Context, Challenge and Catharsis

Context, Challenge and Catharsis

Yahtzee takes a look at where the Dead Rising series gets things right and where it screws up horribly.

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This basically speaks a lot of my opinion of Dead Rising 3. It is still fun (in the whole slaughtering sense) but it isn't as good as Dead Rising 2 because it lacks challenge. I still debate on whether 2 or 3's weapon system is better (in my playthrough I rarely visited safe houses) but 2 did have a very satisfying method. 3 basically has the same issue Off The Record did in terms of difficulty and slaughter.

I'm curious to what you thought of Dead Rising 1 now, seeing as the 'hard' part of that game was omnipresent and was designed for people who must do everything perfect in order to survive (also known as Dark Souls players).

Catharsis seems like its also the "skinner box" leg of the stool. For example a game like Animal Crossing seems like its basically all Catharsis. I suppose the challenge portion would just be the amount of time you need to grind fish to get 100%.

This is definately the case, you have to add context (another C word!!) and drip feed us fun so we're always hungry for more and willing to work for it. Otherwise we become nothing more than unappreciative spoilt rich kids, too used to cake for dinner and on the diabetic fence.
It also works the same for certain revenge movies where the longer they build up the twat-level of all the other character's actions towards the protagonist, such as in Carrie or to the extreme in Dogville, the more satisfying the revenge when it finally happens. The actions are not meaningless deaths etc just to please the braindead but something emotional and relatable on dark levels

castlewise:
Catharsis seems like its also the "skinner box" leg of the stool.

I think these are related concepts, but not the same thing. A skinner box doles out small doses of reward at a regular interval to create what is basically an addiction -- it's neither satisfying nor frustrating enough to cause the average player to abandon the experience. Catharsis done right has a finality to it; you don't need to redo/reread/re-watch the experience to feel complete.

Anyways nothing compares to the endless joy and company of owning a toy dead cat. Even if its mother is still stalking you from the bushes

The milking stool model makes sense, although I would argue that catharsis isn't needed as much to make a game a good game, whereas gratification is. Challenge and context are much more important. For example, in a stealth game like Dishonored or Thief, while going around stabbing/shooting arrows at everyone is fun, it is generally something I only do when I get frustrated at not being able to get past a particular point without being seen. I'd much rather have the GRATIFICATION of being able to pull off a mission without any detections. Gratification and catharsis aren't synonyms, and I think the former works better here.

It's true that this game lacks Challenge like a toilet lacks water, but Challenge doesn't necessarily have to come from a game to give meaning to Catharsis. Imagine working at customer service or some other job centered around satisfying clients, or being a student. Sometimes, clients or class topics can take hours to settle through satisfying or understanding, respectively. Spending hours desperately trying to solve a problem builds tension that Cathartic games like Dead Rising 3 or Saints Row IV are perfect for releasing, however routine they may be. (Saints Row especially with this formula: stand in an intersection, shoot police simulations and aliens, freeze down hovering aliens, fight monstrous alien, rinse, repeat)

castlewise:
Catharsis seems like its also the "skinner box" leg of the stool. For example a game like Animal Crossing seems like its basically all Catharsis. I suppose the challenge portion would just be the amount of time you need to grind fish to get 100%.

Animal Crossing has some kind of Context, even though it is basically like that of a young child's cartoon show.

knox140:
The milking stool model makes sense, although I would argue that catharsis isn't needed as much to make a game a good game, whereas gratification is. Challenge and context are much more important. For example, in a stealth game like Dishonored or Thief, while going around stabbing/shooting arrows at everyone is fun, it is generally something I only do when I get frustrated at not being able to get past a particular point without being seen. I'd much rather have the GRATIFICATION of being able to pull off a mission without any detections. Gratification and catharsis aren't synonyms, and I think the former works better here.

If I remember the thread where Yahtzee first introduced the idea of gratification, there was confusion as to why can't gratification come from the context or challenge a game provides. The term catharsis, on the other hand, clarifies that its the gratification completely separate from beating a challenge or becoming immersed in the context. It's the difference between, for example two otherwise identical shooters in which one game has guns that make uninterested pewpewpew noises when fired while the other has guns with sound effects that give the guns a sense of impact.

The best example of what I think he is going for that comes to mind is when you get the super gravity gun at the end of Half Life 2. The whole game you are outnumbered, outgunned and generally on the run. They give you this super weapon, a ton of health and throw a million soldiers at you to mow through. I think it's only satisfying because of that frustration.

