Last week I discussed gaming inside of my comfort zone and now, well, let’s step outside for a bit.
I started with single-player games and therefore, by definition I suppose, multi-player games are somewhat outside of my comfort zone. That said, the local multi-player games, such as arcade cabinets or LANs or shared/split-screen situations, are some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Much like dining, local gaming is very much a social occasion that I enjoy thoroughly. Inspired by this (and voice chat), in recent months I’ve endeavored to talk more to people I don’t know in online games. It paid off most recently while playing Lord of the Rings Online last week. I’ve discovered that it’s always nice to have someone to talk to while wandering the dark paths of Mirkwood or even the well-lit, but wolf-infested trails of Enedwaith.
Outside of socialization, there are some types of games that just always fall outside of my comfort zone. Some I eventually do play, like hidden object games that I used to feel were such a waste of time, but now see the virtue in a decent hidden object game (hint: it has a story that’s fun and appeals to me). In this case, I can recommend The Clockwork Man and its sequel The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World. Both are on Steam and are short diversions with some replay value if you like that sort of thing (which I apparently do).
Some games start in my comfort zone and then just fall out of it, waiting for me to come to some decision. For example, I used to play a lot of real-time strategy games. They were all the rage for a few years and the market has shifted to more action-y, MMO-style games. As a result, I played StarCraft, WarCraft 2 and 3, Star Wars: Empire at War, Age of Empires, Empire Earth and so on. The latest RTS I can think of is StarCraft 2 and I have zero desire to play it. I’m not entirely sure of the reason since I truly love the story and the setting, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m quite literally not comfortable playing RTS games any more.
Occasionally a game pops into my comfort zone without dragging any others along for the ride (like RTS games did). These days there are some very popular games classified as MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena). Spawning from edited maps for older RTS games, today they’re marked by the extremely well-known League of Legends (a game I have zero interest in aside from the impact it has on the gaming community and marketplace as a powerhouse of popularity) and similar games (Dota 2 springs to mind and, before you ask, I also have zero interest). These games never appealed to me to begin with mainly because I’m not extremely fond of player versus player combat. I’ve always had anxiety issues with such confrontations (even in local gaming situations for example, Street Fighter) and in the MMO setting I’m not fond of how I was treated in past head-to-head situations by some people in Star Wars Galaxies. So you can imagine my surprise when I started playing Awesomenauts. It’s a 2D MOBA done with bright colors, humorous dialogue, unique characters, a plethora of potential strategies, and a practice mode so I don’t have to go head-to-head (or team-to-team). The thing that attracted me to it was even more surprising: the fact that it’s designed in the vein of a Saturday morning cartoon. The theme song slays me every time. That said, I maintain my zero interest in other MOBAs.
That player versus player thing is always something I’m uncomfortable with. Duels in games, even to just test our mutual capabilities (like the exercises I would run with my friends in Star Trek Online), they stress me out and make me extremely anxious. Clammy, shaky hands accompany every PvP situation I take part in.
Another situation I’m not extremely fond of making myself do (but will if compelled/convinced) is raid gaming. You know, find 12 or so people and pray you’re all able to go do this big boss fight thingy. Yeah, in my experience, it’s an exercise in futility and I’d rather spend my time doing easier things and enjoying the ride than throwing myself up against a wall. That also stresses me out a bit, but not as badly as PvP. Also, if I’m comfortable with the people that are going on the ride, this is much more fun for me. Small events like the small fellowship missions in LOTRO or the flashpoints in Star Wars: The Old Republic (not the crazy ones) are built for me and my close friends to hurdle, and those are often pleasant experiences. I still don’t seek them out very often.
It’s worth pointing out that if a game starts feeling tedious or like work, it immediately falls out of favor, but not necessarily my comfort zone. For example, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an amazing game and the thing that pulled me in was the cyberpunk style setting with the potential for playing without killing anyone (or at least, without killing MOST everyone). After a fashion though, I just felt it was too tedious. I still like the game and have every intention of going back to it (when that will happen is anyone’s guess) and it holds up as an example of an FPS that doesn’t make me motion sick.
