Thursday, June 18, 2009

Once and Done vs. Replay Value

This post is a direct response to a post by Steven O'Dell from Raptured Reality (which is worth checking out). Steven asks, "Should we play through games multiple times, in order to fully understand the experience and points they are trying to convey?" I'm not going to paraphase everything he says, click the link and check it out for yourself.

As a reviewer, I've really trained myself to cast a critical eye over a game on the first pass, so I feel your idea of needing to replay a game to get the deepest sense of a game isn't necessary, if you're critical from the start. I realize most people don't start up a game with this review mentality, so the first play could be "enjoying the ride" and then going back to see how things worked. I don't operate that way, but there's nothing wrong with people who do.

"Would playing through games more than once allow us to justify our opinions through a deeper understanding of an intended experience? And if yes, should we then play through more than once in order to critically evaluate it properly?"

Again, I could be in the minority, but for me a higher number of plays does not equal increased understanding, and most games really don't need to be replayed to truly comprehend them. Your framework I do agree with for sandbox games and games that offer a lot of choice, like Mass Effect or Fallout 3. Those games really do change every time you play them. Gears 2's campaign isn't going to change no matter how many times I play it, so besides an additional challenge or achievement points, there's no reason for me to come back.

I've learned to get over the pressure of feeling obligated to be in on the current game everyone's talking about, unless I really want to play it. There's better uses of money than spending $60 for the "in" game every week. Don't let the throw-away nature of the masses get in the way of your gaming. If I let the masses dictate my entertainment, I'd have a Twitter account (cringe).

Rarely do I replay games, but the reason for that isn't because I want to be part of the 'In' crowd.

I won't play games with no replay value for the sake of replaying them. I'm not dismissing the idea of going back to a beloved game (after a few years), but right now I don't replay a game unless its achievement list makes me. Games have to EARN their replays by being truly exceptional, possessing tons of content, or at least offering a higher level of challenge. Too often I get coerced into replays of mediocre games that don't deserve my time because I'm rather addicted to achievements.

If I can't play at a higher difficulty, I won't replay a game. The game's mechanics don't change, so for most games, one play is exactly like the next, with nothing new to offer. If a subsequent play isn't going to challenge me, why should I bother doing the same thing over again? Only a rare few games can offer a replay experience that is equally as compelling as moving on to something else, and I have no problem saying "The times I spent in that game were good" and moving on.

In the replay department, games and book are alike for me. If you just finished reading Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" are you REALLY going to start reading it over again so you can talk about it more critically (or hope you gain insights)? Sane people would step away, at least for a while.

I understand where you're coming from on wanting to see more games fully experienced and enjoyed, but I just don't think replays are needed for that. I agree that the throw-away, flavor-of-the-week attitude that dominates the mainstream (and which I'm sure I've been guilty of before) is annoying and over the top, but I felt the tone of your post went a bit too far in the other direction, suggesting trouble letting go of a game and moving on (that may not have been the intent, but I had that rough interpretation)

And this will conclude my semi-articulate ramblings for the evening. Articulate writing gets tough for me at nearly 11pm. Not trying to flame your point, just offering a counter opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Your response, while a direct one to me, touches on just one of the many directions one could discuss as a branching point to what I was trying to bring up with my own post. To answer your interpretation of my post first, it wasn't intended as one to suggest how we choose to play our games, or that we should hold onto them purely for the sake of the potential of a better understanding (though I can understand how you came to that interpretation); it was more just a broad post asking a question that could cover many subjects and one where the answer may indeed be different depending on the context in which it's asked. Now for the responses to some of the other things you mentioned.

    As you've touched on here, and as someone else on my post mentioned in their comment, the experience a player has with a game is mostly defined by the mechanics and how they challenge you, entertain you and so forth. When looking at it like that -- purely mechanics -- one playthrough is enough for the majority of games out there, for the very reason you mention, they aren't going to change in subsequent playthroughs. I guess I'm asking the question because in recent years, particularly this current generation, we're seeing games with more involved narratives as well as others experimenting with what can and can't be done in games as a whole. A purely mechanical game may get away with just the one playthrough, but would narrative ones? That's a question harder to answer than it seems, especially since a lot of those narrative games have such binary moral focuses at the moment (not a bad thing), but I do think that some games and indeed their narratives are open to multiple playthroughs, to not only further our enjoyment of it first and foremost, but to allow us to understand it, the intent behind it (as in, the experience) and whatever else.

    Your analogy to books is a valid one, but I'll counter with one to TV shows; Watching a show like The Wire or Lost a second time has been beneficial to me because I've been noticing subtle things that I didn't previously, or picking up on things that I didn't understand the first time around. Obviously those shows have multiple stories within the main one so you'd almost expect that, but still, I can't help but wonder if the same would, or could, apply to certain games?

    "Gears 2's campaign isn't going to change no matter how many times I play it, so besides an additional challenge or achievement points, there's no reason for me to come back."

    Fair point, though arguably you could suggest that the campaign could and does change, depending on whether you're playing it on your lonesome or in co-op. Should it therefore be played twice, so the player experiences everything it has to offer in those two different, yet similar experiences?

    And just for the record, I couldn't keep up with the masses even if I wanted to. Last year's overload of games overwhelmed me (you may have seen my post on that -- can't remember) and I just can't be arsed this year or in the future. I'm prioritising, plain and simple, everything else can wait until I get to them.

    Thanks heaps for the response, I always like discussion. Sorry for the long arse comment, that's what you get from 5:30am ramblings that may or may not be articulate... ;)