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The Expanse of Endless Worlds and the Closed Window May 14, 2008

Filed under: Metagaming — haounomiko @ 4:38 pm
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Sasarai needed a PS2 memory card to transfer some saves, so he bought one at GameStop. I was surprised to see the yellow USED sticker on it– who sells their memory card? Presumably someone who’s selling the whole console, since there’s no other reason to want to do so.

Of course we looked at what saves were already on the card, since the previous owner didn’t delete them, and it was full of music games– Guitar Hero and the like. I said, “If those are the only games they’ve played, no wonder they were selling their console.”

Not to diss music games, of course; they’re fun. But I just can’t imagine that I’d be much of a gamer if music games were the only things I played. They aren’t deep, they aren’t full of as much to explore, and there’s only so much time that one would want to spend in front of the TV playing music games. By contrast, the whole of the gaming world is so deep and rich, so varied, so expansive, just beckoning me to come forth and explore these new lands. Whether it’s learning to fend for myself in the environs of Hyrule or flying over Narshe in an airship, finding out what tricks you can pull off with a P-switch in this level or crawling deep into an alien planet as Samus, I feel like there are so many places to go and so many things to do– more than I could ever even cram into one lifetime if I were an explorer or business traveller who spent my life shuttling from city to city. The things in games are so immeasurably varied and rich that there’s always something more to see. I don’t get tired of seeing everything there is to see in limitless virtual worlds; I don’t feel like I’m repeating the same thing I’ve been doing for the past few hours. I’m sure I’d get tired of Guitar Hero after a while and want a break, or perhaps even decide that I wasn’t going to bother playing it anymore.

I know that not everyone gets as much out of games as I do, but I still can’t help but wonder if a person who’s only ever played music games is missing out on something– learning that games are repetitive and full of sameness, that they’re fun but you really want to put them down after a while. I’m put in mind of the criticism often levelled at “girls’ games”, that by being mostly bad games they teach little girls that gaming is boring. Perhaps even a game that’s fun, but more repetitive and less engrossing than games can be, can teach a casual gamer that video games aren’t really all that great.

I remember when consoles used to come with a “starter game”– buy a Super Nintendo, get Super Mario World as part of the deal. I wish consoles nowadays would come with an excellent starter game, one that would show people what games can really be at their best. Even though not everyone likes the same genres, there are some games that have fairly universal appeal (who doesn’t like Katamari Damacy?) But of course, then someone would have to invest an enormous amount of time and effort into creating a wonderful game sure to be a megahit remembered fondly for decades to come– and include it as a free bonus with the console. Do we really want consoles to be more expensive, in that case? It’s a quandary.

I suppose the easy solution is to shrug and say, well, if someone doesn’t discover good games and they miss out, that’s their loss; leave the gaming to those who do. But discovering gaming is a matter of luck– kids discover video games if they happen to play them at a friend’s house or if their parents happen to decide that video games are a good gift; adults discover video games only if they’re very lucky. I’d like for everyone to have the opportunity to see the best of gaming before deciding whether it’s for them or not.

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2 Responses to “The Expanse of Endless Worlds and the Closed Window”

  1. Karl Says:

    I think the big thing about music games – for people who aren’t completionists about them, anyway – is social gaming. Playing Guitar Hero (or whatever) on your own may get old faster than FFIV or Super Mario World, but such games are fun almost indefinitely when you frequently have friends over or live with other people who enjoy them. Of course, all the Guitar Hero / Rock Band / etc. fans I know also like other sorts of games, so I can’t really say how otherwise non-gamers play them.

    The most likely reasons I can think of for your find would be someone who sold their PS2 and memory card after buying a PS3, or someone whose parents sold their system after they went off to college without it. Or someone in a desperate financial situation. But that’s just my theorizing.

  2. haounomiko Says:

    The thing with social-gaming-only exposure to games is that people aren’t necessarily paying attention to the game, or getting into the spirit at all. I bet people can easily come away from social games thinking “oh, they’re okay time-fillers, but I’d never want to get a game I was supposed to play by myself.” They might not realise that single-player, focused games are a different kettle of fish (one that is, IMO, worth sampling.)


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