Counting For Taste

By Jim Rossignol on February 28th, 2010 at 3:31 pm.


Watching Jesse Schell’s DICE2010 presentation about recent trends in game development – which took as its subject matter the unexpected popularity of Facebook’s “social” games and the external reward boom (unlocks, achievements, increased focus on the “score” for gaming generally) – I started to have a think about our Gaming Made Me series. I don’t think there were many mentions in there of “I just got hooked on the points system,” and I wondered if that would be different if we did it again in ten years time, or just with a wider net of people. Moreover, it got me thinking about some of the reasons why some gamers were horrified by the picture Schell painted.

Gaming made lots of people who weren’t on our list. To take a specific example let’s head to 2007 where two of the creators of Deus Ex – Warren Spector and Harvey Smith – came together to discuss Smith’s creative life. It was part of a series of “masterclass” lectures delivered by Spector at the University Of Texas. Even though the interview with Smith was supposed to illuminate his professional life as a videogame designer, it ended up plunging into remarkably intimate territory, with Smith discussing his upbringing in an unhappily dysfunctional family in a Texan town. It was a place that he couldn’t wait to escape. His escape began long before he could physically leave, he recalled, as he began to consume comics, movies, and videogames. It was an incredibly familiar story: “Reading, writing, communicating with people, playing games, watching movies,” said Smith. “These were like magical forces in the world. When your world is shitty, and you put on some music – think about the transformative power of that, or when you immerse yourself in a movie.” That transformative power was distributed across all the forms of media that the young Smith could get his hands on, with electronic games just being one possibility among many others. Smith seemed to dismiss the idea that this lead directly to his creative adult life as a game creator, as this was the kind of escape available to any kid his age, in that kind of situation. There was nothing special about it – it was the most ordinary thing in the world. Without provocation, however, Smith felt compelled to defend his pastimes, and his youthful escapism: “Power fantasies, as much as people malign them… [are] hugely important. Fighting a demon is a literal manifestation of an abstract idea. If you’re really into horror and an under-powered protagonist overcomes overwhelmingly powerful forces, there’s cathartic process there.”

My own childhood wasn’t particularly unhappy, and I had no reason to escape it, but the simple fact that there were ways to do so was enough. I spent a lot of time on videogames, but considerably more with pen and paper games, particularly AD&D and various Palladium systems. I spent countless hours immersed in the sourcebooks for these games, both reading the material and creating my own scenarios based on it. I had limitless patience for it, and would happily run adventures for anyone who would sit and listen. The best players, however, were the ones for whom the game represented a kind of collaborative imaginative project. Sometimes it was cathartic – as Smith describes it – but most often it was transformative in a way that nothing else was. We escaped.

The less interesting players of my games, however, were the ones who were excited by something else: loot. They rapidly became fixated on the material rewards earned by their characters, and would start to ignore the events that were delivering them. They now remind me of narrow-minded gamblers, where what mattered were the chips on the table, and the odds, rather than the mental challenge. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a scoreboard, and the hi-score is something I’m just as likely to aim for as anyone else. (I spent years obsessing over Eve Online killboards – the hi-score table of a sandbox MMO.) It’s just that I see the greatest rewards in gaming elsewhere: in competitive games, where I’d be playing and (hopefully) beating other people, or exploratory games, where I’d be opening up something and seeing more of the world. (And I’m reminded at this point of how many people who, on playing World Of Warcraft for the first time, mentioned that they’d just like to explore, and not have to do all that levelling stuff.)

The response of the first kind of player is, I think, to be found in all of us to lesser or greater degrees. Those people who were scared by Schell’s vision of the future are the ones who have, like Smith in his Texan hometown, identified something magical and transformative about games – something which is present in other places too, like comics, or movies, or even drugs. Those people for whom Schell’s future doesn’t seem so bad, and those people who are already grinding meta-points for simulated achievement, are becoming the second type of player. Perhaps they were always that kind of player, and they’re just being catered for. Schell’s vision, and the entire culture of metascores, unlocks, and achievements, has arisen from focusing too hard and what the second type of player got out of his game.

Consequently I’m inclined argue that we’re approaching a crossroads in terms of judgements about what games are and what we should fight for. Should games be allowed to flourish or die on their own merits? Or is it best if they’re tied up with some kind of numerical scaffolding, some kind of money-placebo that we can use to measure our efforts? This is related to Tom Armitage’s piece that we linked to in the Sunday Papers, where he says games should be rated for their “gameness”, and not their cinematic quality, or anything else. Tom is exactly half right in his argument, because while games should be rated on their proficiency as a game, they are not entirely distinct from other media. (And some games – specifically arcade games – are pure “gameness”, but they are only one fragment of the whole.) Games should be seen as part of a continuum of entertainments, a kind of layered Venn diagram which includes all of literature, all moving image, or 3D models, all sculptures, pieces of music, and creative performance. The gameness of games is what gives them their position in this continuum, but it is not solely what makes them valuable to the people who play them: that’s just as likely to be found in the story, the particular concatenation of visuals and audio, the specific timbre of escapism – something that could just as easily be found in a book or a movie.

Perhaps it’s true that points/achievements have created a wider landscape of possible gaming experiences, but there’s also the danger that this absurdly addictive thread within games will end up polluting them. Gaming for numbers is a kind of by-product of concentrated gameness, and I think it’s becoming toxic. It’s something that people are increasingly noticing the compulsive qualities of, and that’s only going to become more acute, particularly if people take Schell’s talk as their cue. It makes you think about what kind of games we should want to be “making” the next generation.

Isn’t it the case that we actually need the cross-pollination of things which are “cinematic” or “literary” if we’re going to keep gaming alive, relevant, and valuable? The kid in the small Texan town is saved by a whole bunch of things, and he doesn’t necessarily rate one over another – they simply share this quality for transforming his thoughts, and opening an imaginary escape hatch. Boil things down to numbers, and we start seeing games regarded with the kind of cynicism reserved for gambling, or – hell – banking and the whole points-grinding game of capitalism itself. Games – and by that I mean their developers – need to realise that they are in all media. If the things Smith talked about being so important to his growing up are also important to the rest of us, then we need to start rooting for them, too. Games need to be rewarding like a book or a film, because they share properties with those kinds of technologies, not because it’s some additional property of being a game.

Okay, anyway, enough for now. I got some demons to fight.

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70 Comments »

  1. PhiIl Cameron says:

    By creating it into a race between games as escapism and games as numbers, you’re nearly slipping into becoming guilty of the same thing that you’re arguing against; games as literature/movies/music/everything rather than games as pure distilled gameness.

