Saturday, June 18, 2011

When Gaming Ceases To Be Fun

Why do people play video games?  Well, if you cut the philosophical crap (the desire to be powerful or break the rules, etc.), people play them to have fun.  The same reason why people to go parties, watch movies, sky dive, drive go-karts, make out, etc.  But somewhere down the line, it transfers from having fun to accomplishing goals.  In other words, you don't play to have fun, you play for the glory of accomplishing some goal, whether it be succeeding in something difficult or beating the crap out of your opponents.

Yes, it's entirely possible to have fun and try for goals at the same time--that's not a bad thing.  But the idea is that if you accomplish your goals, then you had fun.  If you don't, then you feel worse than before because you just wasted your time.

Let's take sports for instance.  So you're playing in a league and you should be having fun regardless.  But you lose a lot.  Is that fun?  Okay, now let's step it up to the big leagues.  You play football, work out, study, basically dedicate yourself to the sport.  You take a lot of big hits, are relatively unsuccessful, and the fans and ESPN hosts want you cut from the team.  Are you having fun?  Or even worse, you're a professional boxer or MMA fighter.  Do people like Brock Lesnar enjoy getting pummeled to death?  No, but they do it to win the prize--the glory of achievements.

"I'm too drunk to taste this chicken."

So what am I getting at.  I play a lot of Rock Band now.  It's really the only game nowadays that I dedicate myself to.  I play Pro Keys, this you should already know.  How my "career" works is simple--play a song, hit as many notes as possible to get a high score.  Just keep jumping from song to song to get higher on the leaderboards and make myself look as good as possible.

This is what all the pro Guitar Hero/Rock Band players do.  It gets really intense as people try to FC (hit 100% of notes without breaking your streak) songs that they become incredibly frustrated when their efforts are in vain.  On the other hand, when they do succeed, they're overjoyed, like a 40-year-old woman who just won a Dodge Viper on The Price is Right.  WARNING: Tons of profanity.

I've always said that people have "emotional chips" that they lay down on things, such as games--regardless of whether they have control over the outcomes, like sporting events.  Kind of like putting your eggs in one basket...  You bet more, the happier you are if you win and the sadder you are when you lose.  The only time I really won "big" in the emotional roulette is when I got my Cruis'n USA world record years ago.  My reaction was similar to those people above.  Imagine if the hours that I put into the game, I didn't get the record.  I would be pissed about all the time I wasted.  Reminds me of the time I tried speedrunning in Goldeneye for the N64--that was a huge failure.  Couldn't even get :23 on Runway Agent although the WR is now :22...

So recently, as I get into my RB3 Pro Keys sessions, I'm looking through songs to play.  Nowadays, my choices are very limited.  It's sad that I'll pass over songs I really like, such as Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Bill Joel because I've already played the crap out of it and it pisses me off or something of that nature.  Instead, a few days ago I made it my top priority to hit all the notes in Centerfold by J. Geils Band.  And for three hours, I failed and failed and failed, missing the glissandos which I could never do consistently.  I got a new high score and decided to walk away saying, "I did okay, let's cut our losses and run."  I was bitter that I failed to live up to my rivals.

I'm not saying this to act jealous or to demean the character of these people but damn, it can get frustrating at times to see other people effortlessly accomplish what you struggle to do.  Like all these good players going out there FCing every song like it's nothing.  I know it's just a game but it can be disheartening.  I have respect for those who act classy about it because we are human beings first and foremost.

And this does have to do with other games.  Back when I actually had the chance to play Daytona USA 2 (in 2004), I discovered the Marubaku videos and my frustration really compounded.  I became angered because I hardly ever improved over time like why am I being bothered with this?  Eventually you know how it ends--in 2005, the cabinet went bye bye and then I couldn't play the game for competition OR for fun.

Another sad excuse of a failure is Call of Duty: Black Ops.  I'm 11th prestige right now and that is sad.  Well, I currently have a 1.5 KDR in Team Deathmatch.  I like to call myself "good" but I go through many slumps.  I've already talked about FPS "skills" here.  I've played FPSes for YEARS and I really can't get over the hump.  I have experience and strategy, but I can't execute 100% of the time.  When I lose at the game, I feel that I've wasted my time, spending it to prop up some professionals at my expense.  Now I know what it feels like to be a "noob."  It is humbling to say the least.  This and Daytona 2--times when my skills would vanish for unknown reasons.  That's not fun.

Gotta go to your happy place...woah look out kids, this could get a little rugged...

And one more thing about achievements--I'm talking about achievement points.  Back in the day, I used to be an Achievement Point Hunter, buying games and upping my score.  I didn't like all the games I've played (thereby removing the "fun" element out of gaming again) but hearing that "badonk" from the chievos made it worthwhile.  But some games once I've unlocked every single achievement, I would just stop playing them.  Fight Night Round 3 was a good example--you had to beat all but the final tier of matches to get 1000/1000.  I hadn't finished the game but I didn't care--I just stopped playing it.  Good riddance.

Why is this video so quiet?  Overall, I think when games become unfun, we're shooting for something better...being loved.  Cause we want to feel good about ourselves.  But it's okay because Jesus has unconditional love for you regardless.  So go back out there AND DO WHAT YOU LIKE AND KICK AS MUCH ASS AS POSSIBLE.

So competition isn't necessarily a bad thing--it's the thing that drives the economy and brings out the best in us.  But when things that are mere entertainment become sources of grief and people are at each others' throats about it, then we need to step back and get a little peace of mind.  Those that get enveloped in the competition usually become so stressed they are twisted into a pretzel.  If that's the case, then I'm glad I'm not that much of a diehard competitor...

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