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MrDandyMan avatar 10:57 PM on 03.14.2012
Is it Even a Game Anymore?

P.S. (this is a pre-script.) I wrote this entire blog before playing the game Shoot Many Robots and now I feel guilty having judged it before playing it. So tomorrow I will buy it and make a commitment to play it for at least 3 hours before making any more judgements.

Here I am looking at the Destructoid homepage and see a review for a game called Shoot Many Robots. I clicked the article thinking that the name must be ironic or that they maybe they meant “Shoot Many Robots!“ and the game was a sci-fi politics simulator in which the humanoid party candidate chose the aforementioned game title as his campaign slogan. Oh soggy, forgotten fuck-bags was I disappointed.

I can’t decide whether the gamemakers are obsessively efficient or if if they think so little of their audience that they need to sum up the the world, gameplay, even the instruction manual all in the title (actually, to be complete they should add the subtitle :Loot, Repeat). I find this lack of depth, lack of mystery, lack of...(fine, I’ll say it) catharsis dismaying. I can’t understand what enjoyment somebody could possibly get out of this game--

Oh. Nono. I know what it is, but I know it’s a trap. A loot trap. I know because I once I fell into the finest crafted loot trap there ever was ( be honest, I fell in a few times).

I can feel my bone density deteriorating just looking at it.

There’s this obsession that comes along with attaining the highest level, biggest numbers or highest percentages, but to what end? Does the person who plays the game to 100% completion get anything more than the person who gets 98%? There’s a platinum trophy, or whatever equivalent, to show for it true, but at some point (hardcore Diablo players should get this) the law of diminishing returns will raise its ugly head and point out that, in order get those last few percents, I would have to devote another XX hours of grinding my life away.

We’ve all been to that Stockholm Syndrome-like point in a game where we imagine some great reward will happen when we finally rank up, ding, or platinum trophy, but the biggest reward there is to be had is to finally be rid of these shackles we’ve locked ourselves into all this time. The zombification that occurs at this point adds to the horror show; muscle memory takes over the and highway hypnosis begins. A phone rings or a front door shuts and I snap back to lucidity to find out that hours have passed without thought. “My fingers are cold, When did I last eat? What day is it?” are all thoughts I frequently have after a binge such as the one described above and all of which are also thoughts somebody might have after being locked in the basement by an abusive spouse. I don’t have to "stay together for the kids", there aren’t any dependents (unless maybe there’s a guild involved D: ), I should try looking out that window once in a while so my body can produce some of its own vitamin D.

I failed my classes for this?

This game adds in the option to pay IRL money for more powerful loot, which can divide the player base into players and payers, and if you take away the loot collecting, what goals are left in the game? There certainly isn’t a compelling story in which I can vest my interest. And there is always a tension between players who “earned it” (and know how to use it from their dozens of hours experience) and players who bought their way in (and try to run the hurdles before learning to walk). There is a very delicate balance with micro-transaction games that I feel is rarely achieved (and when it is, it usually nerfs all the old equipment and builds, ACK!). This is a problem that pre-dates micro-transaction video games, and one I’m very familiar with.

“Okay you won with your broken-ass cards. Again. BTW, we’re not playing next week. Oh it’s his turn to bring snacks? *sigh*....okay fine we are playing next week.”

LoLz, His expressions says it all.

Most importantly, I have to remember that these are games that are meant to be played, and play is supposed to be fun. All too often I feel like the chicken playing tic tac toe for some tiny amount of sustenance I have convinced myself is important (okay the basketball on the second half of that vid is legitimately cool). I imagine that this Shoot Many Robots game is often times fun, especially when you have a good crew of friends to enjoy it with, but if the quality of the experience is determined solely by the company and not enhanced by the activity, maybe we should reconsider the activity. Every now and again I need to do a self-check to make sure I’m actually having fun playing these games. Did I laugh, smile, “Oh yeah!” or high five? That's a real way to measure quality of fun. High Fives. Where there are high fives, there are good times.

Of course, Penny Arcade already covered it.

P.S. (post script, this time) This was written mostly because of the great feeling of guilt I had after binging on Skyrim. Guilt-fueled snark. Take it.

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