Saturday, November 5, 2011

Artificially Lengthened Games: Why Do We Love Them?

These last few weeks I've been pouring my gaming livelihood into one console game, Batman Arkham City. As I've said before, this game is absolutely fantastic- from the gameplay to the story to the awesome villains. Except one thing: The game is an absolute collect-athon. Really. There is so much to collect and accomplish in the game, it's overwhelming. Riddles, collectible trophies, breakable cameras- all of these are present in the game, and found in large quantities. These little treasures are scattered all throughout the game to lengthen gameplay, and darn it- it works. 

Like I've said, the human brain has evolved into a very goal-oriented entity over the years. Understandably so. We needed to survive, and to survive we have had to accomplish certain goals. When we accomplish these things, we get a feeling of satisfaction- a purely chemical reaction; human beings are mind-junkies, we love to get ourselves high, and we'll spend hours accomplishing goals to get that feeling of satisfaction. 

This concept has many guises in game design. The first is this: collecting items. This is not a new concept. Games have made us bend over backwards for upgrades or little sounds since dinosaurs walked the videogame landscape. Who can forget their first 100-percent-ing of a game. The second method of artificially lengthening a game is known as grinding: Grinding is commonly found in MMO and RPG games since, I dunno, the SNES. We did basically nothing for hours, such as fighting repetitive enemies and searching boring places to find a needed upgrade. And it was sold to us as a form of "upgrading" our character.... Yeah, that's nice. 

And you know what? I'm tired of these psychological-tricks pulled on gamers. Grinding isn't fun. If you find grinding fun, I pity you. I don't buy a game with expectations that I'll be able to spend dozens of hours doing something for nothing. We just don't have time to grind in games anymore. There are things we need to do, game articles we need to write, etc. So why does grinding exist, but to artificially lengthen an experience that has no buisiness going on for as long as it does. It's a cheap design gimmick, and I cannot get behind it. You can't sell me a 60-dollar game full of fluff and expect me to thank you for it. 

This is my own opinion, of course. I know some people who love games being lengthened for them. But for a person like myself, who wants to experience an RPG's story in a forseeable timespan, I cannot support grinding or collect-a-thons that are NECESSARY to finish a game. (I should mention that Arkham City doesn't punish you for not collecting, or grinding.) 

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