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On replayability [Nov. 1st, 2009|11:32 pm]

One of the things that comes up a lot in the video games I play is replayability. I usually consider the possibility that I'll want to play a game again as a good thing, even though I rarely do so much anymore. Still, its something I often consider when deciding to buy new games, especially since I buy new games so infrequently. 
However, a few years ago I started to realize that there is a near-infinite level of replayability that is really, really bad for me. The classic example of this are the games in the Civilization series. Even winning a game doesn't necessarily mean that you've "finished", because you can immediately start again and have a somewhat different experience of playing the game. I find this incredibly compelling, and this style of game has eaten up more of my playtime than any other over the course of my life. 
The other example was one I realized only a few weeks ago, but it prompted this post. That was the football game I own, NCAA 08. I don't find that replayability in the individual games of football, but rather in the mode where you act as head coach, guiding a team's strategy and recruiting players to replenish your team. The process is very repetitive, since football seasons are much like each other in an unchanging computer environment. Still, especially in the recruiting aspect, the game continually serves up varied conditions that compel me to keep playing.
So, why do I call this bad? Well, there are two reasons. The first one is actually something I've only been doing the last few years, which is trying to take trophies. I do want to have a stack of good games on my shelf that I have "finished" (by which I mean completing the main plot and as much of the additional content as I find enjoyable: usually probably ~70% of stuff to do in a modern game). I like being able to say I beat something and know it well enough to talk about, and playing more games gives me more geek cred. By contrast, the endless games don't do that. Since they never end, they never go on the shelf(huh. I wonder how MMOs relate to this theory).
The other problem is related. When I'm off a civilization building binge, i suddenly realize that I don't have a lot to show for it: I rarely learn anything, I haven't talked to anybody since it's a solo game, and I've missed out on other things to play turns in games I won't remember. It's a depressing feeling, but I always get roped in again.

Huh, I should sleep. Hope people have enjoyed this. 

[User Picture]From: nathan_lounge
2009-11-02 12:48 pm (UTC)
I felt that way about starcraft and AoE2 a lot in college. It was a little better when we played those games with more than just me because eventually someone would have to leave and that signaled the end of the game.

The trophy idea is interesting. Does it still work if you trade in your used games for something new? We don't really keep games after we've beaten them. I'd have to really sit down and think about what we've played in the last few years to remember everything. Though I do tend to be a completionist.
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[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2009-11-02 02:25 pm (UTC)
Well, see, this is a difference between the two of us: I never trade things in. Partially because the value they give you is usually terrible, partially to keep the "trophy" around, and largely because I might want to play the game again(though I do have a game where this is a non-factor, and it's just a trophy).

The easy way to look at what you've been playing is to look through your memory card, unless you clear that out, too. I remembered a game or two that I don't own that I've finished with.
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[User Picture]From: nathan_lounge
2009-11-02 02:31 pm (UTC)
What game?

See, I think I take the opposite view in that I will vary rarely play a game more than once (the exception being games like civilization, AoE, etc) so it has zero value sitting on a shelf. The 80 cents Gamestop gives me for it is well worth the trade.

I also tend to switch games infrequently as the games I play are usually over 40 hours worth of gameplay. Which equates to at least a month of playing time. In fact, I think the beginning of summer was the last time we got new games. We slogged through Persona, Kingdom Hearts, and we're at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2 now. Still have 2 or 3 games on tap.
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[User Picture]From: lerite
2009-11-02 04:35 pm (UTC)
Yep. This is why I'm cutting myself off for November. My little Sims are cute and all, but I'd rather have my imaginary people in prose form. I don't care about trophies though.
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