A lot of games pull this off very well too. Far Cry: Blood Dragon had the KillStar that had you mowing down waves of baddies. Soul Reaver 2 had you killing your evil human brothers with the soul reaver sword and Gunpoint had you having enough money to buy the door kicker upgrade to name a few favorites. It's usually best at the climax of a game where you fight back after a string of defeats and obstacles. None of those things would be fun without the challenge or the context. Striking back at someone who has been annoying you and harrying you for ages is hugely satisfying. In Bioshock Infinite, finally taking out the Songbird was a moment of pure fist pumping triumph, because that bastard was on your ass through the whole well written and well done story. And in Limbo finally killing that fucking spider was better than sex on a roller coaster. It's what games are best at, Making you feel empowered and in control. But first, you have to remove that control

Lono Shrugged:
The best example of what I think he is going for that comes to mind is when you get the super gravity gun at the end of Half Life 2. The whole game you are outnumbered, outgunned and generally on the run. They give you this super weapon, a ton of health and throw a million soldiers at you to mow through. I think it's only satisfying because of that frustration.

A lot of games pull this off very well too. Far Cry: Blood Dragon had the KillStar that had you mowing down waves of baddies. Soul Reaver 2 had you killing your evil human brothers with the soul reaver sword and Gunpoint had you having enough money to buy the door kicker upgrade to name a few favorites. It's usually best at the climax of a game where you fight back after a string of defeats and obstacles. None of those things would be fun without the challenge or the context. Striking back at someone who has been annoying you and harrying you for ages is hugely satisfying. In Bioshock Infinite, finally taking out the Songbird was a moment of pure fist pumping triumph, because that bastard was on your ass through the whole well written and well done story. And in Limbo finally killing that fucking spider was better than sex on a roller coaster. It's what games are best at, Making you feel empowered and in control. But first, you have to remove that control

Going back to the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, tons of games had this. They'd occasionally give you a limited-time or limited-use superweapon, then it's back to your normal vulnerability. Mario's Super Star is probably the most prominent example, but every bullet-hell shooter I've played has it too.

"So I feel more positive about Dead Rising 2 because it was manageably hard. It was a game of both challenge and catharsis."

Indeed, the best moments were when you'd FINALLY smash that fucking psychopath's head in with a rusty pipe, BECAUSE he'd knifed you a billion times before. It was crappy that you could only do that after restarting at about level 5-10, depending on skill, and that they didn't tell you this.

But, after that it was die a few times, learn your lessons and dish out that deliciously cold revenge!
Ohhhh yeah!!!

Sounds like the summary is:

Dead Rising 3 is fun for a little bit, then boring forever after.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Context, Challenge and Catharsis

Yahtzee takes a look at where the Dead Rising series gets things right and where it screws up horribly.

Read Full Article

It's something like believing the purpose of a handjob is the orgasm, so you just hand your customer a jar of his own spunk and think you've done him a favor.

Dastardly:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Context, Challenge and Catharsis

Yahtzee takes a look at where the Dead Rising series gets things right and where it screws up horribly.

Read Full Article

It's something like believing the purpose of a handjob is the orgasm, so you just hand your customer a jar of his own spunk and think you've done him a favor.

LOL! Well that beats (no pun intended) my analogy all to hell. I was going to describe what a lot of game makers are currently doing as building a roller coaster and forgetting to put in the peaks and valleys, turning what should be a thrill ride into a rather dull train journey that goes nowhere. But hey, a comparison of gaming to wanking is so much more in tune with the instant gratification element as to be brilliant.

Kenjitsuka:
"So I feel more positive about Dead Rising 2 because it was manageably hard. It was a game of both challenge and catharsis."

Indeed, the best moments were when you'd FINALLY smash that fucking psychopath's head in with a rusty pipe, BECAUSE he'd knifed you a billion times before. It was crappy that you could only do that after restarting at about level 5-10, depending on skill, and that they didn't tell you this.

But, after that it was die a few times, learn your lessons and dish out that deliciously cold revenge!
Ohhhh yeah!!!

Dead Rising 2 was a hell of a lot more entertaining when you beat the pyschopath without reloading as well. When I killed the bathroom C.U.R.E member at level 6 I wept tears of joy between the tears of blood from playing through it for an hour.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Which made me go back and remember all the times the game had seemed a bit meh as I'd played, even while I was mincing up the walking dead with fiery dragon costumes. Something was getting in the way of the catharsis factor, which seemed odd, because there was so little else besides the catharsis factor. Perhaps, I realized, the three-leg model was due for a bit of revision. A qualification needs to be added: namely that catharsis needs to be working alongside something else to work.

