Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Games You Can Think About

I really miss playing games that I can think about and invest time in. Sure, being immersed and entertained is a great thing, but somehow games these days don’t capture me like they used to. I remember coming up with new strategies for Colonization on the beach, spending large amounts of time reading through Magic the Gathering card lists and tournament results, and agonizing over builds for my Ragnarok Online characters. These days, I mostly just fire up a game and play.

There are two things this can be easily put down to – nostalgia and my own aging. Facts speak against nostalgia, as it is a fact that I spent much more time on games outside those games than I do now. That can’t only be put down to the fact that I have less free time either. I’m not even tempted to think much about optimal strategies for games in my free time anymore. That leaves aging and I suppose that is at least part of the problem. Maybe I have actually grown up a bit and am now able to see the utter futility of spending so much time on results in a game that will soon be forgotten.

Somehow I think that isn’t it either though. I can still be pretty entranced by unimportant problems and it was not all that long ago that I spent a sleepless night trying to figure out the exact mathematical worth of Je’Tze’s Bell for my shaman in World of Warcraft. Those events are rare though and haven’t really happened at all since then.

I can only assume then, that games these days don’t require or allow for much thinking outside the game itself. Most options are rather straightforward and most games simply don’t include functionality that allows me to get ahead of the curve through clever action.  Coming up with a clever deck in Magic the Gathering allowed me to perform well in tournaments and win prizes. New character builds in Diablo 2 were planned to make me rich quick by optimizing certain boss kill runs. Contrary to that, optimizing your gear and spec in World of Warcraft might allow for a slight advantage, but the visible gains are almost non-existent.

I will be posting short, nostalgia-loaded posts on old games that captured me this way in the next couple of weeks with the goal of maybe, just maybe identifying what the formula for success is in this regard and why we don’t get it anymore these days.

What about you though? Am I the only one that this is happening to? Am I simply deluding myself into thinking that things are different today and it is me who has changed instead? Is it just nostalgia after all?

  • Part of it is the proliferation of guides. Someone else does the thinking for you. In a multi-player game, people may even insist that you not think at all, and instead use the guides.

    Occasionally I fire up STALKER and experiment with different weapons and upgrades to them, seeing what I can find that is new and interesting. Eventually I end up with my usual thing: highly-accurate assault weapons are the way to go, but I like the process of tinkering with bullet spam or pistols or whatever else.

  • I have a similar ache, having grown up with Civ, MOO, MOM, X-Com, MTG and other assorted slow, brainy games. These days I scratch that itch by designing games. I’m working on two big games, if for no other reason than to keep my brain working… though I’d love it if they got made and made money someday. One I wrote about in my Zomblobs! article, an amalgam of Ataxx, X-Com, FFT and Civ. The other is a tabletop game mostly akin to Warmachine, though I’ve studied Warhammer as well. I find that sorting out game design implications and asking myself “how can this be done differently/better” is a good exercise.
    Tesh´s last blog post ..Star Trekkin’

  • I suppose guides are part of it, but there were those for D2 and Ragnarok as well, not to mention the huge amount of written articles on MtG or the fat guidebook I had for MoM.

    Tesh, nice to see I’m not alone 😉 Game Design is something I’ve been doing for entertainment since I’m 8 years old or so but I don’t seem to have the stamina to keep with one project for long enough to get anything out of it. The lack of results is quite demoralizing.
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Games You Can Think About

  • Yeah, on those days when I really want to push to get them done and release them into the wild, it’s a wee bit onerous to realize that I’ll probably never coerce a programmer into making them happen. On the days when I’m just trying to exercise my brain, though, I’m happy.
    Tesh´s last blog post ..Star Trekkin’