Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Materialism: Play Games & Get Stuff

This was a topic that's been on my mind and now I have time to share.  What is it that the most popular games have in common?  Check it out.

Back in the 70's during the Atari/old funky arcade era, gaming was so pathetically simple.  You got the cartridge or the quarters, played a few rounds, and then quit.  That was it.  There was hardly anything to accrue from these games other than the simple satisfaction of playing for a high score or just for simple entertainment.  Then something came along and changed everything:


Legend of Zelda on the NES was one of the first (if not, the first) games to have save states.  Oh wow, so I have something to "gain" from playing the game.  Games became longer and more structured.  You didn't just play the game aimlessly--there was always something to do.  If you didn't know what to do, the game basically told you what to do.  It's nice for advancing a story and for those who don't like to think.

Now, fast forward 30+ years in today's age.  Take a look at this selection of popular games and tell me what they have in common:

Call of Duty
World of Warcraft
Forza Motorsport
Grand Theft Auto
Xbox Achievement Points
Cow Clicker (???)


So what is it?  They all have seemingly infinite content (from game features to just measly points) to unlock and/or play around with.  I tell you the truth--there's a reason why people are addicted to the +100 XP of a Call of Duty kill, the Xbox Live *badonk* of the achievement, or a stupid farm because you can always go up.  The sky's the limit and thus people really invest a lot of time into these just because of the euphoria of getting something new.  Even better is that it's not a zero-sum game so no matter how "poorly" you play, you always get something.

It's (usually) that's easy.

Hey, people like making money and buying lots of stuff in real life.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing--the Declaration of Independence permits private property and the pursuit of it which fuels capitalism and economic progress.  But in gaming, it can become a serious problem.

Lately, when I had the chance, I would dabble in Forza 4.  Now I know the game's not made by Sega but the game has an overwhelming amount of cars and stuff to unlock.  So it's really fun to buy a car, pimp it out, win a race, then go repeat the cycle over and over again.  Also, I have reached Level 15 prestige in CoD: Black Ops and have over 67,000 XBL Achievement Points.  I also have 1200+ Rock Band songs to play (that's a lot of money).  Not bad.

But this is where things start to get troubling, with an emphasis on Forza vs. Sega Racers.  Now, don't get me wrong--in a head-to-head match, Daytona USA is more fun than Forza.  But Forza has so much more stuff in it.  Even I find this hard to compete with a 2011 Triple-A title with massive amounts of production value.  And that really sucks.

In Daytona USA, there's nothing to "gain" other than the thrill of just playing the game.  Yes, there's fast times to beat, but there's never any guarantee that you'll actually beat it.  And thus, if you need a game to tell you what to do (i.e. a campaign/mission mode), then you're out of the loop.  On the other hand, Forza just throws money at you to buy more cars, race online with a much broader audience, buy/design decals, etc.

What do little arcade games like these have on bigger, next-gen titles?  No wonder arcades are dying here--you can pick up something like Halo or Skyrim and play for days.  On the other hand, with something like OutRun or Daytona USA, once you've played through a few hours, that's it--not much else to see.  As a matter of fact, businesses thrive off of our "greedy" sides with "gamification"--turning non-gaming things into games to get points or unlock stuff that really doesn't mean anything, all for the sake of lucrative advertising.

Is there something wrong with gamers nowadays if we're sucked in the allure of more stuff = better game?  I still think there's the elegant simplicity of arcade racers like Daytona/OutRun/Scud Race in that you pick a track, car, transmission and you go race.  On the other hand, something like Forza (or even Initial D) you have to wade through about a minute's worth of menus and it really sucks if you want to jump into the action.

I'll leave you with this quote by Yu Suzuki (Dec. 2010 interview with 1-Up)...I already mentioned it before but here you go:

JM: How do you feel the gamer has changed? The industry is still very young -- only 35 years-old or so -- but 15 years ago you created Daytona USA. Look at how much has changed in that time. In Hang-On you have only one motorcycle. Games like Daytona you only have two or three cars to choose from. Now, Gran Turismo 5 is out and it has over a thousand cars in the game. Personally, I'll never use 1,000 cars, maybe only 6 of them. Do you think people have now mistaken quantity for quality? Is there such a thing as too much?