    Perhaps I need to explain myself a little better. Basically, there’s room for both. I suppose one is always going to be dominant over the other, because nothing’s really equal, but so long as one doesn’t eradicate the other, I don’t see an issue here. Let them have their Facebook grinds, their fetishistic high-scores and their piles of loot. Just so long as we get our stories, our experiences, and our escapes.

    Can’t we all just get along?

    But then, that’s not the point here; the point is that Schell is proposing a world without the escapism, or at least the solid escapism of another experience. He wants the escapism of numbers, and everything else be damned. So it’s understandable to take an opposite approach, and attempt to route out all the numbers in favour of the narrative we can form.

    I guess what I’m saying is that we need a little compromise on both sides, and at the same time I can’t see a world where all the life gets sucked out of games; there’ll always be a healthy appetite for both sides of the coin.

    • Dolphan says:

      “you’re nearly slipping into becoming guilty of the same thing that you’re arguing against; games as literature/movies/music/everything rather than games as pure distilled gameness.”

      I didn’t think that was what he was arguing against? He’s actually argued for it completely deliberately, in the sense of saying that it has value and shouldn’t be abandoned entirely, even if looking at ‘gameness’ is necessary as well.

    • Sonic says:

      I was always excited by survival horror titles, for example, simply because they didn’t score you for kills or accuracy, it’s simply whether you make it through.

  2. Fetthesten says:

    In my opinion, this is a crucial point for game developers right now, that is: To what extent should the meta-game aspects of a gaming experience be the motivating factor? The way I see it, and – indeed, the way I’ve noticed I’ve become conditioned – is that the meta stuff matters a lot more now. With Gamerscore and Trophies having become mandatory for 360 and PS3 games and some Windows games, I find myself checking them often and occasionally doing stuff I wouldn’t bother with otherwise, had there not been a shiny new Trophy in it for me. On one hand I like this stuff because you can check out what kind of challenges your game-playing friends have completed, telling you more about their gaming habits than a single high-score ever could. On the other hand, the culture of “Gamerscore whoring” has gained traction, but I suspect this is simply the high-score chasers that have always been drawn to gaming finding a new way to compete.

    What I’m worried about is how this will affect multiplayer games in the long run. It’s very rare that a multiplayer-focused title is released these days without some kind of metastructure that provides unlocks and accolades for completing specific challenges, and I fear it’s becoming a barrier to entry for a lot of people who aren’t used to this way of folding highly abstracted structures into the overall experience. It doesn’t really make any sense that you won’t be able to bolt a shotgun onto your rifle unless you kill 20 people with grenades, for example.

    So, yeah, I’m basically agreeing with you in that there’s nothing inherently wrong with adding this sort of abstract currency to games, but if overdone it might dilute the overall appeal of the medium. My fondest gaming memories are also of brilliantly realised moments of escapism, exploring fantastical worlds, and experiencing rich stories (whether explicitly told through the game, or woven by myself from the playing experience). This is the defining quality of games; their interactive nature allows players to experience and craft their own stories. Amassing pretend currency is not only possible in games, so let’s hope that’s not what will be seen as their defining characteristic in the years to come.

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    Tinus says:

    I agree with Phill, there is room for both. Like all technological developments, it could well be that the medium of games will diverge into lots and lots of different forms.

    Personally I’m quite fed up with games that target prehistoric parts of the brain to keep players hooked. The conscious part of the brain, however tiny it may still be, is where the interesting stuff happens, as it is what separates us from our animal ancestors. To me, it makes sense to build games which interact with that part, as it is the part of the brain we are now evolving; it has a future.

    Still, as long as we still inhabit our ancient, unmodified, DNA-based bodies, building experiences for such a tiny part of the brain is not a very good idea from a marketing perspective. ;)

  4. Arsewisely says:

    I think it’s important to look at the avenues through which computer games can travel as the genre evolves. I’d ask the question: is there room for games to develop with a focus on points fetishism? I think they’re just about reaching the limit with that kind of gaming; there are only so many fundamental ways you can make points earning an original and desirable activity. The crow-barring in of achievements, however unsuitable to the game, exemplifies this to me.

    Personally, I’m far more excited by the generation of narrative. I was always excited by survival horror titles, for example, simply because they didn’t score you for kills or accuracy, it’s simply whether you make it through. I kind of hope that sophisticated emergent play is the future.

  5. Dan says:

    My parents are hooked on tesco points, and deals from ALDI. It’s totally a game with an internalized ‘I just saved ? pounds’ scoring system. I have another friend, who doesn’t seem to realize that he spends a lot of his own time hunting for deals (after all, unless you’ve played Eve, your own time is free, right?).

  6. Mr Chug says:

    I don’t see achievements or point chasing to be bad things as concepts- they can support the goals of the game quite happily without being a pointless chase. Team Fortress 2 is a good example of achievements done both right and wrong: many can be seen as the closest thing to a tutorial in the game, giving players rewards for defending points or showcasing the more unique skills of a class. Others, such as the ‘Get 1000 kills/assists’ or the one for forcing a ragequit are pointless and grindy, only serving to force players onto an achievement server so they can get the filled in box on their Steam page.

    It only really occurred to me that the problem was also in the players when we were putting together a clan team for Left 4 Dead, and the organiser turned down suggestions of people because they didn’t have enough achievements and therefore wouldn’t be good enough.

    • MarkSide says:

      Just chiming in to agree that achievements that serve to highlight new and untried experiences or tactics in a game are great. I don’t think I ever would have tried L4D on expert, but for my friend’s seemingly mad desire for achievements. But we did and it was hilarious.

    • Shalrath says:

      I think this makes me a devil’s advocate here, but I like WoW’s achievement system solely because there are so many fucking achievements it’s almost impossible (except for that one guy) to get them all. So it forces players to NOT simply grind to get them all, and you get a reward randomly, or you can try for specific ones that suit your playstyle.

      That isn’t to say they’re all brilliant achievements, I just like that there are so MANY that 99.9999% of players simply get the ones they want, as opposed to getting that 1000/1000 that so many 360 owners do.

    • Nesetalis says:

      I have to agree with you, WoW’s achievements are much better than some of the games I have played…
      plus the achievements arnt that important, they dont, as was previously mentioned, allow you to attach your shotgun to your rifle :P though you might get a nifty mount or a pet.. maybe a title..
      meta game should give meta game rewards, not tangible benefit.

      though I have noticed that alot of people are requiring you to have certain achievements to join raids, but usually these are the achievement to have downed the raid boss before, so they know your not just a random idiot whos never been to a raid in their life :P

  7. Janlengben says:

    Thank you Jim, this is the most comprehensive and well-written argument I’ve read on what I belive to be the great divide in modern gaming. I’m increasingly frustrated by the opinion that games are an unique medium that has nothing to gain from other forms of expression, or that they shouldn’t try to express anything at all. This seems counter-productive, and even ignorant.

