Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just one more time...

Apollo: [Apollo is reading fan mail] Mary Anne, you listen to this. "You didn't beat nobody and anybody who knows boxing knows the fight was fixed." This one came from London. "You call yourself the champ? You're a fake! The fight was a fake. Go kill yourself!"
Apollo’s Wife: Wouldn't you rather play with the children than read hate mail?
Apollo: "How much did you get to carry that bum for 15 rounds? You are a disgrace to your people."
Apollo’s wife: Why can't you ignore it?
Apollo: Are you serious?
[Tosses the mail away in anger]

We hate losing! We hate it! It kills our pride to work our butts off and be “good” at something and then lose. I will never forget losing a playoff football game in high school. I still get frustrated thinking about random loses in my life real games, video games, even board games. It kills us. When we lose we want to do nothing more than prove that we can win. On the flip side nothing makes us want to continue more than winning. If we win we are on a streak, we got the magic touch. Nothing and nobody can bring us down.

Another way games feed the flesh is by making it easy to keep going. You sign on, you enter a match, you win. Awesome! One more time! You will all fall by my hand! Just hit the next match button (or in some cases do nothing at all and you are cycled back into match preparations). 15 minutes to an hour later…you lose. What?!? How could this happen? I don’t lose! This is my game (a statement too many players make without considering the fact that tens of thousands of people play the game)! Oh man, it is time for some serious payback. You play again, the cycle continues. Pair this gaming pride with the ‘bonuses’ we talked about in the last post and you have a formula that caters to pride.

Take in stride friends. Give yourselves a time limit or a set number of matches and stick to it. This will help with both topics. Don’t get sucked in.

Heads up: next few posts are going to be a bit lighter. System breakdowns and my first Family Game Profile. See you next time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Feeding the Flesh...Why Gamers Keep Playing

"I just gave everybody what they wanted."

"Since when have people known what they want?"

What does it mean to feed the flesh? At our core we are creatures who strive to please ourselves. Despite the fact that we were created to glory in God our nature is to please ourselves and that is sin. Many video game companies are working very hard to figure how to appeal to that side of who we are. Though they do not realize it, they are working to help us indulge in a very sinful activity that inflates our pride. Below I will present you with the first of three ways that the current gaming climate feeds our flesh, but first kind of a sad proof of what I am talking about.

My friend and mentor has talked at length about a young member of his family and how he worries for the young man. “He plays Call of Duty.” He tells me. “And on a recent vacation to a rural area the young man told his family all he wanted was two days to play the game then he would do whatever his family wanted to do.” The concern on his face was very real. “I don’t even know. I can’t imagine doing much of anything for two days. Is there anything he could do for that long?" My answer, sadly, is “Yes.”

Video games are a changing market. Companies used to create long single player stories and add a smaller multiplayer component to encourage a little extra play. That has changed with the advent of the internet. Now that a large number of players can almost instantly connect online the story or main game is typically created shorter and a greater emphasis is placed on the multiplayer game. This is the online competitive or cooperative mode where you join a group of anywhere from four to sixty-four other players to play versions of the game that are designed for competition. The hook here is that the game is different and familiar every time you play. There are several things about this environment that feed the flesh.

First, the current games feed the flesh by rewarding the player for continued play. Who doesn’t like getting rewards for the things that they do? As players complete their matches or games they are given a level of experience for playing. This total is usually higher if you win, but none the less you are rewarded. As the player’s level rises they are given prizes in the game. These can change the appearance of a character or give them new abilities. Higher levels, of course, give you better stuff. Naturally, better stuff is a badge of honor. A way of saying “Look how good I am, I have pink armor with battle damage.” …I wish I was making that up, but a higher level bonus in Uncharted was a fat version of the main character. Most games display your level proudly for you and opponents online. All of this works to make a player feel a sense of accomplishment. This feeling is a bit fake though, as many others are doing the same thing, but more on that later. By rewarding the player with items it creates benchmarks for the player to strive for all the time. This encourages players to reach for the next goal.

This leads to the next point…but that will have to wait.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Shift in Acceptability

So, it has been a while and for those of you who know me, you know it has been a roller coaster. But I am back with a lot to say.

Where to next?

How about change?

In reality people like Josh and I are one of the first generations to experience games since childhood. I was five years old when my parents bought us a Nintendo Entertainment System. My elementary years were filled with hours of enjoyment of games like Super Mario Brothers and Tecmo Bowl. This gave way to the Super Nintendo which wowed me with Donkey Kong Country and of course the introduction to my favorite gaming series of all time and the reason that I buy all things Nintendo: Mario Kart. This led to the Nintendo 64, the Sega Dreamcast (Yeah, I went there), the Nintendo GameCube and now the Nintendo Wii. That’s 25 years of video gaming. When we were kids we dreamed of what we thought would make cool games. Some young players dreamed of games where a whole platoon of soldiers went into battle side by side battling enemies in giant fire fights. Others would imagine themselves as a lone warrior wielding magical weapons that would lay waste to gigantic monsters. Sports fans wanted in depth controls and realistic environments. As these dreamers grew up some eventually went on to make the games that they day dreamed about as kids. Games have matured. They have gotten older with those of us who grew up playing them. The features are more real, the graphics are mind blowing and many of the stories are attempting to replicate the movies with interactive sequences mixed in.

This is pretty drastic shift. The truth is as our culture grows more tolerant and generations play more games like Call of Duty, Halo, Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed it will become more acceptable to a younger audience that desperately needs the opportunity to be children to play games for older gamers. Today’s children have opportunities to enjoy updated versions of games like Super Mario Bros, the Legend of Zelda and even Pac Man. They are given the chance to have new experiences like the Lego games and Little Big Planet. However,the more I listen to what kids are saying the less I hear them talk about the family oriented stuff and more about rated T and M games. They don’t see people playing games like Mario and Little Big Planet, they see older siblings and parents who play Call of Duty. Naturally, that is what they will want to play as well. This is leading to a shift in acceptable playing age. If games like Halo and Assissin’s Creed are acceptable for this group of youngsters what will they grow up to make? Scary thought, huh?