Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dramatic Effect

I am prone to overreaction due to frustration. In fact, I don't take frustration very well at all. It's probably a big reason why I'm so picky when it comes to game design. Games that provide more frustration than enjoyment are bad, and games that provide more enjoyment than frustration are good.

The tricky part comes in because without challenge, there can be no enjoyment. If the game hands you every victory, you feel cheated. You didn't earn anything; you just had it delivered to you on a silver platter. But with challenge also comes frustration. Different players have different levels of tolerance for frustration. Those with high tolerance tend to like extremely difficult games, and those with low tolerance (like me) tend to like fairly forgiving games.

That's not to say that I don't like challenge at all. I just don't find the need to repeat portions of a game over and over only to get killed slightly further on each repetition, until I make it to the next checkpoint. I want a solid, steady pace, with regular progression and not too much mental trauma. The topic of challenge vs. frustration could be enough for its own full article, but I'll stop there. That's not the point of this article.

Since I'm so prone to frustration, and especially overreacting because of frustration, I tend to put games down in disgust fairly often. Sometimes I come back, and sometimes I don't. When I'm faced with "bullshit", as I so elegantly put it in my first article, I turn the game off and give myself time to cool down. I tend to rant in the meanwhile, and claim ridiculous things like "I'm never playing that game again, just based on the principle."

I have picked Final Fantasy XII back up, and enjoyed it a medium amount (it's no revolution, but it's entertaining enough). I had a friend assure me that in his playthrough of the game, he never experienced what happened to me. Since then, I've had the same thing happen to me again, and I turned the game off again at that point in disgust. I turned the game off a third time in disgust, but that was at my own stupid mistake, so I can't blame the game design for that.

So while I did go back on my word and pick up Final Fantasy XII and have fun with it, I do not retract my game design points from that first post. The mechanic they used (in at least two places, so I have to assume it could be around any corner) is terrible game design. It just so happens that other parts of the game are fun enough to balance out somewhere above the "worth playing" cutoff.

The main point of this article, after all that rambling, is this. Just because one example might be an overreaction or even blatantly incorrect, it doesn't disprove the underlying concept of the article. If you happen to think blue shells in Mario Kart are not a comeback mechanic, that doesn't prove that comeback mechanics aren't stupid. Comeback mechanics may or may not be stupid, but that specific argument just doesn't work.

I'm not here to argue the minutiae of my examples. Some examples may be better than others, but remember that these are primarily opinion pieces. I'm open to changing my opinions, and I tend to be dramatic for the sake of proving a point, but please do not attack a straw man.

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