Welcome one and all to a very Athena Veta season of good will! Athena’s a friend of the show, as it were, and general all-around cool person; she also happens to be extremely smart, so check out her blog at the AmbiGaming Corner for deep and well-considered thoughts on what we can learn from gaming as well as a whole bunch of other always-interesting stuff.
For the holiday season this year, Athena’s coordinated an event based on that classic Marmite of tunes (you love it or you hate it): The Twelve Days of Christmas. Each day from December 26th to January 6th, we’ll look at a gamified version of one of the song’s lines until eventually we have 364 gamey gifts!
On the third day of Blogmas, the gamers said to me: What are ten reasons you would play a game?
Ooooh, that’s an interesting one.
I’ve certainly played games because [10. a friend recommended them to me]. I trust the tastes of some people more than others, of course, but if someone’s genuinely excited about the idea of sharing this thing they love with me then I’ll usually at least take a look! Along similar lines, I’ll also usually want to play a game if I’ve seen or read something that makes me think it’s worth playing, but I suppose the question is: well, what would make me think it was worth playing?
I’ve certainly played games because they have [9. a unique gameplay element or mechanic], or indeed [8. an art style or soundtrack] that looks like I would want to experience it. Sometimes this works out for me because I love the game; other times I will indeed enjoy this particular element that drew me to the game but won’t really like the rest of it all that well. But that’s OK. We can’t all love all the stuff all the time.
What I do like pretty much every time is when a game tells [7. a story that couldn’t be told in any other way]. Some of my favourite games, and certainly some of the games that I think are the best (and yes, I recognise that while there’s probably some overlap those two lists are not necessarily the same thing) are the ones that do this particularly well.
Thinking about games I’ve played recently, of course I’m quite likely to want to play a game if it’s part of [6. a franchise I already know I enjoy] or if there are names attached to it that I recognise (I’ll give anything by Suda51 at least a fair go, as an example).
I’ll also sometimes pick up a game just because [5. it’s cheap and looks like a fun enough way to spend a couple of hours]. I think it’s perfectly valid to get a game just so that you can relax for a while and have fun for a bit! Or perhaps you don’t want to have fun as such, perhaps you want to play a game that [4. lets you experience catharsis] via an emotional story or overcoming a difficult problem in-game in order to help with feelings about problems in the real world. That’s why I enjoyed Dark Souls and why I’m currently doing a Level 1 run of Kingdom Hearts II! For more meaningful thoughts on this, though, I recommend a recent article on The Well-Red Mage by the Blood-Stained Metal Mage (aka Lunatic Pandora) on her experiences with gaming during problems with her health and her life. She explains it better than I could.
Then there are games which aren’t even particularly enjoyable as such but which are [3. interesting or thought-provoking artistic experiences]. I can’t think of any good examples off the top of my head but I’m sure there have been a couple of games I’ve played which were not actually all that exciting as gaming experiences but which used the medium to make some sort of point, and that was worth it too. On the other end of the spectrum there are games which don’t make any point whatsoever but which are just [2. great for playing with someone else], simply having a fun time with friends or family and who cares whether it’s art or not.
Finally, I don’t always play new games. (And some of the new games I play are because I’ve got them to review, which isn’t the best reason to play a game all the time – don’t get me wrong, I love it, but if I didn’t play games just for me and only played because I had to review them I’d start enjoying gaming as a hobby way less.) Sometimes I just want to play [1. a game that I already know I enjoy], so I’m not experiencing anything new, just diving back into an experience that will make me feel good for a while. Maybe it’ll help me relax, escape some real-world problems, maybe I’ll just sit back and listen to the music, or maybe I’ll just have a great time experiencing the cycle of frustration and satisfaction that comes with overcoming challenges!
So those are ten reasons that I would play a game, and indeed I suppose they’re reasons why I like gaming as a hobby in general!
Of course, I’m writing this in advance, so I don’t know who else is taking part or what they’ll have written, but I bet there are a bunch of other awesome people writing incredibly cool things on this very topic today, so check out the AmbiGaming Corner and probably Twitter for some links! See you tomorrow for the next day of Blogmas…