Ask Me: Episode Two (What Drives A Gamer To Be A Gamer?)

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I quite enjoyed the first episode of Ask Me, so I am actively working at making it a regular feature.

As many gamers out there can relate to, most of the people I know don’t play games. I’ve often wondered what the perception is of a gamer to those that don’t play. With the advent of mobile gaming, more and more people are some type of gamer, whether they find that to be true or not.

So I got to wondering, what do non-gamers wonder about gamers? What do they wonder about video games?

So I asked.

And here is what my friend J.P. wanted to know:

For a short period of time my folks split up and I became obsessed with Final Fantasy 7. I loved playing that to escape my reality. As I got older I lost my passion. My questions are:

1. What are some of the reasons gamers become avid?

2. I know nowadays I get frustrated when I get past a certain level. When you’ve been playing games a long time does the frustration subside and it become more of a challenge?

3. What are some of the best games for beginners who want to dive into gaming?

As before, I’d like to address these in turn below.

Keep in mind, I’m only answering for myself, and no one else. As such, these responses should be taken with a grain of salt.

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What are some of the reasons gamers become avid?

I expect there could be an infinite number of answers to this question. I would assume (always dangerous!) it has to do with the freedom and unique style of interaction video games provide. Most games with leveling systems (where you can upgrade skills and such) provide ways for you to feel you have accomplished something, when those moments in life are fewer and further between.

That can be a wonderful feeling.

With Xbox and PlayStation, there are, respectively, Achievements and Trophies which are given for achieving certain things in the games played on those systems. Within the gaming community, there are people who are self-proclaimed Trophy and Achievement hunters, and some people who don’t care about them at all.

Whether you care about them or not, they show you have made progress in something, another thing that can be difficult to “show” in reality.

For me, the reason I became an avid gamer had to do with the revelation I felt when playing Super Mario Brothers 2 for the first time. The idea that this entire world lived inside the television, inside a cartridge, really, was fascinating to me. It still is! Someone dreamed up this world, programmed it into this chip, and I got to participate with it in my living room. That’s amazing.

To make a long story short (too late!), I think the answer comes down to a moment when everything clicks and your brain says, “Holy good gravy this is an experience!”

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I know nowadays I get frustrated when I get past a certain level. When you’ve been playing games a long time does the frustration subside and it become more of a challenge?

Now I’m not sure I quite understand this question, but I’ll give it a shot.

If you mean when you are playing a game and have fully leveled your character (if it’s that kind of a game), does the challenge go away, then in some games, yes. But in others, there is something called “New Game Plus” that allows you to start over with (usually) all your skills and experience intact, but the baddies become more challenging, and the items you find more rewarding.

One of my favorite game series of all time is the Borderlands series. After you complete the game the first time, you unlock something that they refer to as True Vault Hunter Mode. The enemies become far more difficult, the loot that gets better (in theory, but that’s a super long story), and the whole thing becomes more about technique than just pure luck.

So, basically, SKILLS!

But yes, certain games that have no end game content are probably not going to hold your interest in the long term. But more and more games offer New Game Plus, and that can extend the life of a game…indefinitely.

How about that for a cost-effective outing? Most retail games for consoles are priced at $60. If you think about playing a 20-hour game, that means your cost is around $3 and hour. Where else can you get value and a satisfying experience for $3 an hour? I daresay, nowhere.

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What are some of the best games for beginners who want to dive into gaming?

What an exciting question! And I mean that sincerely!

My first suggestion is a game with a simple control scheme and a breathtaking atmosphere. I think it comes as close as possible to the “games as art” example. The game is called Journey.

Journey is many things to many people, but it is nearly universally said to be one of the best games of all time. The control scheme is quite simple, thus allowing more people to experience it without frustration. It is glorious and moving. Without using a trace of hyperbole, it is a masterpiece.

(Okay, as a side note, I just watched that trailer and I am already in tears. Everything comes together to create one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve been privy to.)

My other suggestions would be tailored to what kinds of experiences that particular person is drawn to in films, books, television, etc. If that didn’t yield any hints, I would likely just ask them if there was ever a game they had even the slightest interest in, and I’d suggest starting there. As with anything else, if you are already interested in a subject, you are a lot more likely to enjoy exploring it.

If I had to go back to the drawing board again, I’d probably suggest some old standbys, like Tetris, Dr. Mario, or Bubble Bobble.