The analogy works fine. Who ever heard of a one-legged stool? Context with no challenge or catharsis isn't a game. And challenge without context or catharsis isn't a game either. Nor is a two-legged stool a game; context and catharsis is just an ordinary, non-interactive narrative. Context and challenge with no catharsis is boring. Catharsis and challenge is... is it even accurate to call it an experience when there is no context to anything?

A three-legged stool with one or two weak legs works okay though, as you pointed out. Better if one or two of the legs are just there to support the others and don't really impress the user, as long as they're functional and not weak.

No matter what sandbox we're in, Dead Rising, Prototype, Skyrim, Just Cause etc. Killing stuff is fun but if its the same thing over & over its gonna get old fast. We'd learn how to counter the challenge and be left waiting for a real challenge that never arrives.

And that is why I always keep coming back to masturbate to catharse all over immerse myself in Call of Pripyat.
Everything is tuned for a world that would love to murder the fuck out of you, but inadvertently ends up providing better and better weapons and equipment. With which you can murder it the fuck back.
And then you meet your first chimera in the middle of the night and you curl up and cry forever

To say Dead Rising 2 was hard is kind of laughable. I know full well I sound like one of those insufferable faggots who claim to be better than everyone else, but hear me out.

Rescuing survivors in Dead Rising 2 was probably the biggest objective. All of the plot missions were very short, with a lot of time in between to do one of two things: Fuck around or Rescue survivors. Until you hit level 50, rescuing survivors is the obvious choice, as it gives you lots of PP, combo cards, and a chance to go back to Royal Flush. Going back to Royal Flush is what makes the game easy. Every time you go back to the safe house you have the opportunity to build 3 sets of tenderizers, 2 defilers, and a set of knife gloves. (Possibly more depending on the surrounding zombies and where you come from) Those three weapons are all you need to win the entire game. Period. Most of the other combo weapons are either too impractical (Power Guitar), too bulky (Tesla Ball), or simply unusable (drill bucket) to have any use besides playing around. That's my problem with your whole argument. Dead Rising 2 basically hands you the best weapons in the game constantly anyway, if you really think anything in DR2 (aside from the Twins and TK) is hard then you're just impairing yourself. If you impair yourself in DR3 you get the same result, a game that is seemingly stupidly unfair in many respects. Adding to that there were blenders fucking everywhere, the quick grapple removals and shove run removed any threat a horde may pose, and MOST COMBO WEAPONS WERE JUST GIVEN TO YOU BY THE WORK BENCHES ANYWAY!

That being said, yeah the weapon lockers did remove a lot of the satisfaction of fucking around. Building a Blitzkrieg or Freedom Bear in DR2 was sweet because you had to know where to look for the items and truck them to a specific bench to build them with any kind of efficiency. The big ostentatious weapons are a treat. The more you have a treat the less special it becomes. Everybody knows that though. I wonder why the designers don't.

I don't think catharsis is an appropriate replacement for gratification. Truth be told, if it should be changed it should be to "entertainment", "enjoyability", "engaging" (which itself is a measure of how well a game does what it does) or something along those lines. Ultimately, a game needs to be enjoyable. If it's not fun, it doesn't matter how cathartic it is.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Something was getting in the way of the catharsis factor, which seemed odd, because there was so little else besides the catharsis factor. Perhaps, I realized, the three-leg model was due for a bit of revision. A qualification needs to be added: namely that catharsis needs to be working alongside something else to work.

That's not a qualification, it's inherent in the model from the start. A three-legged stool can get away with having one leg longer than the others, but it can't get away with only having one leg. Or two for that matter. You mention challenge here, but you missed that even in a game with relatively little story, there is still plenty of context. That you're talking about hitting zombies with a battery powered sledgehammer, rather than changes in RAM bit values due to impulses from a controller, is a lot of context right up front. Simply change the zombies to living humans and, with no change in any of the gameplay, suddenly things are completely different.

So yes, a three-legged stool needs three legs, and games aren't fun if they're just mindless spectacle an nothing else. I'm really not sure this needed a whole new article, since that's exactly what you said the first time.

Catharsis can come in many forms, but the common demoninator will always be a return on investment. It's simply satisfying to see your efforts pay off.

