I always listen to the squadcasts at work, and I had a long period of time off so I’ll have much more to say tomarrow the day I go back to work. However, by seeing the discussion so far I have some bits to add before listening to the Full Deal.
(Ah hell, looks like I blew it all early anyway, this comes from a lot of thoughts after Barkley, Criminal Girls, friends melting away from games and some Weekend Confirmed comments, synthesis isn’t fully complete, but here it goes, this is what I got =P I think there’s other interesting ideas here with buy in tying to deeply religous people, politically crazy people, fanboys and suchlike, but this is long enough as it is -_- I’ll do it later.)
While I respect that people have far less time as they get older (feeling it myself these days.) and I can also understand why people whose job it is to complete games for a living would have a sharper concern with “did this game piss me off for hours.” I do think the “no fail states” camp isn’t really thinking things the whole way through. This became most obvious to me when the last boss of Criminal Girls beat the shit out of me 3 times in a row. I’ve been gaming all my life so normal difficulties almost never stymie me for long, so this was a surprise. First I was irritated, then pissed, but afterwards I found the fight far more interesting and fun as I tried to develop deeper strategies with attrition strategies and item uses and suchlike.
I think it was John Davison on his most recent Weekend confirmed episode mentioned a little league game that was scored “Fun to fun” and the entire room to a man groaned. That is what a no fail state game is, if you cannot fail regardless of how poorly you do, there’s no incentive to push yourself to more. Yes, it can still be entertaining ‘going through the motions’ for some people. However the struggle is what creates the deeper more thrilling victories. The trouble is, when a game challenges you heavily, one of two things happen.
1. You get irritated say “fuck it” and leave
2. You buy into the game, you get more deeply involved and the emotional results become deeper.
This is a trouble game developers mostly aren’t worried about, DLC notwithstanding there’s not many ways to capitalize on someone buying deeply into your game if it’s already in their hands. The best you can hope for is to create fans and buzz and the amount of that you get is affected by how well you manipulate the buy in. A good example is Demon Souls. The people who ‘bought in’ to the game when presented with it’s difficulty became it’s greatest evangelists, it’s all about emotional investment and return. Some people walked from Demon souls early, others stayed, invested, and they come out of it wild eyed and saying “My god, if you get into it it’s way better then you think! Really great!”
This is also btw, why you have ‘otaku’ and ‘weeaboos’ and suchlike, because some people see a girl singing computer code to convert her emotion into energy to save someone she loves and they go “HA laughable” (Read: Fuck it) and they walk away. Some people however, buy in with empathy for whatever reason and gain an emotional payoff from the storyline. That’s all dating sims are really, they’re ‘buy in games” they depend on the type of person who can buy into something like that from the start, and every other part of the game is sacrificed in order to amplify and manipulate existing buy in with the characters, amplifying the emotional result. At the extreme end, this is why you get people making birthday cakes for digital girls, the emotional payoff from the invested buy in was the strongest thing they’ve felt, and they’re still held by the memory of that heavy payoff.
If you want to bring it back to an old squad episode, this is why Persona works for people, because the characters are well realized enough and often remind them of people they know. It creates more buy in then normal. Remember @Beige ‘s comment about “It’s not hard to imagine a guy playing Junpei’s story missions whose father is an alcoholic and who has fallen in love seriously for the first time” That guy? he’s got 10x the buy in the people who have similar friends has, and it’s more powerful for him. This is where our fond childhood memories come from of things like GI JOE or Thundercats or Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher come from, things we wouldn’t give a second glance today, but spoke to us powerfully as children.
Many people feel they’re becoming ‘less of a gamer’ as they get older, maybe… but I suspect a lot of it is buy in again. It’s far harder to buy in like you did as a kid where not only were you more prone to emotional investment in things an adult you would find ‘silly’ but you also lack much of the time investment you require to immerse yourself in the game and multiply the eventual emotional payoff. Thus, less payoffs further apart, less emotion, less fun.
Really, this all works for movies and literature and is probably the most compelling argument for why games are undoubtedly ‘art’ because that’s all art really is a thing that causes you to “buy in” deeper then its surface elements. When some people ‘get’ a painting and it speaks to them they’re buying into that work, and just like games the same results hold true, some people buy in, and some people walk away.