Editor's Note: Smile, You're Gaming

Smile, You're Gaming

What is it with all the seriousness about playing games? Why do we get all in a wad of anger and frustration while playing? We wondered that here at The Escapist HQ, so we decided to make an issue about it.

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Very Interesting.

More and more games are doing everything they can to remove player frustration. Prince of Persia did it recently, and the result was a game devoid of challenge. The lack of challenge also causes the reward feeling and satisfaction to be lacking.
No frustration, but also no fun.
It seems the notion of accessibility in games is misunderstood in the game industry, and accessibility certainly does not equal absence of challenge.

I can't say I agree. When was the last time you saw someone playing a Megaman game acting all smiles and giggles? And those games have been around for ages.

frustration and rage are just things that go along with the game.

for example:
Theirs a brand new (insert extremely expensive toy here) up on a high shelf. theirs a latter on the other side of the room. you go grab the latter, put it to the shelf, when suddenly (insert person who beat you up and scared your childhood) appears at the top of the shelf and pushes your latter down. you keep trying to put it back up but to no avail, as (bully man) keeps pushing it down.

now with this situation, you would get quite a bit frustrated. theirs something you want, and something blocking your way. this is the basic structure for all games. what determines a good game is the obstacle. how are you supposed to get past it? is it easy to just slide by or a 85-foot flat concrete wall?
so a game, in the end, is judged by how frustrating it is. the most frustrating is not the best however, for from it. but once you reach the end, the greater you will feel, and that (insert toy) will be yours.

Part of the rewarding experience of gaming is the ability to overcome difficult obstacles.

Anything in life is always appreciated more when one has to struggle to achieve it.

When games are balanced properly, i.e. they don't cheap kill you, they can be so so exhilarating to overcome.

Couple of examples...

The strider battle at the end of Half Life 2 Episode 2... incredibly tough battle (unless you save every five seconds but thats kinda cheating...) but when you finally save the base you want to jump up and punch the air...

Fallout 3 has a longer, more protracted reward system... When you first step into the capitol wasteland, you get completely slaughtered by anything that crosses your path, but as you get used to the pacing of the game and start to bump up your stats you begin to feel powerful and like you're making progress. By level 20 if you chose your perks wisely you're an unstoppable killing machine!

When I played prince of Persia it was fun but as the challenge was basically non existent and the battles were long boring affairs full of cheap shot enemies I felt no reward feeling for finishing it. Yeah the ending was great but because I had no real challenge getting there I didn't feel half as badass as when I finished the sands of time trilogy.

The anger and frustration makes me smile after i finally smite a game and deny it its victory over me.

When I got through to the Southern part of the map in Far Cry 2 recently, I decided to ignore the objective and systematically unlock all the Safe Houses, traveling continuously around the magnificent, hitherto unexplored landscape. I enjoyed myself a lot more.

On the occasion I was ambushed by the game's "out of nowhere" armored jeeps I would just casually fire an explosive bolt from my crossbow. I felt a bit bad about this, like I wasn't playing the game properly, but then I had come to the conclusion that the game was full of mistakes like this (i.e. not being able to hear vehicles from a distance and thereby hide from them until they are leaping into your face like an angry lion) and I owed it to myself to rebalance the game in this way.

Other times I deliberately didn't use this weapon.

What would have been nice is a recognition by Ubisoft that players would want to have less threats, in order to support a slower, more casual, exploration, immersion and appreciation of all the hard work they had put into the gorgeous scenery. For this to work it would probably need to have been redefined as an adventure with optional (but deep) gunplay, rather than a full-on FPS. That would mean gaining NPC's trust so that they gave you more and more information, which applied intelligently would lead you to opportunities where you could position yourself between the factions to enable quests (rather than missions).

Instead of being paid to assassinate a target you have no grievance with, when you feel your goal is to kill the Jackal, it would be a matter of freely picking a side and proving your worth until they trusted you enough to let you accompany them on an operation. Being a trusted man would mean that you would be allowed access to their base and be in a position to check out their intelligence files.

