Changing Times, Changing Gamer

I’ve had a draft kicking around for a while now aiming to explore how I’ve changed as a gamer over time. But as this post sort of ambled it’s way through my mind I could never quite grasp the full form of it. Originally I thought it might focus on my change over time (in the MMO-world, at least) from being an absolute carebear to PvP evangelist to somewhere in the middle.

That’s something I certainly still want to explore but reading through both Bhagpuss’ ‘All Aboard for Funtime’ and then only a little later Pete’s ‘Playing Just Because It’s Fun’… Well, it occurred to me just how large a subject this actually is.

Complicating this further is that more than once I’ve found that my actual preferences in games had shifted, consciously unbeknownst to me, and became something different to my stated (and at some level, still believed) preferences. The PvP evangelist back to more of a PvE-leaning player was certainly an example of this.

Further, separating what has been an internally driven change in my preferences vs. what has been driven by the market might not be a task I can even do.

The Need for Persistence

Somewhere along the way, though, I started to require something more from games in order to feel satisfied by them. Some reward. Just playing isn’t enough. It might be gaining levels or earning loot. It might be unlocking Achievements.

I don’t like this about myself very much.

Pete (2019), Playing Just Because It’s Fun (Dragonchasers)

The added emphasis is mine — it struck a chord with me. I think because even though I don’t view this need as a bad thing myself, there have been other changes that once I became consciously aware of them I did feel a need to somehow reconcile them with myself.

What I hear in Pete’s article is a desire for permanence. For some degree of persistence and recognition to what has gone before. There could well be more to it, or I may have an entirely different set of gaming motivators from Pete and missed his mark completely.

But it lead me to make the following comment, which I don’t think I can materially rewrite in any better a form, so I’ll copy here with a small amount of tidy up for reference:

I remember being perfectly happy playing completely static and unchanging from round-to-round FPS’ like Quake World: Team Fortress back in the day.

…Right up until I got my first taste of an MMO. Which for me was Asheron’s Call. Many things about AC blew my young mind, but not the least of it was that I could log out and come back later and carry on building from where I was. What a concept!

When this started finding its way into FPS titles like the Battlefield series, a sort of unholy melding of round-to-round play but with persistent ranks and unlocks, I knew I could never go back to a completely static game environment.

I think what this offers us is a sense that what we’ve done matters. At the end of the day, it might still have ‘just been a game’ but there is something a little more tangible than time spent to point at and say, ‘I did that’.

Evolution of Taste and Tolerance

Bhagpuss spoke to the change over time in his desire for a realistic, weather matters, food matters, weight while swimming matters, low-magic RPG where there was narry a hint of rivaling God’s or Dragon’s, to being able to let go and buy into the trappings of the more standard RPG fare where power-spikes of the players lead to such encounters becoming relatively common place.

“I was paying far more attention to whether I was enjoying myself than whether I ought to be. It turns out that being powerful and winning all the time is fun.”

Bhagpuss (2019), All Aboard for Funtime (Inventory Full)

The journey is one I can relate to as I have been through the same, albeit over a relatively shorter period of time.

My tolerance for demanding games has dwindled to near zero. But I suppose I should clarify ‘demanding’ in this context. Because I’m still all for challenge in games. I’m good with beating my head against a raid boss for several hours a night with friends, and in a similar vein I’m perfectly happy to play through titles like Dark Souls that have the potential at least, to be rather punishing of poor play.

But I simply will not sit through another game that demands that I eat and drink every 60 seconds. And looping back to my straying away from PvP evangelism? There was a time when I was all for the full-loot, winner takes all style of Asheron’s Call: Darktide. I loved the concepts of base-building (and loss) of Shadowbane and Darkfall. Territory control in EVE was an amazing draw.

Now I can be easily frustrated if a player in PvP manages to dislodge me from a quest or hunting spot, even if there is no other real consequence.

This was one of the changes in myself that I had trouble with. I couldn’t with any certainty finger-point at a specific time, place or reason for this change in myself and what I wanted out of a game.

It might’ve been the disappointing executions of both Shadowbane and Darkfall. It might have been the then result of being more open to trying WoW and its relatively light implementation of world-PvP.

I don’t know, but I do know that when I realised it, that I couldn’t really tolerate my own previously-preferred style of play any more, that I felt quite like a fraud. There I had been espousing the virtues of such PvP implementations. The player-stories they offered, the increased power and meaning of social interactions through the steadfast allies and deadly nemesis’ you’d come to find… And I’d lost the will to engage with it?

I think in some ways I might even still be looking for the answer to what happened there. There is some part of me that would like to be back in that world — but it just isn’t me any more.