Thursday, June 7, 2012

Are videogames objects to analyze or experiences to have?

In any art there's a disconnect between "fun" and "analytic" mode. Recently I've been practicing to substitute for our church organist. Music at worship services is usually a spiritual experience for participants. My practicing, which is highly focused on finding where my fingers and feet should go so I can slip seamlessly between notes, has little room for spiritual thoughts. But I don't think all music performance has to be so detail-focused; if I were more proficient at the organ I might find it pleasant and uplifting.

On the other hand, all the self-criticism that enables my practice to actually improve my practice makes me a harsh critic when it comes to enjoying others' performances.

The same problem can apply to videogames. When a game is really difficult at first, it's not all that fun for me. But as I continue playing, I develop some mastery and the game becomes more fun, simply because I've learned a skill.

As I learn more about how games work, I get more critical about small details. In Warp, the rebound from releasing the analog stick sometimes causes the cursor to go in the opposite direction, causing my instadeath a few times. A rhythm game I recently played had no penalty for "wrong" key presses, making it really easy to get a high score through button mashing. Dragon Age has no option to skip combat and dialogue one has already seen after you've beaten the game (okay, I admit that one is a personal preference). If I'm too critical of a game, I'm enjoying it in a different way--as an object to dissect. Sometimes though, I just need to stop looking at games as objects and start looking at them as experiences.