  8. And Triage says:

    Spot-on, sir, and well said. D&D/pen-and-paper is still my favorite medium of gaming simply because there aren’t any established limitations on what you can and cannot do, as you see in video games.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the new wave of the ‘casual gamer’ crowd. But that’s nothing new.

    Drugs are a great magical escape, too. Good point.

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    Arathain says:

    For hope of reaching a sensible place in this whole numbers/narrative thing I turn to the unlikely source of the Diablo 3 “WoW gayness” crowd. Diablo is, mechanistically, as pure a numbers game as it comes. A series of simple actions refined to a razor’s edge be endless repetition, with the goal of getting a dropped item that will incrementally increase a character stat, and getting experience to gain new actions; repeat to fade. You would think that the people who really care about the game (enough to bother posting on the Internet- a tiny minority of game players) would be hardcore numbers people.

    And yet staggering numbers of them turned up everywhere to post protectively about the setting. About how the colour scheme would affect their enjoyment of the atmosphere of the game.

    There’s a numbers side and a narrative side to each of us as gamers; scratch the right spot and one or the other will come out in unlikely places. So I’m not worried about narrative losing out to in game and out of game numbers meta-grinds.

  10. anonymous17 says:

    As a perception of a broader whole – games do not create they recreate.

    People closely identify with faux accomplishment because this is the current motivation for the vast majority of the world’s academics, workers and farmers. Entrepreneurs, those who try to push the fold forward do not play games because they are too busy, but in creating businesses and academies they restrict the individuals whose lives they affect in dreaming up new products and services because it requires some hours of drudgery by some individual to make your piece of plastic toy you want the hockey mum’s to buy.

    In the absence of tangibleness, facts and figures are given meaning. (See British Civil Service)

    RPS has seen arguments before concerning to absence of not only meaning in MMO’s but also the lack of actual difficulty. If the game were actually skill based no one would play simply because it is too hard. (Some RPS discussion concerning MMOs) The recent trend towards independent games and their desires to strike a balance between game play, interest and reward (see Jonathan Blow video interview) have become more important but have simultaneously pushed PC gaming out of the mainstream and into the realm of ‘eccentrics’.

    Games are escapism, but the kind of escapism that one seeks is defined by one’s experiences.
    Innovative games are not innovative per se, they recreate the feelings and expectations of specialists, defined as such by experience of games, professional career and medical disorders, &c.
    False reward games cash in on the lifestyles given out by the state of society/globe.

    Achievements are a step further into the maw in comparison with the academic world. This is where countless denizens are rewarded for memorising facts and figures for little reason and then told they have ‘achieved something’. (See British Civil Service)

    For all the preening and positioning amongst gamers and developers, the touting of new concepts and ideals, they are little different from anything that has come before them – products of the society in which they exist.

  11. pupsikaso says:

    One more thing that needs to be taken into consideration when talking whether this meta-gaming is good or bad is what kind of attitude it breeds. By itself, having high-score tables, unlocks and achievements is not a bad thing, but when your child comes home from school, sits down at a game and plays it so he can /gloat/ at his peers the next day in school how much more points he has than them, then this becomes as toxic as Jim says.

    Competition by itself is a healthy activity (which is why we still have the Olympics, boring though they are), but once it gets out of hand and people (children and adults, too) start to whore it out for the sake of feeling non-existant superiority, then it loses the whole meaning of the “spirit of competition”.

    So is it really okay to have so many games that accomodate this kind of behaviour? Especially when children are so easily influenced by it. Not that adults aren’t. But why do we not see this kind of ill-will in activities such as the Olympics or any sporting championship, but it is so prevelant in online gaming? Certainly, a certain amount of moderation is required. You can’t expect an ‘olympicist’ to vent off on a competitor and not expect harsh consequences. They won’t lose their medal, but they’ll lose their face and reputation. Certainly, they won’t be chosen for their contry’s team the next time.

    As for the same problem with children, I think moderation is again the way to go. I do not believe that any human, and especially children, are “inherently, naturally” this way. All it takes is just one bad apple to spread this kind of corruption. This is why a well-behaved child can so easily be influenced by other’s into this ill-willed, superiority-driven ‘competition’ if there are no parents around to smack them up the head. Which means parents need to get more involved with their children’s gaming, and that’s a whole different topic.

    So is it okay for games and game developers to keep pumping out games with this kind of metagaming attached? No, certainly not. Not unless they intend to take it upon themselves to insure that the competition is actually moderated. Not by means of some kind of real life moderator that goes around and slaps the wrists of any kid that swears over the internet, but rather a more deeper system doesn’t isolate the game from life, but encompasses it in a way that the consequences of being a poor sport are more real than whatever it is that can be gained in the game.

  12. Cinnamon says:

    Agree with the article.

    I think that the problem for us as gamers is that to game developers “achiever” type gamers are the easiest to manipulate and satisfy in video games just like they are in casinos. There is a real risk that their lust for exploiting this sort of gamer will lead to games being laser targeted just at these people to the point where it ruins the lives of these gamers and video games get regulated just like gambling. This is a far out prediction but in my estimation more likely than the crazy Chris Morris style sketch of two maroons comparing synchronized animated tattoo advertisements.

    I would like more developers to rethink how more games can be made with a low focus on overall achievement and more of a focus on enjoying the game and doing your best. In one game session rather than performing adequately over many sessions. Some people almost make out these days that people who are self motivated to play games and learn to master games for their own enjoyment are sick or somehow subnormal. What sort of message does that send out to people, especially young people?

  13. Demon Beaver says:

    When watching Schell’s presentation, I wasn’t horrified by the apparent end of video games he described, but rather by the apparent end of individuality and privacy… in terms of games, I think both have their places, though I do tend to go with the escapism

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    HermitUK says:

    Heavy Rain has no difficulties successfully juggling a strong narrative with trophy support on the PS3. Both Mass Effect titles aren’t damaged by a hefty set of achievements, same with Dragon Age. There’s absolutely no reason they can’t sit side by side.

    Complaining about the inclusion of entirely optional achievements is silly. If this is something some gamers enjoy doing, why move to prevent it. Provided it isn’t impacting on the main product I see little harm in it. Given that the infastructure is already entirely in place on the consoles, adding them into a game is hardly a massive diversion of resources.

    Actual game changing achivement systems is much more of an issue in my books. You’ve only got to look at the class spam after every TF2 update to see the inherent perils. That said, they DO have a place in games provided they’re handled delicately.

