I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to some games. I’ll go through and do everything that the game has to offer because I feel I might as well get my money’s worth. Recently, this habit of mine has been geared towards Assassin’s Creed. As I got around halfway through the game I realized that the gameplay is incredibly repetitive. Let me say that again for emphasis, it is AWFULLY repetitive. I would not have expected such an oversight from a high production game, especially from an experienced studio. Even if you weren’t completing every objective like I am you’d soon realize that every mission carries the same set of objectives. You save citizens, interrogate, eavesdrop and assassinate in each city. Rinse and repeat about eight times. The approach for each goal is almost always the same too; as a player, you end up doing the same tasks over and over again. Inexcusable.
With this said, why am I still enjoying this experience so much? The fundamental aspect of the game, the gameplay, is broken. So if this “game” is broken why do I continue to play and be enthralled? The art style is amazing, the music is rich, the story is interesting… If it’s these things I’m enjoying than is this more of an immersive interactive experience than a game for me? I would say that Assassin’s Creed is commendable for trying new things as a game, but it fails as one for ignoring the fundamental needs of a player. However, I would still highly recommend it since it succeeds in every other criteria. To recommend a “bad game” is paradoxical isn’t it?
This curious contradiction of mine raises the question of what are we looking for as players? This may sound like a no-brainer, but it seems that gamers will always go for the games that have gameplay as their strongest point. I feel that this is problematic because in order for games to grow we need to try new things and explore new areas. This issue compounds upon itself because no matter how brilliant or daring a game may be, if the risk of monetary loss is too great for a company it will not be made (which is why sequels are so popular as well since they are financially “safe”). Why do we have so many action (F.P.S.) oriented games? Because the core concept of the action genre is gameplay and all other factors are negligible. I'm going to assume most people play Halo 3 for the gameplay, not the story. Games like Psychonauts that offer humor over gameplay get ignored since not enough of us are looking at games beyond gameplay.
I am not condemning our need of gameplay as gamers, I am condemning our lack of interest in what these things we call “games” can possibly be. Is a game called a game because of gameplay? I suppose the real definition of what we like and do is a digital interactive medium and we just happen to like the gameplay area a lot. Essentially there is near infinite amount of possibility with what we can incorporate into a digital interactive medium. I would argue that video games are so far the largest form of meta art that we’ve created since we can create both passive and active experiences. We need to look beyond our own interests and try new things. Who knows, we may discover something more potent and addictive. We can all agree to that no?