YS: Yeah, user expectations are to blame, too. If given the option of 1000 cars and 10 cars in a game, the user will most likely take the game with 1,000 cars. Games with fewer options can't compete on the same level because the user will always choose the game with more cars.

So basically, as long as the industry continues to skew in favor of these big-ass games with lots of stuff, then those "middle" games that aren't AAA-quality or super-cheap are in serious jeopardy.  And Daytona is in the crosshairs.  I can't be arsed into talking about this further since I don't have a good response.  I mean, I want a new Daytona game with more cars & tracks in it (well duh) but I don't know if that means I'm taking the original Daytona 1/2 for granted in the process.  Just something to think about, that's all.


  1. wow, that was one of the weirdest,
    strangest posts i have ever read on here!
    and that's saying a lot because i've read
    most of them..

    you are comparing apples to oranges..

    that comment from yu suzuki is way out
    of context..

    2 words (or maybe more) : SEGA GT
    dreamcast/pc and SEGA GT 2002 xbox/xbox 360

    pretty much answered every question you asked.

    by the way, about forza and other games like that, i'm playing forza 2 still (didn't play the first, and will probably get to 3 or 4 in about a decade, seriously).

    i also have gran turismo 4, and auto modellista
    for ps2, and haven't really touched those
    either.. i have way too many other racing
    games to play first..

    don't know if you had a dreamcast, but SEGA GT
    basically was their answer to gran turismo:

    from gamefaqs
    Q: How many cars are there in Sega GT?
    A: There are about 100 car models in the game.

    Q: Is there anything extra that comes with Sega GT?
    A: Not much, but it comes with two HUGE instruction books, a mode index foldout, and tiny sheet with stickers on it, and the
    stickers have pics of the cars on them. It's pretty cool.

    Q: Is Sega GT better than Gran Turismo 2?
    A: It comes VERY close, but gameplay wise, it's still not up to par with Gran Turismo 2. Graphically, on the other hand, it stomps GT 2 into the ground. Sega GT is one of the best looking DC games so far, and DEFINATLY to best looking racing game that I've seen.

    Sega GT is an excellent racing game - not quite the 'racing simulation' as touted by the Gran Turismo series on the PlayStation and PlayStation2 consoles, but still very
    intriguing, quite fun, and mildly challenging nonetheless :-)

    The variety of (types of) courses is wider than the Gran Turismo series, and the circuits themselves are moderately more challenging as well. However, there are noticeably fewer courses overall in Sega GT, and certainly not nearly the level of repeat gameplay as in games such as Metropolis Street Racer (DreamCast) or Gran Turismo 3 (PlayStation2).

    Many of the same cars appear in both Sega GT and the Gran Turismo series, although some cars are indeed unique to Sega GT.

    Here, players can build their own cars and obtain factory licenses. This is a rather unique an interesting feature of
    Sega GT. However, building these original cars costs money - A LOT of money - and simply cannot be done at the beginning of the game. Plan on spending approximately $50,000 for a
    good Extra Class original car, plus another $30,000 for parts and service upgrades to make the car fast enough to easily pass the five tests in the quest for a Factory B License.

    Note that if using an original factory-built car, winning will sometimes produce not a new car, but a new body.

    I have the pc and the dreamcast versions,
    and haven't made a dent in playing them..

    [end of part 1/2]


  2. and here's the rest of the
    of my post..
    and then there's SEGA GT 2002

    from wikipedia
    Game features

    This is the first and only game of its kind to allow you to choose your opponents, and even create races featuring only computer competitors, though this can be found only in the arcade mode and car selection is limited.
    Unlike the original game, there are no works cars to win anymore, even though old racing cars can still be won from races. Some prizes are "special prizes" that can only be won by doing a certain objective.
    The game makes use of a "damage meter" in lieu of rendered damage, but while it does not affect the handling, it will reduce the awarded prize money at the end of the race. When the player finishes the race with the car unscratched, the game will award a bonus cash prize. In turn, you will either finish with more or less than the prize money advertised, depending on the meter.
    Unlike Gran Turismo, the license tests are merely timed laps, instead of separate tests focusing on specific elements of driving.

