There's No Shame In Liking A Game For Your Own Reasons

This weekend, I came upon a curious conversation: a stranger telling a friend of mine if they wanted to play Fire Emblem: Awakening for the "throwaway romantic skits," that they were doing it wrong. And all I could think was: those "throwaway" skits are the only reason I care about that game!

The reasons we play things can't always be boiled down to the parts where you're interacting with traditional game systems. The reasons why we become interested in something isn't always because the shooting/strategy/platforming/neck stabbing looks good, either. Heck, the reasons we might become interested in a game in the first place might be seen as completely stupid, and that saddens me.

Here are a number of reasons for why I'll enjoy or want a game, all of which have little to do with how it plays.

Because I wanted to romance Garrus

Saving the galaxy from reapers in Mass Effect? Stopping the Risen from... uh, coming out of the portal in Fire Emblem: Awakening? Solving the murder-mystery in Persona 4?

Eff. That.

I care less about engaging with that stuff, and more about the people involved. The people involved make the game-parts worth it.

I find that I often play games to learn more about the characters, or to forward my relationship with them. When I'm out there in the battlefield in Fire Emblem, sinking my sword into an overzealous evil lord, I'm not doing it because the game's take on chess is worth sinking the 30 hours I've put into it so far.

The battles are good, but that in of itself doesn't keep me going forward. The characters do.

I'd say that the base game itself — in this case, strategy — still has to be strong enough for me to indulge in romances or characters, but that's not always true. I mean, just how bad was the original Mass Effect for example when it came to the bits where you shot things?

Pretty bad. And did that matter? No! I got wrapped into the lives of my crew just the same!

It doesn't hurt to have a solid game base, but talking about it like this still feels wrong. I think it's a mistake to designate interactions between characters as something that's separate from what makes up "the real game" game, or less important than the other parts of the game. The bits in a game where you get to know a character — we're talking outside of cutscenes and bio pages — are equally 'valid' parts of the game.

They involve interactions and choices, after all. It may not always require reflexes (though they may be timed, like in The Walking Dead), but so what?

Admittedly, some games do a better job of intertwining character development with the rest of a game. Persona famously makes it so that the closer you get to your friends, the better you do in battle. Fire Emblem does something similar, though with less complexity: the more your characters fight alongside one another in battle, the better they can get to know each other outside of battle.

In other games, the interactions between people and the choices you make regarding them are the entire game: that's The Walking Dead, no?

So, yeah: I play the games for the romances and the characters, and I don't think that's "doing it wrong." I think game developers recognise this, too: I'm happy to see that developers are putting more and more effort into fleshing that stuff out. It's almost like our games want to involve actual people, and people are complicated and interesting enough to be on the same pedestal we place, say, shooting things.

Because I wanted a hat

This reason is less 'noble,' but is nonetheless a thing that many of us are familiar with: the seductive influence of a Team Fortress 2 hat.

It's amazing how much power a silly hat has. It's enough to make you sink hours into a game, just to look a little cooler. It's enough to make you want to spend actual money on it — purchasing hats, sure.

But purchasing fully priced games just to have a special hat? It's ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. And even so, I'm guilty.

Valve does this thing on Steam where, if you pre-order a game or buy it within a launch window, they'll award you with certain hats or items for TF2. Usually, they're tied to the new game. If you bought it, Deus Ex: Human Revolution had some neat "Deus Specs" for Team Fortress that made it look like you had Adam Jensen's eyewear.

The items that would come with my Deus Ex purchase were enough to convince me to purchase the game on PC instead of on a console, actually.

I've also had cases where I wasn't initially interested in the game until I saw the cool items they came with. This is how I ended up with a copy of Homefront. This sounds like I got burned and made a stupid decision, but I'm happy to note that I got enough out of the multiplayer in that game that I now consider it a worthwhile purchase (even if, big picture, the game wasn't very good).

But it could have been a horrible game that I braved just because I wanted a hat. Yikes. The upside is that we might take interest in something we normally never would — and the game might turn out to be worth our time.

Either way, a hat can make us take a big gamble.

Because Borderlands looked pretty

Remember when Borderlands was initially revealed? It looked about as generic as a shooter could get — this was before they redid it with cel-shading/new art style. Had they kept that look, I don't think nearly as many people would have taken an interest in the game.

That's a saturated market, we write-off shooters for the smallest of reasons just to have something less to consider; Fuse experienced a similar fate when my interest dwindled after the art direction changed to become grittier.

We like to tout the bits of a game we interact with above all else, but other things — like the visuals — can make or break the experience too. It reminds me a little of the movie Avatar: the story and the writing weren't so hot. And you know what? It didn't matter. The visual splendor, for me at least, was worth the price of entry alone.

More recently, Ni no Kuni commanded my interest simply because Studio Ghibli had a hand in the visuals. I knew very little about the game prior to purchasing it aside from the fact that it looked good, and that it was an RPG.

And, admittedly, once I was playing it, I recognised that the game has the trappings of generic RPGs — mechanically, that is. But the charms of the writing and the visuals are so fantastic that it's easy to overlook the ways it falls short.

You play and you want to get lost in Ni no Kuni's world. It's not the seduction of a Team Fortress 2 hat, it's more like puppy love.

Fact is, visuals are important. They can change the way you look at a game. That something so small could change how I look at a game could be considered unfair — should I give it a fair shake? — but it's difficult for me to feel remorse.

There are so many games out there. I'm not going to lose sleep over crossing one game off my "to-play" list. I can't even keep up with the games that I do buy.

There are just a few arguably silly things which have commanded a purchase, if not managed to captivate me — and I suspect I'm not alone here.

Perhaps you have arguably 'absurd' reasons for liking or wanting a game? Feel free to share in the comments.