    In MW2, for instance, there’s about 40 guns with an average of 5 or so attachments for each. That’s a massive stack of stuff, and dumping it all on the player at the start is only going to confuse. The difficulty is in balancing an unlock system to provide the feeling of acomplisment from advancing without causing issues for new players (when the MAG beta was on over the new year, the first 3-4 levels were an exercise in being killed a lot by people with much better unlocked equipment). Still like the idea of generic points being used to unlock stuff of your own choosing, meaning there’s still the drip feed of new stuff to try out without stuff you really want being locked away at level 48 or whatever.

  15. Tom Camfield says:

    Armatige’s argument is poor. He seems to be combining two separate arguments to create a nonsensical third.

    First, obviously, the Bioshock 2 reviewer has not explained him(or her)self properly. We (a school) teach kids; opinion, reasons, examples. Give me your opinion, and two reasons why you hold that opinion, and examples to illustrate each reason. Opinions like “it has good gameplay” are fine if they’re developed with reasons and examples, if they’re not then it’s a poor argument; you’ve given no basis for the view you hold.

    Second, slightly bizarrely, Armitage seems to be arguing that “game-ness” is whatever films and books are not. That’s like saying acting is not part of “film-ness” since you get acting in the theatre. This is clearly nonsense. You wouldn’t say that “football-ness” is not running, balls, rules, players, tackles, tactics etc because they’re all in other sports. A thing is allowed to be the sum of its parts, it doesn’t have to be reduced to its unique attributes.

    I’m not quite sure how he stuffs these two arguments together, since one argument asks for better criticism, while the other expresses disappointment that critics apply knowledge from other fields of criticism.

    If you want better criticism you have a whole range of critical theory from other art forms to help point out the flaws in, for example, the narrative, acting, architecture or even the cutscenes. Throwing away those critical tools because they use them for other media (books, films) feels like an over-reaction.

    A simple reaction to poor criticism of the “gameplay” element is to simply ask for a more developed argument, more reasons and examples. Denying that games can and should be criticised for the parts of them that resemble film and books is to rob the critic of a whole raft of tools and understanding that they can apply to the assessment of games.

  16. Will Tomas says:

    I think there’s a problem with language here too. The word ‘game’ outside of computer games has particular connotations, more in line with what Schell was on about than escapism: for most people D&D isn’t the same sort of ‘game’ as, for example, Monopoly or Connect 4. By having only the one word to describe the whole range of types of experience, and a word which isn’t (unlike ‘television’, ‘films’, ‘books’) devoid of a meaning outside of what we mean by it, means that a whole range of unsuitable things get lumped in together.

    It’s like saying ‘cartoons’. Tom & Jerry doesn’t have all that much in common with Spirited Away or UP, yet all of them can get lumped into the same box.

    That’s why I think the ‘games should be judged as games’ argument is stupid, after all, what a ‘game’ is to someone is very different to others. I wouldn’t want to put Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, and Chequers in the same box as, say, Oblivion and Bioshock – yet sometimes you can, with Bioshock’s pipe game. So in general there’s a very common problem where people get tied up in language because we don’t have the words to express what we mean clearly, as everything gets reduced simply to ‘a game’.

  17. tehplums says:

    I feel a typical game is pretty much a ‘game’ or sport with a theme our humy minds can relate to. Movies are a child of many disciplines evoking something entirely different. The (virtual) magical experience I’ve had in my gaming lifetime comes from somewhere inbetween a combination of those two.

    Sometimes its as crude as playing to see the story unfold mostly by cutsene. At its best when I am deciding on a course of action based on my experiences and then carrying out that task however I choose because I want to achieve something in the world beyond a shiny item. I am invested. I didn’t play Fallout 3 to have ‘fun.’ I played it because I was curious. I continued because the world drew me in. The core gameplay wasn’t very good at all but it didn’t get in the way of my true motivation for playing. It was a means to an end. I wasn’t there to have fun shooting shit I was here to get through these ruins. I wanted to know what this fucknut on the radio had to say for himself and to see what happened to the city and for my curiosity to be caught by many other things along the way. The gameplay was just the way I interacted with the world. Bioshock and GTA4 were too far in the other direction for me even though technically the core mechanics were better than Fallout 3 (though I don’t rate them.)

    Now they are attaching pelts, trophies, prestige and in-game monies as incentives to these themed electronic sports. It’s not what I’m into and I see it as a manipulation that may verge on the unethical. It seems like the worst possible reason to play a game. When it comes to any medium I need there to be some value in it. Something to learn. Be it a new perspective or something about myself.

    Loot is an addition to what games are but these magical experiences we love are not games at all. The game in them is one piece in a crude but still forming medium as Movies were before it. One I love and yet am deeply worried about. Personally I play these ‘games’ for an experience I wouldn’t have otherwise but what would you if you had your own personal holodeck. Would you leave it?

    For me it started the day I became Paul Atreides on the planet Arrakis. I played for 10 hours straight as the save function was boogarooed. At the end of that 10 hours I told myself.. Tomorrow I wont drink that damn water..

  18. Chuckchuckrazool says:

    This is certainly the most interesting, intelligent thread I’ve seen in some time. Bravo to all.

    This makes me ponder my own past behavior. I spent countless hundreds of hours as a teenager with the FASA game systems (Battletech, Shadowrun, and Earthdawn), designing characters, reading player’s guides, and generally immersing myself in these worlds.

    But the remarkable thing about it is that I never played them, not once. I suppose I was never able to suspend my disbelief sufficiently to sit among friends and say with a straight face, “You all enter the smoky, dingy bar and see your contact staring at you from a dark corner…” And etc.

    I wonder what kind of player I am then. I guess that’ll be the internal monologue of the day. RPS: Video Games, Morally Bankrupt Humor, Philosophical Power Struggles! We would surely be in a darker place without you.

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    drewski says:

    A couple of my friends created a roleplaying game of their own, which was essentially a pen and paper version of something like Jagged Alliance, based loosely on D&D rules. What made it interesting was that there was, essentially, no loot – you could more or less afford whatever guns you wanted at the start, and things like bullets and armor were easily acquired through a simply cash-for-missions reward structure.

    So, retrospectively, it seems clear to me that we were playing it purely for the adventure, for the discovery – and that’s also why I game. I rarely get involved with the extreme loot-reward games – I’ve played both Diablo’s through once but tend to get bored playing the same game twice, even on a higher difficulty, because I’m more or less done with that particular experience. Having bought Torchlight in the Steam new year sale, it’ll be interesting to see how I feel about a game that is, essentially, purely loot-reward based.

    But I do think there’s room for both kinds of players – those that want phat lewt and those that want a robust experience. Maybe they require different things in games, or even different games entirely, but I don’t think we need to narrow the scope of gaming to only include one or the other. Hopefully developers continue to make games where both types of gamer are catered for.