    Car features

    As applies to the real world, it is the only game of its kind that doesn't give the player fresh parts after each race, most notably tires, and encourages them to service the car at a regular interval depending on wear and tear.
    This is the first game sold outside the Japanese market to emphasize largely on pre '80s classic Japanese cars, or "Nostalgic Hero" cars after the Japanese magazine of the same name. An example is the Honda S600.
    It is the first and only GT-style game to allow you to name your price when you sell your car, rather than selling it at a fixed price. A price is named for your car and it then appears outside your garage with a "For Sale" sign. The player must race (i.e. passing days) before the car is bought. Setting a higher price will result in a lower chance of your car being purchased, simulating a proper market. Also, only one car can be "For Sale" at a time: a user with a number of cars that must be sold quickly must set comparatively low prices.
    Instead of specific license tests, focusing on a certain element of driving, Sega GT 2002 uses timed laps for its licenses. Each test uses a more powerful car.


    Sega GT Online was released in Japan in 2003 and the US and Europe in 2004. It featured the addition of "over 40" new cars (now 165+) including Auto Union, Bugatti, and De Tomaso vehicles. some new tracks, new weather/time of day, added "Gathering Mode" to arcade mode and "Special Time Triggered Events" Unlike the regular version, it was rated T due to the unpredictable multiplayer interactions. Its cover features a Mazda RX-8.


    well, i hope if you haven't played these
    yet, you should..

    that would be a more fair comparison
    than daytona... and i still haven't
    even played daytona 2 yet... someday
    on that supermodel emulator, i'll get
    around it to it, now that it works..


  3. Thanks for the write-up. I think I've written much weirder posts than this one, rofl. I don't know much about Sega GT except that it wasn't (entirely) made by Sega themselves.

    When I compared Daytona to Forza, I still think it holds some merit. We are comparing arcade to sim racers (if you can call Forza a sim), but the whole point is less content vs. more content. I know that arcade racers are supposed to have fewer cars but think about this: Daytona USA on the Dreamcast has 10 cars. Forza 4 has over 500 cars. Which games was more popular at the time of its release? Besides, if Suzuki was only comparing racing games between the exact same genre (sim), then which sim racers only have ten cars max?

    About Sega GT, I must ask what is the differentiator between it and Forza? Forza 4 is on a newer console and has better graphics and more cars & tracks. Compare Forza vs. Daytona and there's a clear differentiator--Daytona has the arcade physics and cool music. However, Forza vs. Sega GT and it becomes obfuscated--don't know what Sega GT does drastically different to backtrack to it.

    Case in point, Forza is the juggernaut in the room and it's tough for both Daytona and Sega GT to stack up with it.

  4. if, and it's a huge if,
    sega made the ultimate racer..
    think every racing game car sega ever had
    in one big game...

    daytona, virtua racing, indy 500, scud racer,
    daytona 2, le mans,outrun, sega rally, sega rally2,
    crazy taxi 2, initial d, touring car, and added
    about 100 more..

    put in all the tracks from all those games,
    don't you think sega fans would be all over it?

    including other racing car fans?

    i would.. but i'm kinda crazy too!!!

    sorry, sim racers wouldn't make it in the arcade..

    arcade racers are just that.. suited more for the
    arcades.. but add online play, and there you go.
    they can survive.

    the pc/dreamcast version of sega rally 2, had an awesome
    10 year mode : here's one video,

    that game had tons of replay, it wouldn't
    be hard to update older games to have this
    kind of mode..

    it can be done.. it just hasn't been lately..

    check them out.. you're missing a lot of good
    stuff if you have't tried them.

    again, sega rally revo, another game with lots of cars,
    tons of tracks, and content.. (hey, it says SEGA on it),
    why not compare these types of games... they're not
    really sims.. they are much arcade like, but with
    lots of depth..

    a more fair comparison would have made a better
    point, than picking on limited arcade racers.