10.23.12

Go on a gaming diet: only play games that respect your time

The Internet contains too much information for any individual to read it all. One approach to this problem is to go on a "raw" information diet of reading actual bills in Congress and original scientific papers. It's... an interesting idea rooted in the local slow food movement, and strikes me as kind of idealistic and distrusting of journalists. 

Now, what if you were to put yourself on an information diet, but for games?

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What would that even mean? Ben Milton at the Ontological Geek defines his resolution to play games that enrich rather than waste his time:

I’ve decided to game more locally. That is to say, play games that help to anchor me more to the place I’m in and the people I’m with. Many multiplayer games can be paradoxically isolating, so ideally the goal would be to play more games in the same room as the people I’m playing against. LAN parties, console co-op games, whatever it takes, make multiplayer personal. The frenetic multiplayer of online Team Fortress is a vastly different experience from that of playing it in a room with friends, the main difference being that in the latter case I don’t feel as if I’ve wasted my time. I’ve built real friendships. Physical board and card games, of course, are ideal for this.

Next, I’m attempting to resist games that drive me into repetitive loops of behavior. Shooters come to mind first, unless they are particularly creative, but also many flash-based or Facebook games. After a few hours, I begin to realize that I’ve spent the entire time performing a loop of the same action or series of actions. The game has barely changed, and in fact the longer I play, the slower it changes. MMOs are notorious for this. Instead, I’m trying to play games that really evolve as they are played, that expand and increase in richness.

In the place of these games, Milton privileges ones that offer a new way to experience player-game interactions; for him, these are games with stories that change based on user interactions. Games that, unlike Progress Quest, aren't just a series of tasks and progress bars.

Sometimes though, videogames are meant to fill the cracks of empty time. While one person may see leveling up in Guild Wars 2 as a waste, another may see it as a relief from the ambiguity of real-life interactions. But the game experiences that stick with us aren't the time-wasters.