21 votes

What are all the different ways in which we can appreciate games?

Tags: ask

I know my question isn't worded great! If anyone has a better edit after reading all of this, let me know!


I have a half-formed idea in my head and I want to brainstorm a bit.

Here's the idea: games as a whole have a ton of different aspects/lenses through which we can enjoy and appreciate them, and I want to know what they all are. Here are some examples to show what I mean:

Aspect Description Examples
Narrative We can appreciate a game with a good story To the Moon, The Walking Dead
Exploration We can appreciate a game that lets us explore a digital world The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Minecraft
Movement We can appreciate a game that lets us move in compelling ways Forza Horizon 3, Mirror's Edge

I feel like there are dozens of these we could come up with if we get really specific. The diversity of gaming experiences and genres really lends itself to a broad swath of these aspects. After all, the appreciation someone gets from playing something like Katamari Damacy is very different from that which someone gets from, say, ARMA 2.

I think later it might be interesting to try to apply some sort of analysis or taxonomy to this, but right now I just want to brainstorm. What are all of the different reasons we can like games? Be as specific as you can, try to cover lots of different titles and genres so that all of gaming is represented, and feel free to critique or edit my examples as well (e.g. I think it might be worth breaking up "Narrative" into "Plot" and "Characters", for example).


Aggregated List So Far

I'll keep updating this as we go. For entries that didn't follow the table format (which I didn't intend to be prescriptive but it looks like it caught on!), I've tried to incorporate them as best as I can, but if you feel I've misrepresented something let me know! Again, I'm mostly just interested in brainstorming at the moment, and then I think we can have a secondary thread later for analysis/synthesis.

Aspect Description Examples
Narrative We can appreciate a game with a good story To the Moon, The Walking Dead
Exploration We can appreciate a game that lets us explore a digital world The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Minecraft
Movement We can appreciate a game that lets us move in compelling ways Forza Horizon 3, Mirror's Edge
Empathy We can appreciate a game for who / what it positions us as, and the degree to which it gives insight into that position. Benefits for the player range from novel emotional experiences to genuine moments of learning. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, The Beginner's Guide
Escapism Sometimes you simply need a break from real life and to escape into a fantasy world for a bit. Videogames are a highly effective way to do this IMO, since you are actually granted agency as an actor in them, which you don't get in most traditional escapist mediums like novels, movies and shows. Almost every game with a story, to varying degrees
Catharsis When you manage to deeply emotionally connect with any story (regardless of medium) and it reaches its climax or denouement, it can often help you break through the emotional barriers you have set up over time, which then allows you to safely release your pent up emotions. Surprisingly, I find games to be somewhat less effective at this than novels, but it still happens with them often enough to be a major component of my enjoyment of them. Gris
Emotional Challenge Sometimes the opposite of catharsis is great too. Getting to experience emotionally challenging things, like a truly mind-bending or depressing story, in the relatively safe environment of a game can be incredibly fulfilling. Although, those sorts of games often require me to be in the right frame of mind to experience, so that I don't have a breakdown afterwards, and as a result I don't seek them out all that often... I can only handle so many existential crises per month. ;) Disco Elysium
Intellectual Challenge Whether it be from difficult puzzle elements or strategy mechanics, intellectual challenges presented in games can be incredibly gratifying to solve and overcome. Europa Universalis, puzzle games by Zachtronics
Eureka Moments This goes hand in hand with the above two, but also applies to most games. Those moments when you finally figure something out that you were struggling with beforehand, or a major plot twist is revealed, can be truly glorious in games, and IMO they tend to occur more often in them than most other entertainment mediums. Portal, Portal 2, The Talos Principle, The Witness
System We can appreciate a game that lets us explore a well crafted system of interacting logical parts. The player can learn the rules of the system by observation and experimentation, and apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to achieve goals. Stephens Sausage Roll, Factorio, The Witness, Antichamber
Competition We can appreciate a game for fostering a competitive spirit among peers, to test themselves against each other as teams or individuals Dota 2, Rocket League
Cooperation We can appreciate a game that allows and encourages two or more people to work together towards a common goal A Way Out, ibb and obb, Portal 2
Audio experience We can appreciate games that use music or sound in interesting or resonant ways Bastion,Metal Gear Solid III
Visual experience We can appreciate games that use visuals in interesting or resonant ways Tetris Effect,Super Hexagon
Effort We can appreciate games that adequately convey the effort required for the task happening on-screen Don't Look Back, The Witcher 3, Dishonored

29 comments

  1. [4]
    rogue_cricket
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm a bit surprised because I feel like this is an easy one, but certainly you can appreciate games for giving you a good visual or audio experience! My initial thought on this was to bring up...