Comments

    There’s No Shame In Liking A Game For Your Own Reasons.

    Groundbreaking.

      Her point is a truism, and the discussion that prompted it is weak. The person may have meant that the player is missing something else that is elegant about the design if the thing that stands out is the relationships (though its perfectly valid to like it for the those reasons).

        Given the fact that a particular developer was threatened with rape and death because she liked to play games a certain way based on what she liked, I think this article is pretty important. Just because something might be a truism (and I don't necessarily agree on that point) doesn't mean it isn't worth discussing.

      If you look really closely, there's actually an article underneath the title. Amazingly, it seems to have a great deal more content than the title itself...to the point where it might be worth reading.

      Just a thought.

        I read the article. It was a long winded truism.

          I don't see it as a truism in the slightest. Plenty of people are ashamed of liking certain games.

          A simple example: Farmville. A few of my friends used to play it a great deal, and try to cover it up due to the assumption they would be judged. I had to prod them a fair bit to find out that one likes the simple nature of creating their own little fantasy farm, another outright states that the whole game is a great experience. Despite these beliefs, they didn't want to share their expereinces out of perceived shame.
          I personally couldn't agree more with the TF2 section, particularly relating to the idea of buying games for hats. I've done it, and still baulk at confessing it.

            This is why I'm saying its a truism. We all do it, we all know we do it, and then once you read it, you go "hey, I do that too, how insightful". I also crap and don't talk about it in public - if Patricia writes an article about that should I also agree its insightful.

              One of the reasons I see it as worthwhile to talk about is because it's specifically relating to shame. One of the simplest methods to help combat the feeling of shame is to have your behaviour (when said behaviour is not actually shameful) validated by others as normal.
              Just because you don't see this article/topic as relevant to you, doesn't mean there aren't people out there that will read this and feel a hell of a lot better about being drawn into a game for its looks, or romance options, or whatever other reason.

            The stigma attached to Farmville isn't so much that it's bad game per se, but more of the dubious practices from within game itself (unsolicited invites to all your friends, micro-transactions), the fact that the game is designed around selling advertising rather than actual entertainment, and that Zynga's CEO has confessed to being a scammer. And it's for these reasons, Farmville attracts scorn from both gamers and non-gamers alike.
            I think this is a bit different from what the article is discussing - which I see more of a piece about gamers judging other gamers, e.g. "because I wanted to romance Garrus" has no real significance outside the gaming community (who would appreciate it as being one of the more cheesier /geekier reasons for choosing the game).

        I think you are being generous by referring to it as an article. Blog post would be more appropriate.

          http://youtu.be/TOQvEO3677M :P

    How come I am overcome with shame when I say that I like Runescape?

    Also, go vote for 2007 servers!

    Tiny bang story - Because it is totally adorable

    Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Because I can play with my wife and she is equally engaged keeping an eye out for secrets as I play
    I play Trine and the sequel for the same reason

    Darkspore - For the character creator

    You might call the article a truism but there are people who will insist that there is a right and wrong way to play games.
    Some people will be adamant that the right way to play skyrim is using this sort of character and take these skills as the will maximise the XP gain and allow you to deal the most damage (or whatever their spreadsheets have calculated)
    With my first play through my poor trusting Nord wasn't smart enough to understand magic so I never used it during the game. That roleplay aspect is important to me but makes it slower and 'harder' to level. That doesn't bother me but I have been told that I'm "doing it wrong" and I could go faster if I played it the right way.

      Usually when people are saying 'your doing it wrong' they think your missing out on fun, not making a value judgement. Skyrim is a great example - the magic makes the combat a lot more fun. It also becomes more fun once you've gotten a few levels. Obviously you enjoy the role-playing aspect, which is fine - but it definitely came at a price.

    I find it depressing when an article could have spurred some interesting discussion doesn't because people want to bicker over semantics.

      So instead of merely lamenting that fact (though it is absolutely lamentable!), take some initiative and talk about a game you played for some other reason than might be obvious, and whether you ever felt the need to downplay that.

      I like Magicka not for it's ridiculous multiplayer (though I like that too) but because it's got a hell of a deep gameplay system and I've spent over a hundred hours on it - and I still learn new things every 3-4 play sessions.

      I played Magical Diary through - twice - because I thought the art was kinda cute, and it made me feel fuzzy. Admittedly, this may have been the point, but it's tangentially related because I don't speak about it much ^^;;

      I played hours of Halo 3 online and with friends locally, but spent heaps of time in the replay mode trying to get awesome photography out of it. I had a huge folder (~250MB?) which I lost, and it made me incredibly sad that that happened. I have a very small few on the deviantart page I have (which is under the same name as my account here).

      I play StarCraft II almost exclusively for the campaign, not the ludicrously deep multiplayer.

      I play Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games because I can't get enough of the slick animation. The fighting is good too, but it's just so amazing to watch.

      I still sometimes fire up Halo ODST just for the solemn, stoic, lonely atmosphere the game's layout, ambience, and design all encourage.

      I use TF2 items and hats to produce an overall look, not because they're the best/most effective/rarest ones I have.

      Some of those are a bit weak, but, you know, I do play a lot of games for their primary aspect ^^; Did anyone else play those games I mentioned, and get interesting things out of them? What about you, splendiferous? What did you play in alternate styles?

    Far Cry 3 for the fear. After playing FC3 through and hating the story and how overpowered you are, I've restarted and refuse to do any missions. I carry a bow and the 1911 pistol. I don't unlock radio towers. I don't liberate bases. I don't craft items or equipement. I sneak about in fear all the time. A damn goat can kill me. I love this fragile feeling of fear.

    This is an awesome article. People too often forget this kind of stuff. BRAVO!

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