Saturday, September 7, 2013

IRL vs gaming vs challenge vs fun

Typing about my imaginary Gardening game got me thinking about other In Real Life (IRL) activities that may be simulated in games.  There are some obvious ones:  Racing, for example.  I hear that Grand Tourismo series, and its competitors, are all about the ultra-realism in terms of physics.  I hear that Mario Kart is all about ultra realism in terms of fun.  I think they both succeed in their own ways.

But In Real Life, things are always way different from games.  For example:  In games, the risk-reward system is... well, skewed.  When you wreck your car, even in the most realistic of all racers - you don't die.  You don't break your pinky finger.  You're not even scarred for life!  Hell, for that matter, you probably get a continue or something.  This is an extreme example.

It's not just video games. In baseball, for another hyperbolic example, you aren't ritually executed when you are thrown out at first.  This is good, because being thrown out at first happens a LOT.  Hundreds of times every day during the regular season.  But playing baseball is WAY harder than playing video games.  Then again, it pays better, I think.  

But I guess I mostly want to talk about challenge.  There's a pretty fun article about challenging games over at Gamasutra.  I've been enjoying it.  It's got a lot of tasty retro stuff that I love.  It's a long article- thankfully presented in ten tasty bites- I've been reading it over a series of days.  It emphasizes skill building, and expertise at different games. I think I'm more interested in the quality of challenge in games, than the amount of challenge.

Sometimes the challenge is in achieving a perfect balance.  And that balance can be elusive. Following the garden example, proper watering is a real problem when nurturing a plant.  You can fuss with a plant so much that you kill it.  Smothering can be as bad as neglect.  It is this way in other IRL activities, like cooking.  There is also a fine balance struck with cooking.  You can definitely worry a dish into mediocrity, when leaving it alone may have produced something fantastic.  I do this all the time.  Are there any games that demonstrate this sort of delicate balance?

I guess I'm looking for something like this in gaming.  And as I'm typing, I thought of an interesting idea: Achievements .  That is to say, what if a game was released with no achievements whatsoever, and the achievements were submitted by players after they had made them.  Just submit a screencap, and the game moderators will decide if it is a worthy achievement.  Then keep a directory of them.  That could be fun.  Has a game done this yet?  I bet team fortress 2 has.  It seems like the kind of game that would do that.  Anyhow, I'm stumbling into seriously out of touch zone, so I should shut up.

But yeah, it's fairly obvious why many IRL features aren't included in games.  They don't sound fun at all.  Like, for example, the RPG trope of 'life points' and 'potions.'   Got a gaping wound in your belly?  Down a couple potions, you'll be fine.  Life doesn't even closely resemble that.  Most of us don't deal with gaping wounds, just scratches and tiredness.  Food helps, and caffeine, but there are no potions.   There is Nothing that works like that.  

And, like I said, it doesn't sound fun to have to rest your RPG characters because they're tired from walking around all day.  A game where your characters need Exercise, a balanced diet and plenty of rest. BO-ring.  And yet, somehow it sounds interesting to me, to balance the in-game system with more realistic needs.  I often find myself contemplating Player Stat and Item systems for imaginary RPGs that are more realistic, somehow.  I think this means I am a giant nerd


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