As this would only provide an incomplete picture you would have to gain more information from the other side, perhaps under the guise of a double-agent. So, really, the factions needed to be dynamic, changing where their guard posts were as they had brief conflicts and then regrouped. It would become important to determine whether one route through a checkpoint was preferable to another (rather than all of them being bad) as you would be known as a UFLL sympathizer and therefore only attacked by the APR.

Ultimately, the end-game could only be achieved by manipulating the two factions against each other. So, rather than being told to kill the leader of one faction at a political rally you would instead have to realize that this would have "such and such" desired side-effect.

Open-World gaming cannot be as hectic as Doom.

I find those somewhat depressing eras really let you step into the boots of a hero better. It's hard to feel like the hero when everything's already peachy. Also, without challenge I just get really, really bored with a game. I think some frustration is necessary if the player is to feel rewarded at all.

I'll tell you why I'm all serious and bitter about games:

Because I'm sick of all the clones on the market and have been for decades.

Yes, I see you back there on keyboard #4914, hackles raised and ready to reply, "Oooh, but making non-clones is hard and clones sell and it's all economically viable to slam out all these investor-safe carbon copies."

I don't care. Here, lemme spell it out for you: I'm a gamer, I'm bored, and I'm so disparate for something new to entertain me that I've been dabbling with creating my own.

So, if not for me, stop making clones because I'll take your job 10 years from now if you don't.

kanada514:
More and more games are doing everything they can to remove player frustration. Prince of Persia did it recently, and the result was a game devoid of challenge.

I found the battles challenging, just one wrong step and the enemy instantly got half his life back... And it was still fairy challenging when you fail at finishing a sequence of jumps and you're automatically sent back to the last stable platform, which sometimes is half the map away...

Anyway, I think everything is in the reward system - you get points/ a reward for doing something and you're a happy gamer = you're having fun. A shame Morrowind didn't quite get that right, my character was always mercilessly killed by a rat/a small animal when I try to take one step out of the city...

Jannycats:

kanada514:
More and more games are doing everything they can to remove player frustration. Prince of Persia did it recently, and the result was a game devoid of challenge.

I found the battles challenging, just one wrong step and the enemy instantly got half his life back... And it was still fairy challenging when you fail at finishing a sequence of jumps and you're automatically sent back to the last stable platform, which sometimes is half the map away...

Anyway, I think everything is in the reward system - you get points/ a reward for doing something and you're a happy gamer = you're having fun. A shame Morrowind didn't quite get that right, my character was always mercilessly killed by a rat/a small animal when I try to take one step out of the city...

I think Prince of Persia is a special case anyway. The death is disguised into a salvation (when Elika gives you a hand). This is probably what is sending a mixed message to the player. You just dies, but at the same time you didn't.
I was raised with hardcore unforgiving games and willingly admit that I am biased in their favor. In the end, I am always more satisfied of having completed a hard part or hard game over an easy one that any given player could finish.
I am not used to having other players being able to finish the games I beat.

It is an interesting concept. I honestly have fun overcomming the challenges in games a lot more than if it was handed to me on a silver platter though. I dunno, I like a challenge, I like saying, "Haha kiss my ass -insert boss name here-", and I like storylines in games. It's like reading a book, the story and characters and such. It's what makes games fun for me. I don't like games where it feels like I'm not accomplishing something.

I tell you why, my dear.

Peaceful games make me want to kill things.

If I'm playing a game like katamari damachi or N+ where I have no form of attack or person to vent my anger to for having to repeat a level, I have to take that frustration out in the real world.

If I'm playing a violent game (saints row 2) and someone knocks me off my bike, I can chase them down, shoot them in the face, take out shock paddles, ressurrect them, kick their ass, and then ressurect them and shoot them in the face again. I feel that this makes the karmic circle close around their throats, and fills me full of happyness.

