The most important thing that you can do is play what you want to play. You are a human being with agency and self-direction, if you truly know yourself you will have a deep understanding of how best to please your own being. But it is equally important to try new things. We often don’t know what we like until we try it, thus a variety of experiences is worthwhile and should be pursued.
I recently purchased I am Bread from the Xbox Live Store. I felt like the game was similar to Octodad: Dadliest Catch, which I really enjoyed because of its unique physics puzzles and uncanny control scheme. However, after spending a hour or so with I am Bread, I decided that the game is not for me. The physics based exploration is more frustrating than fun and the difficulty seems extremely high for a game with such finicky controls. Nevertheless, I am glad I took the time to experience I Am Bread, because now I know what the game is like. I feel no need to complete the game, even though the writing is hilarious, rather I am happy with the experience as it is and equally happy to move on to a different game.
If you try something new and don’t like it, you can always go back to what you like. Then at least you can say with certainty that you liked it, or didn’t. Even if you enjoy games designed as services, don’t let their endless nature deter you from playing other titles. I’m always worried that I will not have enough time to fully enjoy new game releases. I frequent the website howlongtobeat.com for some quick math on how long I can anticipate playing a new release. But then I think, I would have a lot more time to play Wolfenstein 2, if I didn’t spend a few hours playing Rainbow Six: Siege. Or I would have been able to finish The Evil Within 2 if I didn’t spend a whole night grinding for a gun in Destiny 2.
Recently, the creators of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild declared that the two downloadable mission packs that came in the season pass would be the last piece of downloadable content. They are not creating any more content for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Even though Breath of the Wild has been heralded as one of the greatest video games of all time and can be played and explored for thousands of hours, the game is complete. The creators could have decided that they would add new hats, weapons, outfits, or horses every month for as long as possible in a vain attempt to increase interest in the game. They didn’t. Not every game needs extra content to keep people playing, sometimes you just need to create a good game. Now the developers are free to create a new game experience that could be even better than Breath of the Wild, and I am free to spend as much time as I want in their world full of secrets and discoveries.
There should always be a balance. I encourage you to go and play games that are polarizing. People love Overwatch because of its characters and gameplay. But just as many people dislike the game because of the implementation of loot boxes and timed seasonal rewards. People love The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild because of the exploration and the world. But just as many people dislike the game because your weapons break after using them. Play them and decide for yourself.
However, just because Overwatch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can be played for thousands of hours doesn’t mean you should. Technically any game can be replayed an infinite number of times. I can replay Resident Evil over and over again, even though I know where all the enemies are, know all the puzzles, and have already experienced the story. However, I am constantly filling my life my new experiences which allow me to bring new perspectives into Resident Evil each time I play it. Maybe I recently played Resident Evil 7 and noticed some small connection between the two games, or maybe I played Dead Rising and noticed a shop called Jill’s Sandwiches evoking a memorable scene from the game. These new experiences enhance my appreciation for the game and allow me to replay the game about once a year to see if I notice anything new and to see how far I’ve come and how far video games have come during the time.
Unfortunately games designed as services attempt to keep you operating within a single ecosystem. Progression systems encourage players to monopolize their time and money on a single product. When the eventual downloadable content, map pack, loot box, or cosmetic skin is released you will feel like you owe it to the developer to buy it because you want to support them for providing something that has kept you busy for that last one hundred hours. But has it enhanced your life? It is easy for games to provide meaningless reason’s for players to log in once a day (loot boxes or literal daily login rewards), but it is difficult to design a game players want to play because it is fun. Learn to notice the difference. Of course, there is a time for using games to keep busy, but also allow video games to provide greater meaning and appreciate them.
New titles bring innovation that may influence future updates that may appear in your favorite game as a service (Overwatch, League of Legends, World of Warcraft). But in order to understand the big picture and inter-connectedness of gaming you must experience a variety, you may even enjoy something you previously believed bad or poorly designed. Then you will gain a greater understanding of yourself and may even appreciate the games designed as a service more because of a new perspective. This holiday season, buy yourself a new game. Watch a new movie. Listen to a new song. Then after trying something new, go back to something old and see how your new perspective enhances your appreciation.
Next week we will look at appreciating video games through repetition.
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks