When are you done with a game?
Assuming it’s a game you enjoy; one you have been waiting to play ever since the publisher told you how “rich”, “engaging” and “deep” it was going to be upon release. Does there come a time when you decide, “I’m done” or do you simply lose interest like a four year old in a toy store?
Developers go to great lengths to ensure that you spend as much time as possible with a game, even when it doesn’t really deserve it. We’re all different when it comes to shelf life for our games, much of which depends on the game itself which is why putting a “value” tag on any piece of entertainment is really tough to do. Some games are like Twinkies—they’ll last seemingly forever; others more like fast wilting lettuce…
I have been the commissioner of an Out of the Park Baseball League for going on three years. I play that game almost every single day in some capacity. Some days it’s simply running a week of the season and uploading a game file so the other 29 owners in my league can check the week’s games. Other days I find an hour or two vanish right before my eyes as I start to really dig into the league data, looking for potential trade partners and juggling the lineup around like Casey Stengel. You can lose yourself in a game like OOTP, particularly when playing in a multiplayer league format.
I have spent literally hundreds of hours with the game over the years (OOTP 12 comes out next month) and I don’t see my time ending anytime soon; even if version 12 is a bust OOTP 11 has an almost limitless shelf life due to its career based nature. It’s a Twinkie.
As long as the people in the league want to keep going, we’ll keep going. We’re currently in the playoffs of our seventh season and our league has taken on a life of its own. We know the players, the history, and the rivalries. We have created our own sense of history. Owners come and go but the league just keeps churning right along. (NHS user Maceman is in our league and currently battling me in the NLCS…)
Out of the Park Baseball is a game I feel I know intimately. However I don’t think that’s too common in today’s climate of disposable entertainment. As much as I can’t understand the mainstream fascination with Call of Duty and Halo, there are a lot of people who have grown exceedingly intimate with those games, and I am quite sure many of them couldn’t possibly understand how I could spend so much time with a baseball game without player models and what is basically a really pretty spreadsheet.
I have people on my Xbox Live Friends List who every time I see online, they are playing Halo or CoD. The idea of playing anything else, any other shooter specifically, holds no interest or at the very least a passing one. Homefront? Crysis 2? Killzone? Eh, whatever. Those people are not putting down CoD or Halo anytime soon.
It’s much like World of WarCraft.
MMOs come and go and publishers try desperately to crack the Blizzard Shield where inside rests a pot of very large gold, but they all end up failing. Sure, many MMOs are still running—alive and kicking with minuscule user stats compared to WoW but that game has become a part of life for a lot of people. It, too, has limitless shelf life. Another Twinkie.
But let’s back away from those games for a second since they are the exception to the rule and get back to the main question at hand – when do you consider yourself “done” with a game? When was the last time you played a game to the point that you knew every crack, crevice, blemish and stretch mark?
The definition of being “done” with a game is different for everyone. For some, it’s when they see the credits roll. For others it’s not until they have uncovered every secret coin, completed every level and discovered everything there is inside the design. For others still, completing the game isn’t important as just enjoying it until it becomes boring and then moving on to the next thing. All of this has to do, I think, more with our own personalities than it does the game itself.
I’m not a completionist by nature. I don’t have a burning need to “finish” a game. Some, my wife for instance, would claim that personality trait extends beyond the digital space. If you listen to the podcast you know that I reached the end boss of the original Dead Space, got frustrated, and used the disc as an ornate coaster. I felt no burning desire to conquer it because the developer hated me. I played and enjoyed Darksiders but never finished it, either. Some games I’ll play through until I see the credits, others still I’ll play multiple times. Games like OOTP I’ll play for years.
Brandon, on the other hand, has Gamer ADD and has to find every trinket, locate every Riddler Question Mark and collect every orb or his brain revolts against him and won’t let him sleep. A friend of mine played through Dragon Age with every character class option and played through every single romance thread. That’s a level of intimacy with Dragon Age that very few people reach.
Demon’s Souls is doing this to me. Last night, after a day of boardgames with my wife, daughter, and one of our friends, I played Demon’s Souls without the assistance of the phantoms and hints due to PSN being “under maintenance”. After multiple tries, I finally, triumphantly, defeated the boss in the storm castle area. If you’ve played the game you know what I’m talking about – he of the giant tongue. It was a terribly tough fight until I figured out his weakness.
I sat if front of the television around midnight, smiling at the screen, palms sweaty (another common trait when playing this game) looking at the soul remains of the boss demon shining before me. I wanted to give someone a high five. My dog receive a vigorous ear scratching instead.
Supposedly, there’s only one more general area left. Although I know there are many, many things I haven’t seen or done in Demon’s Souls. There’s that damn red dragon on the first starter area. What’s that machine in the prison section? There’s more to uncover and I genuinely want to get to know this game as much as I can. I want to play with and against other people—and die. I will most assuredly do that. I want to try various classes and run through the game again with a fighter-type and not a mage. It’s rare when a game does that to me.
I see other players enshrined in some hall of heroes with stats that boggle the mind. How did they do that?
Digging deep into a game is normally a rare thing for people in my profession. Time normally doesn’t allow for it. We play, we finish, we write, we move on to the next thing. Demon’s Souls is an old game, and I have no reason to keep playing this, professionally speaking, other than to simply enjoy it and discover all of the things From Software packed into it.
It’s a neat feeling.
And one I wish happened more often. The game may not be a Twinkie, but it’s certainly passed the lettuce stage.
(Happy Easter everyone.)