One thing I've noticed in various places around the Internet is a growing trend of nihilism. And while I understand the concept intellectually, I don't understand it emotionally. Things like, if you hate everyone, then why the heck are you involved in a forum at all? Then it hit me - it's "cool" to be nihilistic, just like it was "cool" to be an anarchist in the Punk era, and "cool" to be depressed and suicidal in the Emo era (which we appear to finally be leaving). And to a "cool" nihilist, what could be cooler than destroying nearly everything?

The source of this anger at everything could be just being like other people, or it could be frustration at a homogenistic society, one that bans a teacher from correcting papers with a red pen because the color is "strident, and could cause the students stress". A society that led a Japanese school a year or two back to have thirty Snow Whites and no Wicked Witches, because they didn't want to disappoint all the precious little snowflakes.

Whether someone hates everything because it's "cool" to do so, or because they honestly have a lot of repressed rage and frustration, I would rather see them take it out on the Gnargian Compost Military or something in "Trash Wars XIV" than slam their car into mine because they were too late at the red light. On the other hand... if EVERY game was just mindless destruction, then what do the rest of us do?

Almost every game in existance has at least SOME form of combat. Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, all the way up to the more obvious ones like Halo or Unreal Tournament, where the whole point is nothing but combat. Sure, there are the rare exceptions, but combat is still the most common denominator. Why? Because it's the easiest way for a human being to externalize any conflict. You may have an inner struggle with, say, quitting smoking, but it's easier to imagine the "Flagrak Hordes" as your pack of cigarettes than actually play a game about quitting smoking - which would, by the way, be incredibly boring.

So, we have people who hate everything, whether because it's "cool" or because they really, really do. We have games that have combat, even in a vague and symbolic form, with only a tiny amount that do not. And we have a society that caters to the average and bubble-wraps everyone out of fear of lawsuits or 'bruising the children's self esteem'. Games are thus an escape, a way to deal with anti-social tendencies to unleash these tendencies while being able to remain productive citizens as society percieves them.

But, you say, I am not a nihilist - I genuinely like people! Why do I play these uber-violent games? Simple. Even people who cuddle puppies and gush over LOLcats and the like have frustrations. That, and everyone has a dark side, no matter how well hidden. These massively destructive games allow an otherwise 'sunny' disposition to walk on the dark side for a bit, a guilty pleasure as it were.

Now... why do we deride the non-violent games? Mainly because most of them are puzzle games with no action (such as Tetris), or have cutesy 'cartoony' graphics that makes them seem childish, no matter how difficult the game or advanced the thinking required to solve them. And while these cutesy games appear pointed at children and thus a source of "I''m too cool for kid's games" ridicule, the puzzle games seem pointed at 'eggheads', 'nerds', or whatever the current slang term is for the people too intelligent to understand the average High School social structure, and nobody wants to be lumped in with them.

If the day ever comes where a non-violent game of the highest caliber is packaged with graphics like the sweeping vistas and amazing creatures of "Shadow of the Colossus", or with a beautifully artistic style, like the Sumi-E style of Okami, we might just see a change. Until then, perceptions will rule, and the ultra-violent games will all be "cool", while the non-violent games limited to specific audiences.

miracleofsound:


Fallout 3 has a longer, more protracted reward system... When you first step into the capitol wasteland, you get completely slaughtered by anything that crosses your path, but as you get used to the pacing of the game and start to bump up your stats you begin to feel powerful and like you're making progress. By level 20 if you chose your perks wisely you're an unstoppable killing machine!

lolwut
...What I meant to say is, "Not so, my dear fellow. On the contrary, even at level two I could pretty much kill most things, given enough time. Except those Yaoi things. (Yaoi is scary enough, you don't need to name a huge spikeydeathbear after it.)"

EDIT:

Valandar:
One thing I've noticed in various places around the Internet is a growing trend of nihilism. And while I understand the concept intellectually, I don't understand it emotionally. Things like, if you hate everyone, then why the heck are you involved in a forum at all? Then it hit me - it's "cool" to be nihilistic, just like it was "cool" to be an anarchist in the Punk era, and "cool" to be depressed and suicidal in the Emo era (which we appear to finally be leaving). And to a "cool" nihilist, what could be cooler than destroying nearly everything?

