A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Discussion – Games that feel like work


In all the time I’ve been playing games I’ve come across a few that feel more like work than play. It’s a dawning realization, the moment you recognize that you’re doing something that feels way more laborious than is fun. We each have our own thresholds here, so your mileage may vary.

One such game for me is Disgaea and all Disgaea-style games by Nippon Ichi/Atlus/whatever. The game is sound, the mechanics are good, the story is fun and interesting, but it’s not enough to keep me playing against the feeling that I’m spending a lot of time grinding. Maybe it’s just me being a silly completionist, but I like the concept behind leveling items… unfortunately it’s a ton of work… too much work for me.

I suppose I feel like I should take advantage of such a thing and that’s why I’ve stalled out in playing the game. I’m not entirely sure. After a fashion though, some games just stop being fun.

A classic example of this from my own experience: I used to play Ragnarok Online (on one of the many free servers out there). RO is a massive experience grinding game with little to no quests available, further, loot drops and experience gain in the pay-to-play game is extremely low (let’s just say that the reason I played on a free server aside from the free-ness is that the experience gains were typically 10x the original and the loot dropping was typically 5x higher). It was through RO that I realized I have a lack of patience for long experience grinds. That’s not really the point of this example… there’s an item called the Fin Helm. It’s a lower face item slot that adds to your defense and typically only Knights and Crusaders can wear it (Swordsmen too I think, but don’t quote me on that). So, I set out to find one for myself (because there was no way I could afford the 10 million zeny it would have cost me to buy it off another player). Well, there’s only ONE monster that drops this Fin Helm. That monster spawns reliably in ONE location. I spent an entire month (I think it was June several years ago) doing pretty much nothing but killing this one creature in this one location. I maxed out my level in Crusader while there and nearly maxed out my base level. I never found the item. The BASE drop chance of the Fin Helm is .01%. On a 5x drop server that value increases to .05%. In a MONTH of hunting I NEVER found it. I was therefore forbidden (by friends) from searching for things that were so rare and since then my stress levels during games have been rather manageable.

Taking this lesson to heart, I stopped my search for the Jedi Holocrons that grant the Jedi Waistpack in Star Wars Galaxies and even changed my profession from Jedi to Commando. I don’t bother hunting for exceptionally rare loot (and sometimes even just rare loot) that drops from monsters in games any more. I don’t really see the point in stressing myself out over a random chance drop and I’d rather do other more productive things in the game. Essentially, if I can’t find it easily enough, I’ll move on with only slight regrets that eventually go away.

More or less, I’m not concerned with getting rich or having the best equipment or the highest level any more. I just want to play the game, to experience the story and the mechanics and to come away with satisfaction. If a game feels like work, I’m robbed of that satisfaction and I’m left just feeling tired. I suppose this is why I take a break from Final Fantasy games after playing them regularly for a while. The game isn’t going anywhere and I can always pick it up later.

One more supposition and I’ll end this: I suppose I’m just not a fan of needless effort. Don’t get me wrong, if I can get to the highest level and rack up the most cash and get my hands on the best gear for my characters, I will, but if I have to go millions of miles out of my way to do so and if I get frustrated and flustered while doing so, is that worth it? Isn’t the point of a game to have fun? To have a good time and enjoy myself? So, that’s what I do now. If I seem to always take the easy way out in games, well, that’s because I believe the stress just isn’t worth it. It’s part of knowing myself and looking deeper into why certain things make me happy or unhappy. No sense in stressing myself out over just a game, right?

Until next time, keep cool.

– Elorfin

P.S. “We shall never be at peace with ourselves until we yield with glad supremacy to our higher faculties.” – Joseph Cook

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2 responses

  1. Wilowah

    I can totally relate to the holocron thing. Honestly, I gave away the rarest one I found. I didn’t feel like I was going to stay a Jedi or on SWG for a long enough period to appreciate it. In fact, I found out that entertainers were just as viable in PvP as other classes, if not better. It was hilarious.

    The only ‘needless effort’ minimum I will strive for is exploring the maps completely. Even then, after a while, I get bored. It’s one of the reasons why I eventually stop playing the giant sandboxes like Morrowind and Oblivion. I gave up on it in Morrowind because for some reason, my black fog on the map came back over an area I had previously explored.

    February 21, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    • I love clearing maps. It’s almost cathartic! I tend to stay away from the sandbox games (GTA especially) mostly for the same reasons (although MMOs are leaning towards limited sandboxes these days).

      February 21, 2011 at 4:42 PM

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