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      Lambchops says:

      i’m looking forward to seeing what I think of Torchlight as well.

      I’m not traditionally a fan of the “just for the loot” type of game; it will be interesting to see whether it can get its claws into me or not.

      —-

      As for the article I can’t see a future where games descend into pure numbers. There might be a furhter increase in the use of achievements and so on; but it’s never going to become the main point and turn gaming into a gambling-esque compulsion.

    • cs says:

      I’ve been playing a bit of Torchlight lately and I think you’ll find the game gives you what you’re looking for in a loot based system. Basically the loot flows like water. Greens and Blues (uncommon / rares) flow like water and Oranges (the epic gear) usually shows up 2 or 3 times in an hour long session. The only gear that doesn’t show up much are the Purples which have epic level stats and set bonuses.

      Even if the loot isn’t useful for your caster, you can save that orange gun for your vanquisher via the shared chest. And then there’s the almost broken enchantment system which allows you to give epic level stats to green items.

      At first, I was somewhat dismayed at how easy it was to gear up with uber items compared to games like Diablo or WoW, but I’ve come to enjoy it. The game gives you the feeling you want from a loot-based RPG of character progression and customization while letting you concentrate on the fun challenges of defeating a boss with a zillion adds. There’s no perceived need to grind a boss multiple times to get a super powered epic when you can enchant a common green to the same effect.

  20. Gassalasca says:

    Sorry to barge in offtopically like this, but for the life of me I can’t remeber what is the title of the series “Gaming Made Me” reference to? :blush:

  21. Frosty says:

    Rather then get involved in the debate right now I’ll just say nice post Rossignol. This is what I come to RPS for.

    • MD says:

      “Rather than get involved in the debate right now I’ll just say nice post Rossignol. This is what I come to RPS for.”

      Yeah, same here. There’s plenty in the article that I agree with, and some that I’ll have to think about. I might come back with something meaningful to add after reading through the article again, but in case I don’t: good stuff Jim, more of this sort of thing please!

  22. Tom Camfield says:

    @ Jim

    I shouldn’t worry, there’s more than enough room for the videogames to exist as entertainment (is it a good game?) and as art (have they use the achievements to encourage exploration and experimentation or do they just reward a arbitrary high score?). It’ll be just like books and films; big selling blockbusters and the critical award winners, sometimes a crossover or two.

  23. HexagonalBolts says:

    Suspended lion face
    Spilling at the centre
    Of an unfurnished sky
    How still you stand,
    And how unaided
    Single stalkless flower
    You pour unrecompensed.

    The eye sees you
    Simplified by distance
    Into an origin,
    Your petalled head of flames
    Continuously exploding.
    Heat is the echo of your
    Gold.

    Coined there among
    Lonely horizontals
    You exist openly.
    Our needs hourly
    Climb and return like angels.
    Unclosing like a hand,
    You give for ever.

  24. G Morgan says:

    You are quite right when speaking about ‘loot whores’ and narrativists. I get very leery of anything that purports to deliver escapism, however. I’m reminded of Michael Moorcock’s rejoinder to Tolkien’s famous quip that “Jailors hate escapism.” “Jailors love escapism,” replied Moorcock. “What jailors hate is escape.”

    Escapism is not, in fact, good. It short-circuits the psyche’s natural tendency to be disturbed by things and then wish to change them. The best Art challenges, upsets, disturbs, and if gaming ever wants to graduate to the level of great literature, it’s going to have to decide that it wants to do similar things.

    And I hope it does, because gaming is the dominant aesthetic form of the early 21st century, and what we are seeing, reflected in the eyes of those loot whores, are the nascent kernels of a society informed by modern achievement gaming. It is a sobering thought.

  25. eyemessiah says:

    I don’t really believe that anyone is actually just “gaming for numbers”.

    I think that when faced with someone playing a game that you can’t see the fun in, or possibly playing a game in a way that you can’t see the fun in, there can be a strong temptation to try and come up with some kind of explanation for this behaviour without acknowledging the possibility that might simply they enjoy something you don’t. I think that overly focusing on the shallow yet “”addictive”" meta elements of modern games is an example of this sort of wrong-headed rationalisation.

    I agree that it would be a bit grim if people were regularly grinding their way through miserable games solely for the purpose of earning gamerscore points or racking up achievements – but isn’t it more likely that they enjoy the gameplay as well as earning the points?

    Maybe they aren’t as emotionally and intellectually invested in the “gaming-experience” as hardcore gamer would prefer to be, but people are just into different stuff in different ways – this is true in terms of all sorts of hobbies and interests.

    I honestly see no jeopardy here.

    Most mature tabletop RPG communities seem to have long-since accepted “power-gaming” as a legitimate way of playing roleplaying games (as you demonstrate Jim, the “just-playing-for-the-lootslashXP” stigma is as old as tabletop gaming!) these days and indeed acknowledging that different people like to play in different ways has encouraged writers to write games that expressly support different types of play which imo is a very good thing.

    • Dominic White says:

      “I don’t really believe that anyone is actually just “gaming for numbers”. ”

      You’ve never met anyone who rents games specifically for quick/easy achievements and gamerpoints. That shit is more addictive than crack and heroin combined for some people, and seems to be exactly the same kind of formula that keeps MMO addicts paying up each month for their fix.

      Some folks get genuinely angry if there’s an excessively hard-to-get achievement in a game, or ones that would require multiple playthroughs to earn. They MUST have them all. That number must go up!

      It’s sad to see, but it’s happening more and more.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Dominic: that truly calls forth the image of gambling addicts. The promise of ‘more’.

      I knew there was a reason I didn’t like ‘This is the only level’.

    • eyemessiah says:

      No, I’ve never met anyone like that.

      I’m willing to accept that you may have, but do you really think they exist in significant numbers?

      They aren’t just the same old crazy-minority?

    • vagabond says:

      http://www.mygamercard.net/leaderboard.php

      As someone that owns a 360, but does the bulk of my gaming on the PC, I haven’t paid much attention to the whole gamerscore thing, I find it kind of hard to say just based of the number of points a person has at what point they can be said to be “gaming for numbers”. That said, there are almost 3.5 million people who felt like signing up to the service above to share their gamer score with the world, and over a quarter of a million of them have a score above 20,000.
      That probably isn’t renting games and following achievement guides levels of points since that would only be 20 games mined for all their points, but there are still thousands of people who have scores in the high tens of thousands. Maybe the population of the world is large enough that 10,000 people doing something counts as “nobody does that”.

