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Elsa avatar 1:14 PM on 12.28.2011
The Tipping Point in Games



I've never been a real fan of the Call of Duty Series. I've played the campaigns for most of the recent games and particularly enjoyed the Modern Warfare series, but I've just never enjoyed the online play. I tend to like team based shooters where people talk about the objectives, enemy movements and try to coordinate and work as a team. I enjoy the social aspects of shooter games... the social aspects that aren't full of little kids asking me what my nipples look like. Call of Duty tends to move too fast for any real team based chat to be effective. I didn't like jumping into a game and getting killed over and over and over and over again. The graphics were beautiful, the guns feel effective and are responsive... but the game seemed to lack soul. Modern Warfare 3 is the first time I've actually stuck with Call of Duty and achieved a rank higher than 10. I like the support killstreaks. No matter how bad I am, I do tend to get a couple of these in a game because killstreaks don't reset upon death. I like that I get to experience the fun of actually having some form of "killstreak" reward without the need to sit and camp for kills. Ranking up also brings all the usual rewards of better guns, better perks, better scopes... better everything. Again, this rewarding good players has always been a negative for me in the series. I almost feel bad killing some n00b with a basic gun and few if any decent perks. I definitely do feel bad when I get killed by a high level player with a really good gun... and I get to see the replay and want that gun so at least I would have a fighting chance!

Still... last week I reached the tipping point. I'm a level 59 and I unlocked the thermal scope on the GC36 assault rifle... and I was actually excited that I unlocked it! I now tend to place in the middle of the pack in most games. I often place last on my team, but usually I'm just sitting there near the bottom and on a few wonderous occasions I've actually placed first on my team (usually because everyone else has dumped for the game or else because I've had a really good run with the recon drone!). I don't tend to use my mic at all in Call of Duty... I have it on, but generally have myself muted because I don't like the sound of others talking coming through the TV. The tipping point came when I unlocked that scope and realized that I like this game. It's a rather mindless game... just jump in with any group and simply play. The game is very much based on "first shoot, first kill" but after awhile you tend to know the usual camping spots on many of the maps and check them before blindly running anywhere.


(WTF? How did he manage to see me to shoot me?? I say this a lot in COD!)


There is strategy in the game, but it's strictly a personal strategy... and there is a wide range of strategies to use. The game does rock, paper, sissors quite well. Having a shotgun or close range weapon is lethal up close, but useless at a longer distance. Sniping is often a one shot kill, but anywhere you can snipe from generally has multiple entrances that are difficult to guard, so being knifed in the back becomes part of choosing to be a sniper. Each of the perks serves a purpose and tends to counter some of the other unlocks given. The restriction of only 3 perks generally means that you will have a weakness somewhere. The number of guns, unlocks, perks, etc. can be rather overwhelming and confusing but it does add some depth to the game and allows people to change their playing styles. I've not reached the level yet where I can prestige and don't know much about choosing that option... but again, this does seem designed to again add depth to the game for those that play a lot... or too much I guess!

I don't even know that I would call the game "fun" for me... but since hitting that tipping point, I find I want to play it... pretty much all the time, too much, and more than is good for me. I want to try out the different guns, I want to rank up a better gun and unlock the scopes I like. I want to try some of the other perks or even try different killstreaks. I want to play some of the game modes I haven't tried yet. I've reached a zen state where dying rarely bothers me now... I almost zone out while playing and in some respects it's like playing a game with annoying bots rather than real people (especially since the voice chat quality is very poor when compared to a game like MAG where it's crystal clear).

This "tipping point" has occured in other games. I didn't initially like MAG and found it confusing... but at one point I looked around while playing the 256 player Domination mode and that tipping point was reached... I was addicted and to date I have over 1400 hours in the game. With single player games I tend to find the tipping point more quickly... I just started Skyrim and I KNOW this is a game I will love. With multiplayer games it often seems to take much longer. With Call of Duty it took a lot longer and I'm actually a bit surprised that I even reached it. With some games I never reach that tipping point, or I give up long before it's reached. I like Uncharted. I've played UC1 and 2 and have played a bit of the online for 3 (and will play the campaign later). I don't think it matters how much or how long I play Uncharted, I'll never reach that tipping point where I want to play the game constantly. It just doesn't hold that addictive factor for me. I'm not even sure if this tipping point is personal taste or design. I started Skyrim and was immediately there - full blown addiction, I can't put the game down. It seems that others too feel this same response. MAG and Warhawk took a bit longer but there are others too that obviously feel this addiction because both games still have active online communities years after the game's release. Call of Duty has a fanatical online following so it seems that those that have reached this tipping point into a love for the game are quite willing to transfer this adoration to each new game in the series to a some extent. The online gameplay is similar enough, yet different enough to retain those that love this game - and this is surely purposeful design. This tipping point... it's a cash cow. If developers can achieve it, it not only seems to assure sales of the game, but can also assure sales of the next game. The Oblivion, Final Fantasy and Call of Duty series point to this.



The odd thing is, is that this tipping point is a different thing for me in each game. In Call of Duty it's the fact that I am not playing with a group. It's a solitary experience where I can just zone out and play. With MAG and Warhawk it was the opposite - it was the group experience of playing with friends and being inter-reliant on them. The early SOCOM games relied on this social aspect as well... with large clans that formed to regularly play the game and not just socialize, but work on the game as a unit that worked well together. With Skyrim, it's the exploration... on my way to one location I come across a cave... this constant input of newly discovered locations keeps me constantly going in the game (regardless of the glitches and other annoying aspects). I'm sure that devs did wish that there was one answer to what the tipping point is, but I guess fortunately for us gamers, there is no one answer. This means that devs will keep looking and will continue to bring us a variety of different games in the hopes that the game will have that elusive addictive factor that can assure sales.

In the meantime, my addictions are piling up! Skyrim... or Modern Warfare 3... or MAG... or trying the Starhawk beta again because I'm pretty sure I'm close to reaching the tipping point there. I need more time... I need... ugh, I need to get a life and quit spending so much time gaming. Meh... I'll get back to real life right after I check out that new town I haven't been to yet in Skyrim... the one I've been heading towards for the last couple of days but keep getting sidetracked!

... just like real life.

(though it should be noted for those fearing I have a gaming addiction, that while I game a lot and can occassionally lose track of time while playing a game, I have no problem turning off the console to spend time with my husband, friends or family. My housework gets done, dinner gets made and I find time to write blogs and read Destructoid. Gaming mostly replaces TV watching or other leisure activities... and being retired, I do have a lot of leisure time!)


(and is it a bad thing that when I see this picture I think of the Arkaden mall map in Modern Warfare 3?)

 
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