XLM’s 2 Cents

What ever happened to the days when you played games purely for fun?

A strange trend in games seems to be appearing these days, one where we (and when I say we I mean me) play games not for the fun of it, but because we feel we have to. I noticed this a little while ago while trawling through Skies of Arcadia Legends, I just thought to myself why am I playing this? For fun? And the answer was a resounding no. It seemed I was playing it to finish it. I then thought back, I’ve been doing this for a while now… Playing games to finish them.

Although I’ve been gaming for a relatively short amount of time with the Nintendo 64 being the first console I really got into (although I had been playing a few games on my Amiga for about 5 years), I still think back to playing games like Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64 etc. where it didn’t matter one bit whether I was on the first or last level, the fact was I was having fun. But now when I play it is almost as though I’m not playing for me, but to prove something.

There are, as always exceptions. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was very fun as was F-Zero GX and a few others. The fact that the drive to complete games was making them lose their fun was possibly the reason I loved Animal Crossing, the anti-video game. Whereas most video games need an aim to complete or a winner and a loser, Animal Crossing makes a refreshing change to the formula; no aim, no winner, no point and you can’t complete it. The only real reason that I’m not still playing it is that you don’t really play it, it actually becomes your life. And although that life was fun, in my real life I have exams and excessive playing of video games and exams don’t exactly go well together.

Another exception is multiplayer. Multiplayer, whether online or the tradition version has always and will always be the most fun form of gaming. There is no better feeling than hitting your best mate with a carefully aimed green shell just as he’s about to finish or alternatively playing co-operatively with him/her on Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. The latter has been one of the most fun gaming experiences I’ve ever had and probably will ever have; it’s definitely worth the cost and hassle.
Xbox Live, the premium online service is fantastic aswell, playing (and preferably beating) a human opponent over the Internet is such a novel and exciting idea in theory and in practice. The service is taken to another level when you are playing someone that you personally know and then, the next time you meet you can brag about your victory (or vice versa… The way it’s going for me just at this moment). Also if the Xbox Live enabled game lets you have multiple players on one Xbox it’s double the fun, both variations of multiplayer in one, what more could you want?

Conveniently on to my second point:

Are games bringing people together or keeping them apart?

The reason I bring this up is because in the past multiplayer games were designed to bring friends together to play and enjoy themselves, but the new “thing” in gaming is online, which is supported by such slogans as; “It’s good to play together” and “Bringing people together”, well in actual fact are they doing as they say are in fact are they doing just the opposite?
Of course to an extent the online gaming arena is people playing together, but basically for all the player knows these humans he’s playing could just be inefficient bots or simulants. Also playing someone over the Internet just doesn’t compare to playing someone face to face. When playing someone in a grudge match face to face you can see their tension or confidence and it effects you, you can also try to psyche your opponent out and marvel when you see them make a mistake as a result of your tactics. Online you don’t get any of that, it’s all so cold, which I suppose mirrors a lot of other technological “advances”.

In the future the next generation of children who will grow up with online gaming may not see any need for tradition multiplayer matches and they may be fazed out which will be awful for gaming in my opinion. Children may lose out on the wonders like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and Diddy Kong Racing.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy online gaming but I’d much rather invite my friends round to play Mario Kart than to play some (for all intents and purposes) nameless American character on Project Gothem Racing. Online should be more a last resort than an alternative.

What is a casual gamer?

Well, there are quite a few misconceptions about casual gamers; they are seen as people who buy games simply because of its licence or people who no nothing about the industry, but in reality, casual gamers are just gamers who simple play games in their spare time for fun. Now harping back to my first point for a second, is it the games that are no longer as fun or is it only “hardcore” gamers who are no longer playing games for the fun? Now I have no idea of the answer because I can’t see the situation from more than one perspective, but I think that maybe it’s the “hardcore” way of thinking… The must finish, must be the best attitude that could ruin games. Also people who are more in touch with everything games may force themselves not to enjoy games seen as poor or not for them, simply because they think they shouldn’t enjoy it. A casual gamer will just buy a game that he or she thinks they will enjoy and if it is fun, they will find it fun.