Conceptually I stand entirely behind this analysis and reasoning, because it makes total sense. However, I can't help remember that in Yahtzee's own review of Just Cause 2 he says that the story is crap and that it's pretty much too easy. Whether there was a bit more to the other two legs that he didn't mention in the review or not I'm unsure, but I'm hoping he addresses how Just Cause 2 got to be one of his favorites of the year when it stands almost entirely on catharsis.

Banzaiman:
Conceptually I stand entirely behind this analysis and reasoning, because it makes total sense. However, I can't help remember that in Yahtzee's own review of Just Cause 2 he says that the story is crap and that it's pretty much too easy. Whether there was a bit more to the other two legs that he didn't mention in the review or not I'm unsure, but I'm hoping he addresses how Just Cause 2 got to be one of his favorites of the year when it stands almost entirely on catharsis.

I think this is a misinterpretation of the word challenge as to mean a task that is difficult to perform rather than a call to engage in any kind of contest or task. That would make that challenge is the call to engage with the game. Most games have one overarching challenge and several smaller ones designed for the purpose of the larger one. Often enough completing the smaller ones will help you in completing the larger one. The central challenge of Super Mario is to rescue the princess, but there are plenty of smaller ones such as "can you get the mushroom before it falls into a pit or goes off-screen".

To go back to the DR2/3 examples, the challenge of building combo weapons isn't that the task of building combo weapons in DR2 is difficult. It's an incredibly easy task, but you are still being challenged to go out, collect the parts then bring them back to a bench. In DR3 there is no challenge occurring: essentially you are pushing a button and getting a combo weapon.

Orekoya:
I think this is a misinterpretation of the word challenge as to mean a task that is difficult to perform rather than a call to engage in any kind of contest or task. That would make that challenge is the call to engage with the game. Most games have one overarching challenge and several smaller ones designed for the purpose of the larger one. Often enough completing the smaller ones will help you in completing the larger one. The overarching challenge of Super Mario is to rescue the princess, but there are plenty of smaller ones such as "can you get the mushroom before it falls into a pit or goes off-screen".

To go back to the DR2/3 examples, the challenge of building combo weapons isn't that the task of building combo weapons in DR2 is difficult. It's an incredibly easy task, but you are still being challenged to go out, collect the parts then bring them back to a bench. In DR3 there is no challenge occurring: essentially you are pushing a button and getting a combo weapon.

If that's what he means then it does make sense, though just being asked to do something is a rather perfunctory part of a game. Also, the way he describes challenge in his articles seems to imply that it is supposed to impose some difficulty, the way he talks about the buildup of frustration needing release.

Banzaiman:
If that's what he means then it does make sense, though just being asked to do something is a rather perfunctory part of a game. Also, the way he describes challenge in his articles seems to imply that it is supposed to impose some difficulty, the way he talks about the buildup of frustration needing release.

Yes but having to do ANY kind of task to get a reward is still inherently more difficult than performing NO task and still getting the reward. I'm guessing that's why he's using challenge the way he is, probably pulling on all the meanings of these words can infer. Context can refer to anything from story to the environment's setting - shooting people in a desert feels different than shooting people in a jungle.

Also, while you might feel it is perfunctory, the mechanics in how challenges are layered, issued and addressed are not a given. Devs have to plan for how/when/where their players will be challenged. "Can you build combo-weapons" was a challenge in DR2 that existed alongside other smaller challenges within a larger challenge. A challenge that has now been removed in DR3, and nothing seems to have been put in its place: creating a hole in the engagement. Add to the fact that we can so easily compare the mechanics of DR3 to DR2 and this lack of engagement seems all the more palpable.

Orekoya:
Yes but having to do ANY kind of task to get a reward is still inherently more difficult than performing NO task and still getting the reward. While you might feel it is perfunctory, the mechanics in how challenges are layered, issued and addressed are not a given. Devs have to plan for how/when/where their players will be challenged. "Can you build combo-weapons" was a challenge in DR2 that existed alongside other smaller challenges within a larger challenge. A challenge that has now been removed in DR3, and nothing seems to have been put in its place: creating a hole in the engagement. Add to the fact that we can so easily compare the mechanics of DR3 to DR2 and this lack of engagement seems all the more palpable.

I'll give you that, having to do something is harder than having to do nothing. We're probably looking at the same thing from two different angles. In your example, where you see the challenge as "you have to create combo weapons" I see the challenge as "you have to stay alive long enough to gather the components and figure out which combinations aren't crap under pressure" or something.