    I'm a bit surprised because I feel like this is an easy one, but certainly you can appreciate games for giving you a good visual or audio experience!

    My initial thought on this was to bring up games that are abstract or without narrative, like Super Hexagon or Tetris Effect. I think the audio/visual experience is a big and direct part of what makes these games engaging for me.

    Then I thought, well of course, this can also apply to non-abstract games. (I keep writing a bunch and then not being able to really organize and untangle it so I'm just going to focus in on music.)

    There are games that just have straight up great or beautiful music, like... say, the famous Baba Yetu from Civilization IV. Civ games in general I think have great music even if the music is not really a central part of playing it, but neither do they have a set narrative so the music is kind of playing there in isolation.

    Music can be employed really effectively in a narrative or cinematic way too. It can be used to really deepen an emotional punch or pump you up or unnerve you. So I also appreciate games that not only have good music but employ it well - the best example that comes to mind here is the long and lonely ladder-climbing section from Metal Gear Solid III. Would it have been as memorable a segment without the Snake Eater track being belted at you? Bastion (+ other Supergiant games) has a couple good musical moments as well.

    I really like the idea of some games as almost... cinema, or appreciating direction in games, I guess. Big narrative moments will stick with you - but things like art direction, music direction, even camera angles and so on will also play a part in that. Someone thought about how those moments should look and sound.

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      wundumguy
      Link Parent
      What was that game that came out when the Xbox360 first launched? It was by the same guy that did Tetris back in the day

      What was that game that came out when the Xbox360 first launched? It was by the same guy that did Tetris back in the day

      1. [2]
        moocow1452
        Link Parent
        Geometry Wars?

        Geometry Wars?

        3 votes
        1. wundumguy
          Link Parent
          I was thinking of Hexic. Very similar sounding

          I was thinking of Hexic. Very similar sounding

          4 votes
  2. [2]
    ruspaceni
    Link
    Something about the speedrunning community that always astonishes me is their ability to appreciate every part of a game. I can only imagine how good it must feel to know that not only are people...

    Something about the speedrunning community that always astonishes me is their ability to appreciate every part of a game. I can only imagine how good it must feel to know that not only are people still playing your game after a few decades, but that they're actively reverse engineering your code and coming up with new ways to play that very same game! I'm not sure how I'd categorize this suggestion since I doubt "reverse engineering" would encapsulate it all, but I didn't see it mentioned just yet so wanted to throw its hat in the ring.

    I'm not even sure what games I'd use as an example. Basically all nintendo games have become staples, but what drew me into this community was Harry Potter 1 for the PS1. Playing the game for the first time since childhood was a nice experience, but it didn't come anywhere close to the months of obsession that came afterwards. A school friend and I would theory craft routes for the 100% and any%, spend hours running into walls during different animations trying to recreate a random glitch, and even looking into how the game engine/games of that era worked so that we might find some inherited glitch or something.

    It's such an interesting ecosystem to me, and there's endless amounts of nichés. There's your any% category where you just gotta finish the game, 100% meaning you must do every tracked activity to completion, glitchless% which is self explanatory. There's a few more but those are the meat and potatoes of it. But then we have TAS. Tool Assisted Speedruns can be anything from letting you use savestates, frame advance, but the real magic happens when you compile a list of inputs and have the emulator play them back at inhuman precision and speeds. It allows for so many shenanigans that you wouldn't even dream of doing by hand - but in the spirit of speedrunning, of course someone has managed to pull of a run previously though to be TAS only.

    This has been more of a rant than I intended and really doesn't fit into your format so I apologize for that, but I hope if you've read this far then you've had your interest piqued a little bit.

    7 votes
    1. Deimos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I think speedrunning fits into something like "mastery". Like you said, it really comes down to devoting yourself to a particular game and learning every tiny nuance of it in such extreme depth...

      I think speedrunning fits into something like "mastery". Like you said, it really comes down to devoting yourself to a particular game and learning every tiny nuance of it in such extreme depth that you know the fastest path through everything, how to abuse mechanics or glitches to go faster or even skip sections of the game, and so on.

