No Time To Play

To Game or Not to Game

by on May.22, 2011, under Gamedev

Question mark made of puzzle pieces

You know, I’m beginning to think I’m not actually that much into games.

That may sound strange coming from someone who makes games (even as a “mere” hobby). But the more I think of it, the more it seems that I care little about the very things that make games special. I’m not a competitive person; challenge for the sake of challenge disgusts me. I do like to play, to explore and to socialize, but technically you don’t need games for any of that. It’s just that games happen to be excellent enablers for all three, ideally at once.

That probably explains my preferences. But most importantly, it might be able to show me where to go next.

The first game genre that attracted my attention (as opposed to just playing whatever I could get my hands on) was interactive fiction. I liked it for the same reason as static fiction: its ability to bring imaginary worlds to life. Come to think of it, that was also why I got into writing (which didn’t work so well for me) and into programming (which worked quite a bit better). Authoring interactive fiction isn’t nearly as easy as it appears, though, and I have too many hobbies to focus on it properly.

I was a little more successful at roleplaying, first on forums, later in text-based virtual worlds. The latter, incidentally, are a natural extension of text adventures, except any player can add to them; and you can get away with adding a little at a time, receiving feedback and improving as you go. If that sounds familiar, think agile programming. Which just happens to be my preferred methodology. But I digress.

Problem is, stories tend to end (or at least fizzle out), and so do places to explore. At some point, I thought roguelikes might be a solution to both issues. But what they offer is whacking bigger and bigger monsters with bigger and bigger sticks, in bigger and bigger mazes. They do offer a pretty big gaming component, but not enough to keep me interested. Which may seem strange, as I generally enjoy turn-based strategy. But see above. It’s just not my thing.

Another genre I was putting my hopes in is space trading games, which offer largely the same things as roguelikes, plus something to do besides fighting. Not that I mind some first person pew-pew action now and then, but that grows stale fast. Unfortunately so do the trading and exploring components — they’re just too repetitive.

At least I didn’t waste any time trying to make one of these.

Incidentally, there is one game that is working for me right now, and that is Echo Bazaar. Which just happens to have a little in common with a cousin of space trading games, namely Dope Wars — something I didn’t realize when I initially reviewed it. It succeeds at providing almost everything I look for in games, minus the social aspect; but that can be easily corrected, should I decide to follow in their path. The basic recipe is obviously sound.

The only obstacle is, of course, that Echo Bazaar got that way thanks to years of efforts by several very good writers and artists. Can I make something remotely as fun with hobbyst resources? And most importantly, is that what I really want to do?

Time for some experiments, it would seem.

(Illustration: Question mark made of puzzle pieces, by Horia Varlan; CC-BY)

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To Game or Not to Game by Felix Pleșoianu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Cheetah

    I feel sort of the same way. I won’t play MMO’s anymore or games that are just too much of an uphill fight simply because I’m too old and that’s not fun anymore. And if I really look back, it wasn’t fun in the past either, it’s just I didn’t know better. 🙂

    I’ve found in my own gaming experience that the happiest thing is to have a long queue of available games. Spiderweb Software (http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com) just came out with Avadon: The Black Fortress which I’m playing now … and on top of that, I’ve got The Witcher 2 and some fun-looking side-scroller RPG that I can’t remember the name of waiting for me.

    So … Even if the game I’m on gets boring, I’ve got something to look forward to. Nothing as depressing as running out of fun stuff to play. Usually wind up falling back to Angband 🙂

  • Nightwrath

    I guess it must be the age or the actual times we live in :). So much to do, so little time…

    I also have a few cool games I would like to play, and yet… not enough time to spare.

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