That is not what nihilism means.
"Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position that argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Nihilists generally assert that objective morality does not exist, so subsequently there is no objective moral value with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another."
You are mistaking "being a dick" for "being a nihilist," and while I am, on occasions, a bit of both, I'd prefer you didn't mix the two.
Sorry, that just bothers me.

I think playing games has two main components: first our innate curiosity, second: a way to release the dark side of our natures in a safe environment.

MaxTheReaper:

Valandar:
One thing I've noticed in various places around the Internet is a growing trend of nihilism. And while I understand the concept intellectually, I don't understand it emotionally. Things like, if you hate everyone, then why the heck are you involved in a forum at all? Then it hit me - it's "cool" to be nihilistic, just like it was "cool" to be an anarchist in the Punk era, and "cool" to be depressed and suicidal in the Emo era (which we appear to finally be leaving). And to a "cool" nihilist, what could be cooler than destroying nearly everything?

That is not what nihilism means.
"Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position that argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Nihilists generally assert that objective morality does not exist, so subsequently there is no objective moral value with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another."
You are mistaking "being a dick" for "being a nihilist," and while I am, on occasions, a bit of both, I'd prefer you didn't mix the two.
Sorry, that just bothers me.

Nihilism is what you said, yes. "Cool" nihilism is hating everything and wanting to destroy it all. No offense intended to any 'real' Nihilists out there. The word is developing a second meaning based on how the average person percieves and understands it. That's how a living language works.

In the same way, REAL Anarchy is a state where leaders are not required, because people have the intrinsic ability to self-govern. Anarchy as too many people portray and understand it is pure chaos where the government is overthrown and people fend for themselves.

Valandar:

MaxTheReaper:

Valandar:
One thing I've noticed in various places around the Internet is a growing trend of nihilism. And while I understand the concept intellectually, I don't understand it emotionally. Things like, if you hate everyone, then why the heck are you involved in a forum at all? Then it hit me - it's "cool" to be nihilistic, just like it was "cool" to be an anarchist in the Punk era, and "cool" to be depressed and suicidal in the Emo era (which we appear to finally be leaving). And to a "cool" nihilist, what could be cooler than destroying nearly everything?

That is not what nihilism means.
"Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position that argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Nihilists generally assert that objective morality does not exist, so subsequently there is no objective moral value with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another."
You are mistaking "being a dick" for "being a nihilist," and while I am, on occasions, a bit of both, I'd prefer you didn't mix the two.
Sorry, that just bothers me.

Nihilism is what you said, yes. "Cool" nihilism is hating everything and wanting to destroy it all. No offense intended to any 'real' Nihilists out there. The word is developing a second meaning based on how the average person percieves and understands it. That's how a living language works.

In the same way, REAL Anarchy is a state where leaders are not required, because people have the intrinsic ability to self-govern. Anarchy as too many people portray and understand it is pure chaos where the government is overthrown and people fend for themselves.

As cliché as it is to chuck in quotes from V for Vendetta (even if it is the novel and not the film I am quoting from) I can't think of a better dialogue that explains this:

Evey: All this riot and uproar, V... is this Anarchy? Is this the Land of Do-As-You-Please?
V: No. This is only the land of take-what-you-want. Anarchy means "without leaders", not "without order". With anarchy comes an age or ordnung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order... this age of ordung will begin when the mad and incoherent cycle of verwirrung that these bulletins reveal has run its course... This is not anarchy, Eve. This is chaos.

As for on topic? People just seem to like moaning these days for some inexplicable reason e.g: the person who says they want realism in games often turns around and says the game is too gritty or too "brown" for their liking

I actually liked viva pinata because it was so colourful; games are supposed to be a means of enjoyment and escape not a simulator for the world's worst case scenario.