No one can resist the theme song to Bubble Bobble. And no one can get sad or upset or frustrated when they are playing as an adorable dinosaur who traps their enemies in bubbles and also likes sweets.

No one.

(So I just looked up the theme to put in this post, and I started listening to it. I’m already giggling and smiling like an idiot.)

(P.S. I see that someone out there has a ten hour loop of this song. I love the theme, but that’s ten hours. Ten hours is a lot of hours.)

No matter the person, or their interests, I feel confident that given enough time picking their brain, I could tailor a recommendation to them that would hopefully suit their interests. I would also be more than willing to help them in any way I could in learning how to play. I think everyone, in their first 3D game, probably spent some amount of time staring at the ceiling unintentionally.

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With that, I thank J.P. for his time and his efforts in posing these questions. I genuinely love to find out what people think about things in general, and games in particular.

Cheers to more questions and the discussions they bring!

Categories: games

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8 replies »

  1. For me, being nan avid gamer means enjoying something. But, it also means leveling up your character. It also means running through games various times. It dependson the genre.

    The second question is the best game for gamers to start with. Imho, I think that the Mass Effect series is a great way to start. They walk you through the game in the beginning to get a “feel” for things. As the game progresses, it leaves you to your own devices so to speak.

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    • Absolutely! Games can be so many things in so many ways to so many people. I love that.

      I also love that you suggested Mass Effect, as I (and this was only a couple of years ago) found Mass Effect to be difficult to get into. I got to some sort of hostile plant and I put the game aside. I’ve always wanted to play the trilogy because it’s loved by so many, I just haven’t sealed the deal. I think you just lit the fire underneath me on that one! Thank you! :)

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  2. Those are some good questions, and tricky to answer I’m sure!

    As far as becoming an avid gamer I think it depends on how much you like games in general (card, board, etc.). At their most basic a game is just an interactive experience, each with their own rules and goals, with the outcome dependent on the player/s. I love games, video or otherwise, it just so happens that outside of video games you usually need a group of available people to play with. The world of video games offers a wealth of interactive experiences that require only one person, and my life is made up of a lot more time spent alone than with others, so video games are a natural fit for my situation. While books and movies can captivate and entertain, video games require participation and I love that I can feel like I’m part of the story.

    I think the main difference between a game feeling frustrating or challenging is whether or not that game is for me. If a game speaks heavily to my interests, even the worst difficulties can be fun (challenging, I’m looking at you Demon’s Souls). If a game is just not reeling me in through gameplay or presentation, the difficulties are definitely more on the frustration side (ahem, Brütal Legend…)

    Suggestions for new gamers? You’ve absolutely hit on something with finding a genre interest first. A person that likes horror books/movies would be more drawn to a horror game, naturally. The biggest hurdle today would likely be the controller, at least in today’s gaming landscape. There are so many buttons! Growing up through each generation provides for a natural comfort with each control innovation, but for someone new it can be overwhelming. I like the idea of Journey based on all I’ve heard of the game (I’ve never played it myself), it’s low pressure, beautiful, and delivers a moving, thought provoking story while remaining simple. For a somewhat similar reasons I would recommend Heavy Rain. I don’t remember the controls being overly complicated, and there is no fail state. Regardless of skill, the player is treated to a complete story from beginning to end, and end which can inspire an attitude of, “how does it play out if I try again, being more familiar with the controls?”.

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    • I saw the words “card” and “board” and immediately thought about Metal Gear and The Phantom Pain. :)

      I am right there with you on so much of this, but especially on the distinction between a frustrating experience and a challenge. It makes me think about when I started Bloodborne on the day the Witcher was coming out, and how entirely frustrated I was. I want to get into Bloodborne so bad, but I was terrible at it. Granted, I’ve never played a Souls game, but still. Terrible.

      I also agree about the controller being a hurdle for people. I feel that way about PC gaming and the keyboard! So even though I love and play games often, I am not invincible from those feelings.

      Journey is incredible. If you have a chance, I highly encourage you to play it. I mean, I couldn’t encourage you any more to play it, but I will try: play it! :)

      Oh my gosh, Heavy Rain actually had a weird control scheme (compared to most games, anyway), but wow. That game was pretty amazing.

      As for your last statement, that makes me think about Until Dawn. I can’t wait to play it. And play it again. And play it again. There are so many possible outcomes and the story is intriguing. It doesn’t hurt that I love horror movies so much, either.

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