      There's a lot of similarity between the mindset that it takes to play a game while shooting for the highest possible score and speedrunning. When it really comes down to it, speedrunning is basically a way to add a score (or a different type of score) to a game that doesn't have one.

      6 votes
  3. [13]
    ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    One reason I liked Disco Elysium so much is that it makes you feel things. I don't think it's just the narrative: sometimes, an art piece makes you feel even without providing a story. In...

    One reason I liked Disco Elysium so much is that it makes you feel things. I don't think it's just the narrative: sometimes, an art piece makes you feel even without providing a story.

    In particular, Disco Elysium doesn't hold back on pointing out just how many different shades of fucked-up your character is. He's done so many drugs and so much booze that his face may never recover. The Expression – that ruin of a grimace – may be stuck on his face, like an immediate reminder of all the good days he's had and will never, ever have anymore; worse, if you shake The Expression off, the guy staring at you from the avatar looks existentially-tired, almost making it the better alternative. And that's just the surface of the mess that is our protagonist.

    And yet... Time after time, the game also manages to fill you – both you the player and your character – with a sense of hope, and pride, and accomplishment. It's peppered, here and there, with small things that remind you that, while you may be a wreck, you're not yet done for. Your liver may be permanently damaged by all the partying, but your body is still full of vigor, your mind – still strong, your senses – still sharp. You're still a good fucking detective, and more than that, even if sometimes you have to work for it.

    Overall, Disco Elysium is filled with such tender, genuine moments so rare in all sorts of art. There's a surprising amount of sheer insight into the human nature, especially considering how wacky this game can be at times. It's based on a very sharp look into the human soul, which inevitably leads to you bonding with various aspects of the game: the story, the mechanics, the characters, the details...

    The last game to make me feel remotely this way was Bastion, with its hopeful outlook despite the world's ruination and doom. All throughout the story, Rucks kept up the hope, and rejoiced the small moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. It's the kind of hope that's rare, too.

    Other games made me feel for them, too. The Last of Us sure played on some of the heartstrings. RPGs are supposed to do something like that, but very few have the insight and the boldness to deliver something as powerful as Disco Elysium.

    6 votes
    1. [5]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Nice, I just mentioned Disco Elysium in my reply to Whom above, and I was coincidentally writing mine while you were writing this, I suspect. And well said... you summed up a lot of what I loved...

      Nice, I just mentioned Disco Elysium in my reply to Whom above, and I was coincidentally writing mine while you were writing this, I suspect. And well said... you summed up a lot of what I loved about the game too. It was such a truly remarkable and incredibly well crafted game that I also cannot sing its praises enough either. :P

      Good call on Bastion too. That game also similarly emotionally connected with me. So much so that I still get the frisson tingles and a bit teary eyed whenever I listen to Zia's theme.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        I like to listen to Build the Wall, then to Mother, I'm Here, and right after – to Setting Sail, Coming Home. The three tracks blend together well, by design, and play into a mini-story of sorts:...

        I like to listen to Build the Wall, then to Mother, I'm Here, and right after – to Setting Sail, Coming Home. The three tracks blend together well, by design, and play into a mini-story of sorts: pessimism and wariness, turning into desperation, turning into a small but powerful triumph as both stories converge into something that's... together. The Mother, I'm here line starts to sound like genuine coming home, rather than the initial implication of reuniting with your parents in the afterlife, if there is any.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Huh, I have never thought to listen to those three tracks in that order like that, since I tend to just throw the soundtrack on and let it play all the way through in original order (it's one of...

          Huh, I have never thought to listen to those three tracks in that order like that, since I tend to just throw the soundtrack on and let it play all the way through in original order (it's one of my favs), but it makes total sense and I just gave it a try. Oof! What an emotional rollercoaster that was. I got teary eyed with Build That Wall (Zia's Theme) again, on the first note of Mother, I'm Here (Zulf's Theme) I got goosebumps everywhere, and Setting Sail, Coming Home combined both feelings. That was great, thanks!

          p.s. Interestingly enough, after Setting Sail, YouTube autoplay started up Paper Boats from Transistor and it felt like it fit right in. :P

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            ThatFanficGuy
            Link Parent
            Add this to the list of things we can appreciate games for: the amazing soundtracks.

            Add this to the list of things we can appreciate games for: the amazing soundtracks.