Banzaiman:
We're probably looking at the same thing from two different angles. In your example, where you see the challenge as "you have to create combo weapons" I see the challenge as "you have to stay alive long enough to gather the components and figure out which combinations aren't crap under pressure" or something.

Possible. I see what you describe as the stipulations of a challenge like it was an unspoken exchange between the dev and player that goes something like:
"Can you create combo weapons?" 'Maybe! What would I have to do?'
"Gather the components and figure out the combinations in specific areas with a crafting bench." 'Alright, anything else I need to know?' "Yes, these parts are among hordes of zombies and they can even get into the area you have to craft from. Also some of the combinations are better than others."

Tying in with your point about Minecraft, then, of working towards having something in order to appreciate it, instead of it just happening with no build-up as in blowing up countless ragdolls in Garry's Mod?

The most infectious ideas have catchy names. Off the top of my head, how about "the Tripodal Theory," or "Yahtzee's Triangle."

ImmortalDrifter:
To say Dead Rising 2 was hard is kind of laughable. I know full well I sound like one of those insufferable faggots who claim to be better than everyone else, but hear me out.

Rescuing survivors in Dead Rising 2 was probably the biggest objective. All of the plot missions were very short, with a lot of time in between to do one of two things: Fuck around or Rescue survivors. Until you hit level 50, rescuing survivors is the obvious choice, as it gives you lots of PP, combo cards, and a chance to go back to Royal Flush. Going back to Royal Flush is what makes the game easy. Every time you go back to the safe house you have the opportunity to build 3 sets of tenderizers, 2 defilers, and a set of knife gloves. (Possibly more depending on the surrounding zombies and where you come from) Those three weapons are all you need to win the entire game. Period. Most of the other combo weapons are either too impractical (Power Guitar), too bulky (Tesla Ball), or simply unusable (drill bucket) to have any use besides playing around. That's my problem with your whole argument. Dead Rising 2 basically hands you the best weapons in the game constantly anyway, if you really think anything in DR2 (aside from the Twins and TK) is hard then you're just impairing yourself. If you impair yourself in DR3 you get the same result, a game that is seemingly stupidly unfair in many respects. Adding to that there were blenders fucking everywhere, the quick grapple removals and shove run removed any threat a horde may pose, and MOST COMBO WEAPONS WERE JUST GIVEN TO YOU BY THE WORK BENCHES ANYWAY!

That being said, yeah the weapon lockers did remove a lot of the satisfaction of fucking around. Building a Blitzkrieg or Freedom Bear in DR2 was sweet because you had to know where to look for the items and truck them to a specific bench to build them with any kind of efficiency. The big ostentatious weapons are a treat. The more you have a treat the less special it becomes. Everybody knows that though. I wonder why the designers don't.

You gotta admit that its stupid to take on almost any boss without Recovery Items through... The Beer Hat is one of those OP combos as well for that reason. (The key here is that you need to prepare before the boss fight this is something most games this days forget about, DarkSouls does this very well)

The Knives Gloves are imo the best melee weapon of the game for boss fights since they have a fast aspd and you can get like 3 shots then back off and avoid the boss attack.

KingsGambit:
I don't think catharsis is an appropriate replacement for gratification. Truth be told, if it should be changed it should be to "entertainment", "enjoyability", "engaging" (which itself is a measure of how well a game does what it does) or something along those lines. Ultimately, a game needs to be enjoyable. If it's not fun, it doesn't matter how cathartic it is.

Respectfully, that depends a lot on your definition of "enjoy"

How many people watch _Steel Magnolias_, cry their eyes out ... and then rewatch it a few months later. How many people went into _Passion of the Christ_ expecting an enjoyable time?

I use movies as an example, as they've been around a bit longer, but the same holds true for Video Games. I played through _Spec Ops: The Line_ and can honestly say that I did not enjoy it. It wasn't fun or enjoyable. But I loved it. There was a catharsis that didn't stem directly from the game, but rather from all the same "Spunkgargleweewee" games (to borrow from Yahtzee here) that have become bland and samey. Spec Ops was able to help release frustration caused by other games, giving it a high catharsis factor for me... it also allowed for some personal reflection and insight, but those don't really fall into the 3C scheme.

Don't get me wrong, enjoyable is good. Entertaining is good. But there are much deeper emotions into which we can tap. Literature, music, movies... these have been doing it for years. Video games certainly can, too.

 

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