      If there are people “addicted” to getting gamerpoints, and publishers succeed in killing off the second-hand/rental markets, will we see a group of people get into financial trouble because a “hit” of gamerscore just increased in price ten or twenty-fold and they aren’t capable of giving it up?

      I’d have thought no, but then again I can’t really see the appeal of playing WoW in the first place, let alone playing it to the point you fail your exams or destroy your marriage, and you hear about that every so often.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I think that’s the thing, though. They do “enjoy something you don’t”. They enjoy the numbers.

      Think about why we enjoy games. I enjoy the Void because it’s immersive and imaginative. It’s not, in a way that may sound bizarre, fun, and yet I enjoy it. Hypothetical number man enjoys space invaders because he can get the high score. Again it’s not exactly fun, but he doesn’t hate it. He doesn’t see it as a means to an end, the end being the high score. Instead, it forms part of a more complex experience. It’s not as easy as people would have you believe to create a distinction between, say ‘narrative’, ‘dialogue’, or ‘ambience’ and gameplay. In the case of the Void, those things are what you play the game for. The high score table and the ambience of the world are inextricably linked with the process of playing the game.

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting that people playing for high scores hate playing the game, whatever game it may be. But if you’re playing for score, then they’re playing (and enjoying) it for a different reason than I would. Different games are required to satisfy me and the hypothetical numbers man. There’s no jeopardy there, but there’s a divergence, and it’s worth exploring.

  26. Dylan says:

    I wholeheartedly agree.

  27. Guhndahb says:

    @Jim: Thank you for your article. Sometimes I feel like a discarded loner for feeling as you described above. I care much more about the experience (and my overused but apt term immersion) than I do about other elements. Those others are not meaningless, they are simply lower priority for me.

    Interestingly, I too had similar youth experiences and I know my P&P gaming led directly to my tastes in computer gaming. And even in P&P gaming I had similar problems. Most players I encountered were far more into the battles and XPs than they were into, as you eloquently put it, “a kind of collaborative imaginative project”.

    I seem to be more worried about this than others. I think we are strongly trending in a direction I do not like. But I have nothing my but my gut feelings to back that up. The widening of games to suit many audiences is certainly a good thing, but there’s a good bit of watering down going on to accomplish this.

  28. Misnomer says:

    I think this discussion should also include a mention of completion. It was hard enough in video games to feel like you ever saw everything in a game, with the advent of the token economy it is even harder to feel like you have done everything a game has to offer.

    More and more I feel like games are curing me of my completion. It is only the MP games that I am going to spend hundred of hours on anyway that I will even consider doing achievements. Since they provide no competitive drive in me (I know I will never beat the Korean kid) the achievements are just something to do while playing. Yet, with the lifetime of MP games shortening all the time (why bother with BC2 grinding when BF3 comes out in a year), I have fewer and fewer reasons to care. Ranking systems don’t keep me playing games longer as I don’t give a hoot about ladders and long term ranking to try to get all the content just makes me not care (Medic Update for TF2 before the patch and BF2 ranking).

    So as a completionist I keep wondering, if I am giving up on achievements and ranking systems, am I going to be missing come content and therefore value in my software purchase?

  29. Don W says:

    Every once in a while the writing and commenting on this site becomes the equal of any panel discussion on any network or at any conference. This is one of those times.

  30. whalleywhat says:

    Meta-gaming has been a part of gaming from the beginning. Arcade games are almost entirely about getting high scores, and comparing your high scores to whoever’s played that machine before you. There’s your leaderboard right there, and hopefully you can get your initials or FUK on there.
    High score gaming can be similar to meta-gaming in the way it forces you to approach the game in a new way. Anyone who’s familiar with shmups knows a lot of them play quite differently when you’re simply trying to complete the game or trying to rack up a high score. There’s systems in place when you want to participate in that meta-game, and, if they’re good, they reveal a new depth to the game. Achievements and trophies can do this too, when they’re well implemented. The other side of it is a mentality that I don’t really understand. I might be in the minority here, but I’ve always hated Diablo II and never played an MMO beyond level 20. I think meta-game/loot/grinding will always be the focus people who want that. But I do love those Purple Coin challenges in Super Mario Galaxy, because they make me see the levels in a way I hadn’t before. If only something popped up on my screen telling me my e-p33n had grown.

  31. Zwebbie says:

    I am not so much conerned about achievements existing and some people putting a ridiculous amount of time into gathering them all. It’s not really any different than high scores back in the days. Some people just like that kind of stuff, and who am I to tell them they’re having fun in the wrong way?
    What we’re seeing is that achievements are gaining ground, quickly. Naturally, there’d be a reaction at some point, where people who detest this sort of rewards-for-rewards sake ask for games that drive purely on immersion – and they’d get them.

    Now what *is* concerning me is that every XBox game is *required* to have achievements in it. That means that in some games where you have to think immersively to find a ‘bonus’ of sorts (like giving a kid a candy bar in Deus Ex to learn the code to the back entrance), the immersion will be completely destroyed by an obsession to make everything that’s even remotely clever or well done by the player into an achievement. I dread the prospect of designers designing games based on such things. “Oh, let’s not allow too many choices here,” says an RPG designer, “we’ve already given a few achievements just a few minutes ago”. It’s this *forcing* of achievements that bothers me greatly, because it completely ruins the working of the market. There’s a market for games that are based purely on immersion, please, don’t kill it.

  32. Ryuga says:

    I gotta say, I loved exploring every map in WoW more before there was an achievement for it.. same for doing holiday quests. Now with achievements, especially holiday quests feel like a boring grind, with a ton of people doing them, resulting in a lot of competition / waiting. Sooooo boring.. I started skipping them.

  33. tapanister says:

    Man, while we are on this discussion, I have to say that I’m afraid Diablo III is going to sell a hell of a lot more copies than Dragon Age: Origins. It’s going to be like a morbid exclamation point on this article and Schell’s talk.

  34. Turin Turambar says:

    In the end, they only common thing between all the videogames is this: they are software. That’s it.

    And that’s why we have Super Mario, FIFA, Quake, The Void, Arma 2, Psychonauts, The Witcher, Mass Effect, Need for Speed, Monkey Island, Flashback, Omikron, Ultima VII, WoW, Commander Keen, Starcraft, Civilization, Falcon 4.0, Bioshock and everything else. Some games are pure games, some are interactive immersive experiences, some try to be stories like a book or a movie, some are like sports, others like board games, etc. There isn’t a common point!

  35. malkav11 says:

    I think there’s a significant difference between the old concept of high score, which is typically what games that use it center around, and achievements, which are typically just acknowledgment that you’ve made some kind of progress in a more narrative game, or done some particularly interesting or impressive feat – a strictly side consideration, for people who aren’t total obsessives.

