Fun v. Experience

Justin McElroy on the Dying Light episode of Polygon’s Quality Control podcast, edited for clarity:

I think in our profession, our desire is to have an experience and then be able to move on to the next one. There is a pressure on us to be comprehensive in our knowledge and awareness of the medium. So, for a game that can reveal everything it has to say in three or four hours, there’s a real attraction because we can have the entire experience and move on to the next thing.

I think that people who are playing games for fun maybe don’t have the same sort of voracious compulsion to get to the end, which I would separate from rushing through a game. I think it’s more of a desire to have had the full experience and then be able to move on to the next thing.

This describes exactly the reason I play video games now. Unlike McElroy, I am not expected to have comprehensive knowledge and awareness of the medium, but for the sake of my blog and personal interests, I try to. I certainly love writing about video games and the industry at large, but actually playing video games has become more about connecting with the zeitgeist rather than enjoying and immersing myself in the experience.

In my gaming heyday, I could pour countless hours into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Starcraft, and Heroes of Might & Magic III simply for pleasure and to perfect my strategies. I played Star Fox 64 over and over just for fun. I spent an obscene amount of time playing Final Fantasy X just to be swept away. Today, there are plenty of video games I enjoy (see my reviews of Monument Valley and Rocksmith 2014), but it has been a long while since one has repeatedly beckoned to me to spend hours playing for fun. Instead, I find myself dipping into a game for a few hours to understand it on a mechanical, design, and experience level just to be part of the conversation. Hell, I spent $60 on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U only to tap out after 2 hours. (Queue Nani McElroy.)

Tagged , , ,