felt no real attachment to it in the long term. It had some interesting things to do, and certainly it was a total themepark experience. Nothing wrong with that. But I didnt feel loyalty. Id hire and fire toons even if they hit 80. I’d guild hop (very bad form) and server hop for the next great thing. But I felt no loyalty to the game itself. I had no bond to it. While the world and storyline did progress (one huge plus in my book), I stopped getting satisfaction out of it. I tred desperately to make it work. I read every story questline. I enjoyed the show, but once it was over….I was ready to pick up and leave…..like a one night stand.

      With AoC, it’s different for me. I invested time and effort to progress in the game, while thoroughly enjoying being there. The game has had ups and downs. It is glitchy as hell. But it’s a bond I have with the genre. It has a story to tell. Yes there are the standard mmo mechanics…but that’s like day to day living. The magic comes to life when I discovered something new about the game because I refused to rush to 80. I explored a new area I hadnt previously seen. I found new vanity armor that signified one of my toon’s realism. I began forming immersive storylines for each toon. It just happened. Even in the midst of a nasty patch that dropped, I see the future as it grows. This is for me like a relationship. You grow with it, it grows with you. I dunno, ramblings from an old soldier. Anyhow Stubborn, I always enjoy our chats and look forward to many more.

      ~Mhorgrim

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