            2 votes
            1. cfabbro
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Amen. And Supergiant pretty consistently knocks it out of the park there, IMO. I haven't even played Transistor, Pyre, or Hades yet, but have already listened to all their soundtracks multiple...

              Amen. And Supergiant pretty consistently knocks it out of the park there, IMO. I haven't even played Transistor, Pyre, or Hades yet, but have already listened to all their soundtracks multiple times despite that. :P

              2 votes
    2. [7]
      wundumguy
      Link Parent
      What are some games that Disco Elysium is like? That is, if I liked X, Y, Z, I'd probably love Disco Elysium too. I ask because while I liked Bastion just fine while I played it, it didn't really...

      What are some games that Disco Elysium is like? That is, if I liked X, Y, Z, I'd probably love Disco Elysium too. I ask because while I liked Bastion just fine while I played it, it didn't really speak to me. It didn't stick with me

      1 vote
      1. [4]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I have to agree with @ThatFanficGuy that there are very few games that one can directly compare to Disco Elysium in that "if you like X then you will like it" fashion, since it truly is that...

        I have to agree with @ThatFanficGuy that there are very few games that one can directly compare to Disco Elysium in that "if you like X then you will like it" fashion, since it truly is that unique. However, I will wholeheartedly second his comparison to Tyranny in terms of its ability to emotionally invest you in the characters and setting, as well as the quality of the writing. The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book comparison is very apt as well.

        One of the only other games I can really think of to compare Disco to is Planescape: Torment, but again not as a whole, and certainly not in terms of setting, just in terms of the breadth of choices, and consequences to those choices, that are presented in the game... as well as the darker elements of human nature and psychology that both stories explored. However, IMO Disco Elysium has far more meaningful choices and consequences in it, and significantly more depth to its explorations of the human psyche, than Planescape.

        Another oldschool CRPG that Disco Elysium also kinda reminded me of at times was Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, but purely just in terms of the total uniqueness of their settings, how much history/lore there is in both, and their overall zaniness + dark sense of humour.

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          ThatFanficGuy
          Link Parent
          Oh! This reminds me! Alpha Protocol is quite an underrated third-person shooter with RPG elements. It looks like something out of early 2000s, but the novel dialog system and a network of...

          Oh! This reminds me!

          Alpha Protocol is quite an underrated third-person shooter with RPG elements. It looks like something out of early 2000s, but the novel dialog system and a network of meaningful choices more than make up for it. There are consequences for both in-story and gameplay choices: some characters comment on your outfit, and using certain types of weapons can either backfire and bring an unexpected boon way down the line.

          Much like in Disco Elysium, you're likely to use the information you uncovered as the plot progresses. This can turn tides, help you connect with an enemy (and either lessen their aggression, turning them off the upcoming fight, or even making them your allies), or prevent you from losing a friend. New Game Plus even offers an extended experience, where your character's veteranacy ensures that the exclusive choice you must make needn't be exclusive: you can do both. You've seen it play out badly: now feel like a goddamn hero and play it out well.

          It's a narrow and rewarding experience, full of diverse characters and unique situations.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            cfabbro
            Link Parent
            Hmmm, oddly enough I don't think I have ever actually played Alpha Protocol before, despite being aware of it being praised for that aspect of its gameplay, and apparently owning it already on...

            Hmmm, oddly enough I don't think I have ever actually played Alpha Protocol before, despite being aware of it being praised for that aspect of its gameplay, and apparently owning it already on Steam. :P

            IIRC it still has some serious issues with unresolved bugs though, doesn't it? And checking Steam, it seems to not actually be for sale there anymore "at the request of the publisher". Weird... but regardless, I will check it out, since we seem to have very similar taste in RPGs, and I generally don't care about bugs all that much (unless they are totally game breaking). Thanks for reminding me of its existence. :)

            1 vote
            1. ThatFanficGuy
              Link Parent
              I can't seem to remember encountering any bugs while playing the game. It's been a while ago, though, so I may be filtering out the bad for the good.

              I can't seem to remember encountering any bugs while playing the game. It's been a while ago, though, so I may be filtering out the bad for the good.

              1 vote
      2. [2]
        ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        I don't think there are many games like it on the market. Disco Elysium won the public exactly because of its innovative approach to storytelling. It ain't perfect, but it's clearly a labor of...