    I find high score driven games almost invariably duller than dishwater, as they tend to have simple, yet difficult to master gameplay that rewards an enormous amount of repetition and rarely have any other goal than making that number go up. But I love getting achievements.

  36. G Manning says:

    I think one perspective that hasn’t been included in this discussion is the desire for competition. I still remember the first multiplayer game I ever played over the internet: Hover-Race. Then Heat.net came out which allowed for the creation of virtual LANs for games such as Duke3d. I was completely hooked. Ever since then, while I still enjoy the immersion qualities of single player games, and I’ll still go for an interesting achievement from time to time, if a game doesn’t have some sort of quantifiable medium through which I can compete, on a small scale, against other human beings, it quickly loses my interest. In WoW for example, after completing a raid one time, I have absolutely no desire to ever do it again. The only reason I will do it more than once is to perhaps give my character some sort of advantage in arenas.

    Team based games like Counter-Strike and Global Agenda have never really done much for me. In those games, it’s hard to quantify if I, individually, am better than another player. The only thing that anyone can be sure of is that their team is better or worse than the other.

    It is a bit discouraging to players like myself, if there even are any, is the fact that most games coming out now have a heavy emphasis on team play rather than individual or even small scale competition (excluding RTS games, considering how horrible I am at them makes them very hard for me to get into). Quake Live dueling seems to be my last refuge.

  37. Sunjammer says:

    I’m fucking terrified of achievements, and i’m almost breathless with yelling about them. In short, my gaming experiences have improved *tenfold* since i kicked my Live achievement addiction. Turning off notifications on both the PS3 and 360 have made me play games in a pure sense again.

    I’m with Nintendo on this one. I don’t believe in this sort of incentivization of gameplay. Playing should be its own reward, and if your game can’t support that mindset, well boo on you.

    All this is doing is attempt to bring back the score-attack mentality of the 80s and 90s, but in a sense where the ceiling is real and physical. Much like my disdain for WoW, the mentality being fostered is that you must close the gap with your opposition, but not PASS it. They are creating a world where you can’t break records and be impressive for your achievements. Instead you’re just filling up a progress bar along the rest of the player base. Big fucking yawn. If the game doesn’t naturally support a system of *genuine* achievement, then an achievement system has no merit.

    And don’t point out games that allow you to push beyond achievement requirements. At that point you’re in grinding territory; the worst part of score attack.

    Eff achievements, and ESPECIALLY eff “gamerpoints”. Worst part about Live, and a genuine virus to what makes playing games truly great.

    • Dominic White says:

      I consider myself lucky that I don’t seem to be able to get addicted to anything. MMOs don’t hook me, achievements hold no interest, and I consider my gamerscore to be an annoyance.

      I guess it’s because when I was growing up, a high score was what counted up so long as you only used one credit. It was the ultiimate short-form summary of your gaming prowess. The path to getting a better score was short, focused bursts of the very best you had to give.

      I don’t care about arbitrary achievements, doled out with mechanical regularity like gold stars on a little kids school notebook. Give me a friends/global scoreboard, and I’ll be interested in proving my worth.

  38. rasmus says:

    Great piece, Jim.

  39. Spd from Russia says:

    Great piece. Absolutely agree on escapism and more so the whole experience being more important than the simple outcome of soulless score and artificial achievemnts.
    I hate grinding! Too bad, that your narrow-minded loot greedy gamers seem to be in the majority.
    And arsebook “social” “gaming”? FFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU

  40. Lemon scented apocalypse says:

    Great Article/Musings. Im in total (more or less) agreement on the concept of escapism -It seems to be an inbuilt mechanism in the human psyche and all of us use it to some degree – obviously the degree to which it pops up in our lives is effected by things like enviroment (a shitty or dull childhood) and our individual personalitys. but its everywhere if you look for it and is attached in many cases to general creativity and innovation (im not just taliking videogames here).
    In terms of thinking about games in a different light; the metaphysical ‘tipping point’ which many gamers now see blazoned across the future of gaming: with the loftly golden hights of “Games as art’ as one outcome and the “Grey abyss of point snappers and fatz lootz masturbaters ‘ seems a little black and white. As the oddly intense man with the hillarious hair cut said himself -”technologies divirge” and the same could be said for most things in life. I think in the end we’ll have a little of everything Although perhaps im just being naive

  41. Pew says:

    First of all, great read and thread!

    I did notice a bit of a divergence on the topics at hand though. Schell’s presentation was more about adding a collectible drive to things outside the realm of “gaming”. My main problem with that is that when you go down that road and implement what makes WoW or achievements addictive, then you start looking at the Barksdales or Marlo Stanfield (The Wire) for business models. Now, to have a free market based on individuals only caring about their own profitmaking is one thing. To identify the most addictive elements in human behavior, and then to exploit them for profit like dealing drugs, is another thing altogether. I don’t really think we should identify the best psychological methods for creating an addiction, only to implement it society-wide in our economy.

    The argument of gameness and such is indeed a bit odd. Do we even know what constitutes as a game, and can the Game Industry make a sole claim on it? For example, Heavy Rain is not a movie because it has (limited) interactivity and you walk around and “click” on things as if it were Grim Fandango. But at the same time, it uses so many techniques used in cinema, and so little actual gameplay, that you can’t really call it a game either. As a whole, that “game” just felt… different. Maybe not a great kind of different, but something other than you would normally experience within the gaming medium. Which is a great thing I think, not in the least a testament to how far we’ve come since the days where HIMEM.SYS may have bewildered us.

    Maybe the focus shouldn’t be on what is called what, but on what kind of experiences we can elicit using different media. If we can create new kinds of experiences by mixing elements, then by all means that should be stimulated. As long as the story is good, that is :P

  42. DXN says:

    Conan, what is best in life?

    Thought-provoking, well-informed, civil discussions on the nature of gaming at RPS.

  43. cyrenic says:

    It’s just depressing how focused MMO’s are on the numbers/loot aspect of gaming. But then that focus supports the subscription business model. I’m not optimistic about more variety in the MMO space until someone finds a better business model and makes it work.

  44. bill says:

    I think games are different to other media in that they encompass a much wider range of experience.

    For example movies and books can be of different genres (which induce different feelings, or have different strengths and weaknesses) , but they are essentially all the same experience for the viewer/reader.

    Games not only have different genre of artistic content (horror, action, sci-fi) but also totally different genres of implementation/interaction/purpose.
    This makes it very hard to make general statements about games or gaming.

    Back in the SNES days, pretty much every game was about high scores and achievements, but these days there are games that don’t really contain any gameplay. There are games that don’t have any goals. There are games that are linear, or non-linear. There are games that are competitive, and games which have no competition element at all.

