Gamers Divided Will Never Be United

10 Aug

While riding the bus, I was playing my stupid solitaire game, and a commercial for another game comes on. I couldn’t help but notice most of them end in the gamer failing, with the challenge, “Could you do better?” Who does that speak to?

Because what it doesn’t appeal to is me. I’m playing a casual game – solitaire – it has a small challenge level and is designed for people like me who just want to be amused while waiting for something else. Which reminded me that applies to all my games: I prefer the sandbox, world building games with a little bit of challenge to keep me going.

But the “casual gamer” is not who these ads are focused to… which is odd, considering these ARE casual games they’re promoting. I think the disconnect is because the marketers are “competitive gamers;” those who fail at a level and say to themselves, “Oh hell no you don’t! I’m going to sit at this level for another hour to get past you!” Whereas in the rare time I sit down to Tour of Battlefield IV: Special Ops, I might get killed at the level three times before I say, “Let me go check on my Minecraft realm.”

I prefer cooperative games where I can build a civilization that lasts. But I don’t want a huge learning curve to accomplish that, regardless of how cool the game is. Look at Sid Meyer’s Civilization. You start out with a limited number of choices (one or two units, four or five technologies to research) and whole lot of nothingness to explore. Minecraft does the same technique; you chop down a tree, you build tools, then you can chop other stuff, then get better tools and more tech… yadda yadda.

But when Civilization V became VI, they forgot that rule. They combined religion, cultural advancement, and attitudes into one GIANT screen full of options. And you had to do this right off the bat, along with units and tech. And I have no idea what any of this does or why I should care or how I can improve this. So guess what? I play Civ 5 and I haven’t touched Civ 6 since. They listened to the challenge gamers, not the “builders.” In Minecraft, they have goals and challenges and dungeons that appeal to people who want to “win the game.” (And you can, apparently.) But me and my friends are builders–skeletons are (necessary) annoyances, but it encourages us to build defenses, keep the things that threaten our perfect blue buildings from being destroyed. (Trust me, creative mode–without monsters–is boring as hell.) You can still enjoy the game without the challenges.

The joy I get from extra options–or challenges–only come with playing them again. “Oh, let’s see if I can stay on this one island and still dominate the world.” OR “I wonder if I can build an automated chicken farm.” NOT Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock, where if you can’t figure out how to defeat the Cylons in Scenario 2, “Oh, well, guess you got to try it again.” Linear storylines bore the crap out of me. If I wanted that, I could read a book. I don’t care how cool the graphics are… which is why I still play Empire Deluxe, a thirty-year-old game. Okay, it’s the newer version, but the graphics are still pure-1993 VGA screens–I want the simplicity with more options. That’s true with Google’s design over Bing / Yahoo, that’s true with my games.

But I may be the minority; let me know your favorites in the comments below.

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