I suppose you could say that in all these situations, I need something to entice me to leave my comfort zone. In the case of online games, it was my desire to associate with my fellow gamer. I wouldn’t have played The Clockwork Man if it wasn’t for its promise of an eventual steampunk connection with its story. With Awesomenauts, you have a game that doesn’t take itself seriously by design and it’s quite enjoyable in its occasional aggravation (I’m not exactly that good at it which is part of why I confine myself to the practice mode). With big group missions (or at least small group missions) I need to see the reward that’s being offered and I need to feel assured that the group is capable of getting there.
In the end, gaming outside of the comfort zone is, to me, all about expanding the comfort zone to include new things. It requires a draw of some sort. Just… I won’t play sports games. I’m sorry, but they do absolutely nothing for me. There’s nothing to pull me in at all. I’ll watch friends play Madden every now and again, but I don’t watch any sports for real and I’ve no desire to pretend to play them when I could be slaying goblins with magic swords (too generic?) or being a beautiful siren who sings people to their deaths (I’m planning on playing this in a tabletop RPG sometime soon and it’s WAY outside my usual character type).
Until next time!
P.S. “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (because, really, that’s what it’s all about)
I’m a fan of interesting puzzle games. Look up SpaceChem, A Virus Named TOM, and Hacker Evolution on Steam and you’ll see the kinds of puzzle games that really attract my attention. I like simple games, but I have a problem with puzzle games in general…
You see, after a fashion, I can’t figure the puzzles out.
I swear, that admission feels like a weight off my chest. It’s almost embarrassing though. There’s a point where no amount of staring or fiddling around will help me figure out how to solve the puzzle in front of me and it happens in every puzzle game at differing points. The only constant is that I do hit a brick wall labeled “can’t solve this one without help”.
That’s why I’m thankful for walkthrough sites and guide videos. In fact, SpaceChem got so complex that I had to write directions down to save on alt-tabbing between the game and the YouTube video I was using as a guide. Eventually I made my own SpaceChem video, but it was based on another solution video. I still haven’t beaten that game, but it was so fun to play.
Recently the puzzle game A Virus Named TOM came out and I snapped it up. It’s interesting, it’s engaging, and it’s fun. Also, awesome soundtrack. Admittedly, I hit a wall pretty early, but they allowed for that to a small extent with level skip tokens. I’m in the last series of puzzles only thanks to mostly skipping the previous stage. I was empowered by these skip tokens. I skipped by the trouble puzzles and hit the ones I could definitely do, going back when I felt like it and eventually figuring them out with either my own skills or with internet voodoo help.
I’m a pretty straight-forward gamer. If the problem is in front of me, I look for the most direct solution to getting past it. Most games allow for that. MMOs are typically “direct approach” games with the option to occasionally sneak around problems but there’s a lot of variance in the direct approaches based on your class and personal play-style. Deux Ex: Human Revolution encourages a stealth approach to the game, but you can take the head-on approach if you’re feeling particularly daring. Again, lots of variance in both primary approaches thanks to timing, luck, and skill. Puzzle games though, there’s typically one or two solutions at best for a given puzzle. The trick is thinking in the language of the puzzle, interpreting the twists and turns that have come before to help you through the next few twists and turns. I suck at languages though.
I love puzzle games but they smack me in the face sometimes with how generally inept I can be.
Yesterday I played a little A Virus Named TOM, hit a brick wall with my face, and then jumped into Star Wars: The Old Republic and REVELED in the simplicity of just shooting enemies with my Commando. It was so good.
Until next time!
P.S. “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” – Walter Elliott
P.P.S. Oh, I throw Tower-Defense games in with puzzle games. The strategy itself combined with the timing required makes it a puzzle game of the highest order. Seriously, I got whipped by Defense Grid and System Protocol One.