Games without end.

In the latest of his wonderful series of posts over at, Tadhg Kelly says "Under more traditional (retail-derived) thinking, games were often something to be mastered or completed, but many online games seemed to focus more on achieving an endless steady state that players eventually just gave up on. Some even thought that maybe World of Warcraft wasn’t really a game at all." Now, this is as a lead-in to a larger point about a shift in perspectives within the gaming world from the traditional game-as-entire-object to the newer game-as-platform, but ... I disagree with this point.

When I was a lad, some of my favourite games were Caesar 3 and Puzzle Bobble. Both of these games had progressive start and end points to be achieved - I enjoyed playing through these, though I'm not sure how far I got in both cases. But where I truly derived my joy, when I enjoyed sitting for hours, was balanced between the competing pressures of those games. In Caesar 3, for example, I would be happy to play on free play, start up a city, and gradually expand it. Keeping that city on that successful cusp between over and under employment, getting trade running smoothly enough to forgo taxation, a point where I had mastered all the systems the game made you trade off between. Except the military part, because that wasn't very good or fun.

Similarly, in Puzzle Bobble, my favorite thing to do would be to play an endless game of 2 player. The "rain" mechanic was fully understood, and I knew you could fit the bubble between a gap wide enough for a single bubble if you shot it directly upwards. I've reached scores of over 100. And equally, I'd develop a visceral, as well as intellectual, mastery - I would get into a comfortable groove of firing and strategizing that left the part of my brain that handles speaking entirely unmolested. Which meant I was free to babble distracting trash talk to all those who hadn't reached the same level as me.

Fuckin' bliss. These experiences are one of the marker points for what I want to create when I make games. A interesting enough balance that one can just balance there in a state of supreme contentment. Something like that Zone state everyone goes on about.

(But then! This aspect/approach was neglected then, and maybe has a new emphasis on it nowadays. And maybe that goes along with Tadhg's larger point. But really I just wanted a rant.)

27 April 2011