Valandar:

MaxTheReaper:

Valandar:
One thing I've noticed in various places around the Internet is a growing trend of nihilism. And while I understand the concept intellectually, I don't understand it emotionally. Things like, if you hate everyone, then why the heck are you involved in a forum at all? Then it hit me - it's "cool" to be nihilistic, just like it was "cool" to be an anarchist in the Punk era, and "cool" to be depressed and suicidal in the Emo era (which we appear to finally be leaving). And to a "cool" nihilist, what could be cooler than destroying nearly everything?

That is not what nihilism means.
"Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position that argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Nihilists generally assert that objective morality does not exist, so subsequently there is no objective moral value with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another."
You are mistaking "being a dick" for "being a nihilist," and while I am, on occasions, a bit of both, I'd prefer you didn't mix the two.
Sorry, that just bothers me.

Nihilism is what you said, yes. "Cool" nihilism is hating everything and wanting to destroy it all. No offense intended to any 'real' Nihilists out there. The word is developing a second meaning based on how the average person percieves and understands it. That's how a living language works.

In the same way, REAL Anarchy is a state where leaders are not required, because people have the intrinsic ability to self-govern. Anarchy as too many people portray and understand it is pure chaos where the government is overthrown and people fend for themselves.

I think that's how Anarchy is portrayed because it's not actually a viable system. The reality is, very few people are capable of self-governing, so the world would probably fall into a state of disarray without laws and leaders, I'm sad to say.
And no offense taken.

MaxTheReaper:

Valandar:

MaxTheReaper:

Valandar:
One thing I've noticed in various places around the Internet is a growing trend of nihilism. And while I understand the concept intellectually, I don't understand it emotionally. Things like, if you hate everyone, then why the heck are you involved in a forum at all? Then it hit me - it's "cool" to be nihilistic, just like it was "cool" to be an anarchist in the Punk era, and "cool" to be depressed and suicidal in the Emo era (which we appear to finally be leaving). And to a "cool" nihilist, what could be cooler than destroying nearly everything?

That is not what nihilism means.
"Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position that argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Nihilists generally assert that objective morality does not exist, so subsequently there is no objective moral value with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another."
You are mistaking "being a dick" for "being a nihilist," and while I am, on occasions, a bit of both, I'd prefer you didn't mix the two.
Sorry, that just bothers me.

Nihilism is what you said, yes. "Cool" nihilism is hating everything and wanting to destroy it all. No offense intended to any 'real' Nihilists out there. The word is developing a second meaning based on how the average person percieves and understands it. That's how a living language works.

In the same way, REAL Anarchy is a state where leaders are not required, because people have the intrinsic ability to self-govern. Anarchy as too many people portray and understand it is pure chaos where the government is overthrown and people fend for themselves.

I think that's how Anarchy is portrayed because it's not actually a viable system. The reality is, very few people are capable of self-governing, so the world would probably fall into a state of disarray without laws and leaders, I'm sad to say.
And no offense taken.

Not just that, it's simply now how humans work, If government would be overthrown, and there would be no leaders, weaker people would gather behind stronger people and form tribes, and voila: there are the leaders again. Humans are hard-wired to be pack animals, our current nation system is as natural as it can get ;)

Not to mention that there are people out there that just aren't 'wired' to self-govern. Some through stupidity, others through sociopathic tendencies.

And interesting as this is, it does show why a lot of people don't like PVP online gaming. No true leaders, or leaders with no real authority, with hordes of people unleashing whatever chaos they want to because they can get away with it. At least, that's been my experience with PVP MMO's.

I'm not sure it's an 'either or'. I enjoy a challenging game, and even if I'm swearing, throwing the controller onto the couch, or pleading to an uncaring gawd for some divine guidance, I am having fun. But after a night of, say, trying to get the Legendary Axe in Fable II, I love to unwind with Castle Crashers.

Although 'unwinding' after playing a game seems a bit odd, but there it is.

 

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