Appreciating Video Games through Repetition

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 self.  Through repeat play throughs video games and media can often take on a unique and evolved identity.  I previously discussed how a variety of gaming experiences can allow oneself to reach true fulfillment, but can repetition provide an even greater method towards self growth?  

There aren’t many reasons to read a book twice and I know many people in my family that refuse to buy films because there is no reason to watch them again.  They argue that they already know what happens, so why should they watch it again?  Personally, I love watching movies again and again; just like I love playing games over and over again.

Lately, game creators have tried to make their games infinitely replayable.  You will likely never earn everything there is in Overwatch, so you always have a reason to keep playing.  Bungie just introduced new Masterwork weapons in Destiny 2 with unique perks, so you will probably never get the perfect gun that you want.  Thus, you have a reason to keep playing every day/week/month.

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New games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite Battle Royale are multiplayer centric games that drop you in an environment to battle against other players.  During every match the gameplay is the same, the story is the same, and the setting is the same.  However, the experience is always different.  With ninety-nine other players each trying a unique strategy the game always feels fresh.  The game is designed to keep you coming back for more.

There are two ways to look at repetition within games; from a multiplayer perspective and from a singleplayer perspective.  Games like PUBG, Fortnite, and Overwatch operate from a multiplayer perspective.  The game is all about competition and improving your skills.  You will likely lose your first match during those games, but you may get a few kills and have fun exploring a new arena.  Eventually the map layouts become second nature, the gameplay becomes recognizable, and you improve.

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Multiplayer games are built around player growth.  In some games it is easy to see how far you have come with experience bars and player levels.  The game literally rewards you with experience points for actions that you take within the game.  By gathering enough experience points you grow as a player.  However, even if Brian is a high level than me in Overwatch I still have the ability to defeat him in a match.  The player level is only an artificial measure of player skill, designed to incentivize players to keep playing a game.  The real reward is map knowledge, player awareness, and strategic thinking.  It is a testament to the game design of StarCraft: Brood War, Quake, and Super Smash Bros. Melee that they are still played competitively to this day.  Those games do not have experience points or player levels (or loot boxes), but they keep players coming back for more.

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The ability to repeatedly play these classic games has given many people a career and created an industry.  Although each game uses the same rules and characters, the human opponents give the game variety and freshness.  On the other hand, Overwatch has been created as a service with constant updates and changes.  Players are given new heroes and maps constantly, when the real variety should come from new opponents and new strategies.  Perhaps a few years will see a community clamoring for “Overwatch Classic”, just as players demanded a World of Warcraft Classic experience.

Players are also able to find growth and challenge through repetition of single player games.  Speedrunners come to mind as a group that challenges themselves to complete a game in the shortest amount of time.  Communities have been created around the practice of speedrunning and specific games.  At any time countless players are broadcasting their speedruns to thousands of viewers on twitch.tv.  These players have dedicated their time to perfecting one specific game.  They epitomize the repetition within video games and constantly find growth as players.  They often use third party tools to keep track of the world record times, their own personal splits, and notes on where to go next.  It is a joy to watch someone like Trihex play Super Mario Odyssey or Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island faster than I ever thought possible, only for him to reset due to some unfortunate mistake.

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Even if you don’t speedrun a video game, repetition can still provide immense value to individual players.  In February of 2017 I completed Resident Evil 7 for the first time.  Immediately upon completing the game I started up a new play through.  I beat the game twice in as many weeks and enjoyed every minute of both play throughs.  I did not change the difficulty or change the experience, I just played through it twice.  For some reason the game resonated with me and I wanted to experience it again.  The second play through was much quicker because I already knew the secrets, the hidden items, the puzzles, and I even discovered some new things during the second play through.

A second or third or fourth play through a video game can give players an enhanced perspective of the game.  I learned something about myself while playing Resident Evil 7 and I was able to apply that knowledge during my second play through for a different experience.  I will probably play the game again in 2018.  During multiplayer matches you begin to learn habits about yourself and others that can eventually improve your gameplay.  Maybe you realize that you are always the first one through the door in Rainbow Six: Siege and usually the first one to die.  During your next game you decide to stay back and consequently stay alive much longer.  This kind of knowledge can only come through repetition.

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Playing a game through repetition taps into an intrinsic appreciation for video games.  In order to repeat Yoshi’s Island thousands of times, Trihex must truly enjoy playing the game.  There were no achievements pushing me towards completing Resident Evil 7 twice (although I did unlock a few new ones throughout the second play through).  And Super Smash Bros. Melee does not give you extra costumes for playing the game for thousands of hours.  Repetition allows you to learn and grow as a player, and ultimately appreciate the intrinsic value of video games.

Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks

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