In our discussion about what we should call heavily story-oriented games, we got to talking about what the different appeals of video game play may be. I encourage you to go join in that discussion if you haven’t yet, as I’d love your input on what to call “narrative games.” For now, though, I came across an interesting illustration of the different appeals that games have, and I thought it was worth sharing separately.
Just to recap, I suggested that players find multiple types of pleasure or engagement in games, including:
- Mastery, or feeling like you’re “beating” the game, winning in the face of its challenges.
- Story, or experiencing the game as a spectator who has some role in narrative progression.
- Camaraderie, or using the game as a means to socialize with other players and spectators.
- Tomfoolery, or experimenting with what the game can do and using it like a toy.
(And sorry I felt the need to categorize my appeals in terms with a rhyming final syllable. Academics love rhymes and alliteration in their sets of terms.)
As Church astutely pointed out, there’s a difference between a game’s release and the specific instance of the game performed by a player. (And, being a theory nerd myself, I felt the need to compare it to the distinction between langue and parole, or the rules of language versus the utterances of speech.) “Releases” nowadays are designed to accommodate multiple types of “games” depending on what players want to do.
This brings us to our relevant link. Someone at Kotaku asked readers about what “neuroses” gamers have about playingâ€”what do you have to do when you play?
Some of the responses are just little obsessive reflexes (including at least a couple I totally relate to). I share it here, though, because I thought many answers neatly illustrate the “multiple appeals of gaming” point.
People who want story:
- “I always deal the final blow on the final boss with the main character. Otherwise it just feels weird.”
- “When I play a Zelda game, the final blow to any boss has to be made using a jump attack. It’s just not epic any other way. ”
- “instead of constantly running or jogging like you do in most games, i simply choose to walk slowly which imo makes me more a part of the game (why am i always the only one running around in the town?!?).
It also slows down the pace to enjoy some more of the art and makes some scenes more cinematic”
People who want mastery:
- “If I start a game with collectibles, I will almost always try to finish it one hundred percent. I have to explore every corridor.”
- “Whenever a game has a completion percentage in it, I have to get 100%, no matter how stupid or hard the game is.”
People who want tomfoolery:
- “I constantly try to do thing you’re not supposed to in games. Like when you’re not supposed to kill someone i always try to anyway.”
- “I like cutting the bark off of trees and messing with the animals. I even walked into traps in the forest on purpose. I just have to.”
I’m not sure how you’d classify some other items, like the fellow who feels bad for knocking people down in GTA, but I think of that as somewhat story-oriented. I had a similar problem in Mass Effect: Even when I was trying to earn as many “renegade” points as possible, I had a really, really hard time killing innocent people, and making my (protagonist’s) biggest fan cry made me feel really awful.
Anyway, I welcome you to add your own gaming “neuroses” (here or at Kotaku), or to suggest what other appeals of gaming we might have missed.