    In some ways it’s like trying to link Chess to Yoga to Weight Training, and trying to put all the people who do them under the same label.

    I think games are starting to outgrow the “games” label. Some recent games haven’t really been games at all.. they are more link interactive fiction, or interactive art, or interactive cinema, or interactive something. Yet some games like Starcraft 2 retain all their “gameyness”, and others are in a broad spectrum between.

    I think that’s a good thing. But i think it’s going to be increasingly difficult to include them all under the same label.

  45. bill says:

    Plus, on a different note, I wanted to say that i totally agree about the P&P rpgs.
    To be honest I used to spend a lot more time reading the rulebooks and planning things in my head than actually playing sessions… but while at the beginning I was all about the best dice roll and getting a better sword, i pretty soon realised that the best games were the ones when the DM totally ignored the dice, and everything was just creative thinking.

  46. The Hammer says:

    Superb article and comments.

    I agree completely with Dominic White that playing the game itself should be all the incentive you need for gaming. A reward structure surely gives something to work towards, and the compulsion that results from that keeps you playing for longer and is certainly part of the character progression of a lot of games (such as RPGs), but to see them in multiplayer games like Modern Warfare 2 puts me off. It’s a simple case of the rich get richer, and the distraction that comes from wanting enough XP to use a bigger and better weapon stops individual moments from shining, I think.

    It’s especially jarring when people devise “efficient” ways of gaining these arbitrary achievements, because then you’re not playing a game. Instead, you’re working the system. And whilst these exploits can be imaginative and fun, you’re still running the treadmill – you’re just finding ways of getting places without going through all the business of running.

    And why should you have to stop running? If the answer is “it’s too much effort”, either the game is flawed, or you’re approaching it the wrong way.

    There can be so much of a gap between the activities to get these achievements and why you’re gaining them in the first place. An example would be a particularly rare dragon in World of Warcraft. It’s a very fast drake, very useful to use. And yet the means to get it is to do a year’s worth of holiday achievements. Some of these are funky: throw snowballs at a member of every race in the game, for example. Some are bizarre – get drunk, wear something stupid, and hug a particularly silly NPC.

    People used to do this sort of stuff because it was fun. Now they do it because there’s an achievement attached. So now, in a game like WOW (or even in TF2), you see these weird and wonderful things, and you know they’re meant to happen if you want to get weapons (in TF2′s case) or extra special mounts (in WOW’s case). So everything has a reason. It’s points hunting.

    Of course, FPSes given points before for killing. Counter-Strike is a good example. But the crucial things about these was that they didn’t transfer over to the next game. They were played, and they were done. Next game, new start. And Counter-Strike has survived for many, many years. The original is still going. Partly that’s because of the limited system requirements, but it’s also to do with how fun the game is to play, and how well-designed.

    I’m not saying TF2 isn’t well designed, but it can surely rest on its own merits. And the danger with other games persuing achievement systems is that they can be be placed there for people to “experience” in lieu of actual new stuff to play with. They’re easy to set up – they’re additional elements to the game, like DLC (which rarely serves as a proper expansion to a game. Using repeated assets and scenarios, or limited new areas, for example: hello Return to Ostagar).

    That, and you have to say “Congratulations” all the damned time when people earn them…

  47. Joseph says:

    “I don’t really believe that anyone is actually just “gaming for numbers”. ”

    There are many people like this. AFAIK they are not the majority, but they do exist. My sister, my clan leader. Have heard of / read articles on others, eg gamerscore addicts / hobbyists.

    (Also, how can you not believe it, never heard of gambling? :P)

  48. Cooper says:

    I recently started to play GTA IV (Having got it during the steam xmas sale and let it hide in my uninstalled list)

    I was hesitant to play it – I loved Saint’s Row 2 – and was dubious about the route GTA IV seemed to be taking with respect to the previous games.

    I loved Saint’s Row 2 because of its unashamed, OTT, knowing and surprisingly refined ‘gaminess’.

    My response to GTA IV is something else entirely. I’m responding to it some of the ways I do my favourite movies, plays and novels.

    I’m happy to go so far and say that type of connection is more meaningful and deeper than that I have with more ‘gamier’ games. (if not necessarily more important: I can’t stress how important TF2 is, and that is just pure game)

    If games are to become recognised as the important cultural mediums they are (rather than filling that odd space like TV as simply, purely. -only- ‘entertainment’) a future where those responses beyond the ‘gamieness’ of games are backgrounded is a bleak one.

    Specifically in regards to achievement ‘metagaming’ and Schnell’s lecture. What made me feel a little sick inside is the blatant abuse of (fairly cod) psychology and aggregate psychological responses purely for monetary gain.
    We are manipulated in a wonderful (ly frightening) variety of suybtle and not so subtle ways on a daily, hourly basis by marketeerers of various forms. There is a whole industry devoted to manipulating us on largely non-conscious levels. Schnell’s future is a future we’ve seen before in countless postmodern dystopias on screen and in books. But what’s so frightening about that vision in the lecture, that never comes across in the parables of the future we know so well. What’s causes so much revulsion is how /banal/ this future will be.

  49. Cooper says:

    I recently started to play GTA IV (Having got it during the steam xmas sale and let it hide in my uninstalled list)

    I was hesitant to play it – I loved Saint’s Row 2 – and was dubious about the route GTA IV seemed to be taking with respect to the previous games.

    I loved Saint’s Row 2 because of its unashamed, OTT, knowing and surprisingly refined ‘gaminess’.

    My response to GTA IV is something else entirely. I’m responding to it some of the ways I do my favourite movies, plays and novels.

    I’m happy to go so far and say that type of connection is more meaningful and deeper than that I have with more ‘gamier’ games. (if not necessarily more important: I can’t stress how important TF2 is, and that is just pure game)

    If games are to become recognised as the important cultural mediums they are (rather than filling that odd space like TV as simply, purely. -only- ‘entertainment’) a future where those responses beyond the ‘gamieness’ of games are backgrounded is a bleak one.

    Specifically in regards to achievement ‘metagaming’ and Schnell’s lecture. What made me feel a little sick inside is the blatant abuse of (fairly cod) psychology and aggregate psychological responses purely for monetary gain.
    We are manipulated in a wonderful (ly frightening) variety of suybtle and not so subtle ways on a daily, hourly basis by marketeerers of various forms. There is a whole industry devoted to manipulating us on largely non-conscious levels. Schnell’s future is a future we’ve seen before in countless postmodern dystopias on screen and in books. But what’s so frightening about that vision in the lecture, that never comes across in the parables of the future we know so well. What’s causes so much revulsion is how /banal/ this future will be.