        I don't think there are many games like it on the market. Disco Elysium won the public exactly because of its innovative approach to storytelling. It ain't perfect, but it's clearly a labor of love and creative endeavor.

        Broadly speaking, many an RPG – both modern and classic – play to the same idea. Fallout: New Vegas is often cited to be a great RPG, but, though I enjoyed playing it, it never appealed to me in the same way as Disco Elysium. It's fun for a 3D Fallout experience where the aim of your gun matters, and its story is interesting, but we're still taking about two rather different games.

        One RPG I enjoyed quite a lot was Tyranny. I'm not much of a fan for fantasy games because of how removed they are from the grounded, human approach to stories. It's often too much about dragons to care about the human drama, and even then it's often flat and superficial. What Tyranny does is it makes you care about the nations in the conflict, about your party members, and about the story in general.

        I wouldn't say the two games are similar, but Tyranny operates further within this grounded, human approach than any other RPG I've played.

        Overall – and I hate it when others suggest so to me, but it's the only appeal I can muster – I would suggest you play Disco Elysium and see for yourself. It's a... unique experience. It plays a lot closer to a book story than a video game story. Or, based on the lead designer's approach, it plays more like a vast and intricate Twitter-based Choose Your Own Adventury than a typical RPG.

        3 votes
        1. wundumguy
          Link Parent
          Hmmm alright, I'll add it to my wishlist! I've been reading a lot of books lately

          Hmmm alright, I'll add it to my wishlist! I've been reading a lot of books lately

          1 vote
  4. [2]
    Whom
    Link
    Empathy (?) We can appreciate a game for who / what it positions us as, and the degree to which it gives insight into that position. Benefits for the player range from novel emotional experiences...
    Empathy (?) We can appreciate a game for who / what it positions us as, and the degree to which it gives insight into that position. Benefits for the player range from novel emotional experiences to genuine moments of learning. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, The Beginner's Guide (depending on how you read it please don't hurt me talking about this game is exhausting)
    5 votes
    1. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Since most of mine are related to what you touched on here, I figured I might as well reply instead of making a new top-level comment: Aspect Description Example Escapism Sometimes you simply need...

      Since most of mine are related to what you touched on here, I figured I might as well reply instead of making a new top-level comment:

      Aspect Description Example
      Escapism Sometimes you simply need a break from real life and to escape into a fantasy world for a bit. Videogames are a highly effective way to do this IMO, since you are actually granted agency as an actor in them, which you don't get in most traditional escapist mediums like novels, movies and shows. Almost every game with a story, to varying degrees
      Catharsis When you manage to deeply emotionally connect with any story (regardless of medium) and it reaches its climax or denouement, it can often help you break through the emotional barriers you have set up over time, which then allows you to safely release your pent up emotions. Surprisingly, I find games to be somewhat less effective at this than novels, but it still happens with them often enough to be a major component of my enjoyment of them. Most recently experienced with Gris
      Emotional Challenge Sometimes the opposite of catharsis is great too. Getting to experience emotionally challenging things, like a truly mind-bending or depressing story, in the relatively safe environment of a game can be incredibly fulfilling. Although, those sorts of games often require me to be in the right frame of mind to experience, so that I don't have a breakdown afterwards, and as a result I don't seek them out all that often... I can only handle so many existential crises per month. ;) Most recently experienced with Disco Elysium
      Intellectual Challenge Whether it be from difficult puzzle elements or strategy mechanics, intellectual challenges presented in games can be incredibly gratifying to solve and overcome. Lots, but my favs are probably Europa Universalis 4 and puzzle games by Zachtronics
      Eureka Moments This goes hand in hand with the above two, but also applies to most games. Those moments when you finally figure something out that you were struggling with beforehand, or a major plot twist is revealed, can be truly glorious in games, and IMO they tend to occur more often in them than most other entertainment mediums. Portal+2, The Talos Principle and most recently The Witness had high Eureka moment rates for me
      6 votes
  5. [2]
    Crespyl
    (edited )
    Link
    I tried to find a word other than "gameplay" (which feels too broad), but I'm not sure I can do much better without breaking the one-word theme. Aspect Description Examples System (?) We can...

    I tried to find a word other than "gameplay" (which feels too broad), but I'm not sure I can do much better without breaking the one-word theme.

    Aspect Description Examples
    System (?) We can appreciate a game that lets us explore a well crafted system of interacting logical parts. The player can learn the rules of the system by observation and experimentation, and apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to achieve goals. Stephens Sausage Roll, Factorio, The Witness, Antichamber
    Competition We can appreciate a game for fostering a competitive spirit among peers, to test themselves against each other as teams or individuals Dota 2, Rocket League
    Cooperation We can appreciate a game that allows and encourages two or more people to work together towards a common goal A Way Out, ibb and obb, Portal 2
    5 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Don't feel limited to the one-word theme! I wasn't intending that as a restriction at all, it was just a coincidence of my examples. I like these a lot, and I feel like Systems has a lot of...

      Don't feel limited to the one-word theme! I wasn't intending that as a restriction at all, it was just a coincidence of my examples.

      I like these a lot, and I feel like Systems has a lot of sub-branches that we could explore: discovery, optimization, application, progression, etc.

      4 votes
  6. Pistos
    Link
    Nice discussion. I'll add a couple ideas: Advancement, Hoarding, Crafting: In many games, we enjoy building numbers up. Character stats, number of items, gathering equipment, increasing/upgrading...

    Nice discussion. I'll add a couple ideas:

    • Advancement, Hoarding, Crafting: In many games, we enjoy building numbers up. Character stats, number of items, gathering equipment, increasing/upgrading equipment stats, farming resources, building or crafting items. Perhaps we could lump together with this the pursuit of 100%: trophies, badges, achievements, collectibles.
    • Simulating what wouldn't really be possible for oneself in real life: Being a professional athlete, martial artist, race car driver, aircraft pilot, soldier, police officer, spy, chef, musician, city planner, military general, political leader. (I think this is distinct from the Escapism aspect you've already listed.)
    • Profit: Make money by playing the game (competitively).
    5 votes
  7. [2]
    TheJorro
    Link
    Effort. More specifically, does a game adequately convey the effort required for the task happening on-screen? This article has always been stuck in my mind since I first read it. Emily Short's...

    Effort. More specifically, does a game adequately convey the effort required for the task happening on-screen?

    This article has always been stuck in my mind since I first read it. Emily Short's analysis of Terry Cavanagh's first flash game, Don't Look Back, thinks about difficulty as a storytelling device.

    It also presents something that is specific to the format of video games, among all other media. Games have the opportunity to translate the difficulty of effort where other media cannot. It really changed my perspective on what difficulty I would play many games, especially ones where the difficulty is finely balanced.

    But I broadened it a bit for general gaming from difficulty to "effort", where the amount of effort I put in to accomplish something in a game should feel like there is parity with the actual task. It's not always in difficulty.

    Some loose examples of the most memorable games I've played through this lens:

    Witcher 3

    I put off playing this game for two years until PC hardware was in a place that I could run it maxed out, constant 60 fps at 1080p, with HairWorks on. One of the things I heard while waiting was that the game was easy, so when I finally played it I set it on Death March and left it that way. It worked great, I had to use every single gameplay mechanic available to me, choose potions and oils wisely, actually prepare for each major fight. And on top of it, I needed to keep sharp throughout combat and reduce mistakes as much as possible because one wrong turn could have meant death. It felt great, especially when going up against those super tough monsters more than 5 times my level. Taking them down felt like I really did take out a legendary beast, not just a slightly more difficult mob enemy. For a future run, I might download some mods to tweak the combat even further since I wasn't really satisfied with the vanilla magic system or armour/sword upgrade systems.

    Dishonored

    This one is not really difficulty related: turning off the objective markers. The game was specifically designed to be navigated without them so I turned them off. There was only one occasion in the entire game where the UI marker was the only way to find an objective but otherwise this was a blast. Characters, notes, and world dialogue would tell you everything you needed to find something, and it made exploring the world so much better as a result since you now had to, as Corvo, find these things people were talking about. You didn't simply just get a new marker on your screen. For a game with such expansive, detailed, mostly open levels with all kinds of secrets and world details, this change made a huge difference with how you perceive and explore the world.

    Call of Duty

    Okay, here's an example of where this doesn't work and why that could be. CoD games are in general very easy. Turning up the difficulty doesn't really scale in terms of effort since what happens is that the enemies cheat. They only ever fire at you, know where you are at all times, and seem to get unlimited grenades. Yes, it takes more effort to go through higher difficulties, but it does not feel like a fair or genuine effort that the in-game universe character would have to deal with because the adjustments are blatantly artificial instead of real.

    Dark Souls (et al)

    Okay, the obvious series, but I don't really have much to say that would be new or useful for anyone. Rigid, unforgiving, and handcrafted difficulty throughout, specifically because the goal was to give the player the feeling of truly overcoming something when they finally persevere. I think everyone and their mother has a take on the difficulty of these games and the experience of playing them, so I'll let that slide. But I want to briefly comment on the whole "NO EASY MODE" stuff: yeah, these games are finely crafted for difficulty but as long as an Easy Mode doesn't detract from that mode, who cares? There's a lot to appreciate about this series outside of the gameplay, let people enjoy what they will.

    4 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Great response. This is one of the ones that's most specific to gaming, as the idea of effort, while not outright absent from other media, is definitely less present than gaming by nature of their...

      Great response. This is one of the ones that's most specific to gaming, as the idea of effort, while not outright absent from other media, is definitely less present than gaming by nature of their structure.

      To add on to what you've written, I think in addition to effort, there's something to be said for mastery or skill acquisition. Much of what you've written about also coincides with the fact that your are building your skill as a player (like in The Witcher 3) or utilizing additional strategies (like in Dishonored). This also explains why Call of Duty is a non-example because the difficulty faced doesn't feel dependent on player skill level.

      2 votes
  8. Eylrid
    Link
    The cycles and rhythms of a game. The stand out to me is Stardew Valley, with daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly cycles that change what's available, what you can do, and where the villagers will...

    The cycles and rhythms of a game. The stand out to me is Stardew Valley, with daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly cycles that change what's available, what you can do, and where the villagers will be. (Pierre's shop is closed on Wednesdays.) Many, many games have day/night cycles. Euro Truck Simulator 2 has both a day/night cycle and an awake/sleep cycle that aren't synchronized. Banished has a seasonal cycle.

    4 votes
  9. [2]
    Death
    Link
    This might be slightly off-topic, or irrelevant to the current stage of discussion, but I still strongly feel the desire to type this out: This approach kind of reminds me of the one Jesse Schell...

    This might be slightly off-topic, or irrelevant to the current stage of discussion, but I still strongly feel the desire to type this out:

    Here's the idea: games as a whole have a ton of different aspects/lenses through which we can enjoy and appreciate them, and I want to know what they all are.

    I think later it might be interesting to try to apply some sort of analysis or taxonomy to this, but right now I just want to brainstorm.

    This approach kind of reminds me of the one Jesse Schell uses in his book on Game Design, but I believe there's a critical difference here: Schell's use of lenses is to help elucidate the different angles in a design process, which usually aims to create something that can be commonly understood. A game design is, itself, meant to communicate something to people, and so to make something that's understandable it makes sense to try and converge to some core perspectives.

    But appreciating a game is a much more personal experience, and by this I think we're trying to draw a distinction between trying to analyze it's design and assessing our personal reaction to it. Personal appreciation tends to be informed by biases and experiences, the sum of which is not shared between people except in the most rare of circumstances. My concern then would be that you end up with a taxonomy so incredibly vast and with so many conflicting, overlapping, or barely distinct definitions and concepts that it kind of defeats it's own purpose. After all if we can all use our own exact perspectives and words then what's the point of pre-defining them? Wouldn't that be the same as just... talking about them and defining them as we go?

    3 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Interesting point. I didn't really think about the distinction between player experience versus design, even though my examples pretty much end up focusing on the design aspects. I'm going to see...

      Interesting point. I didn't really think about the distinction between player experience versus design, even though my examples pretty much end up focusing on the design aspects. I'm going to see if I can track down an inexpensive version of that book, which looks fascinating!

      I should clarify that I'm not necessarily wanting to end up with a formal taxonomy or anything, and I find the vast number of possibilities as something interesting rather than trending towards meaningless. Part of the reason I asked this question is that I think games are uniquely diverse in this regard, and I think the myriad possibilities can go a long way in explaining why there can be such widespread disagreement about games' quality and resonance. For example, a player who primarily appreciates story might find a walking simulator to be a sublime experience, while a player who primarily appreciates systems or mastery might be bored to tears. Understanding that their disagreement comes from a misalignment of interest rather than the game itself could, I feel, carry a lot of weight in helping people discuss them meaningfully. I also think the idea of having a broad list of lenses that we can point to can help us put words to our own enjoyment and better identify our interests.

      2 votes