Saturday, 28 May 2011

I should still learn how to play adventure games

Each time I decide to give it a try at playing an adventure game, I realize that there is some kind of sophistication behind this type of gaming that you don't usually find in your regular gaming moments. Adventure games need a unique kind of mindset that one might manage to get into slowly after a long period of being involved in this kind of gaming. This is important not only for getting smarter on this by the years but primarily for learning to enjoy the genre at it's fullest.

What am I trying to say really? I almost got caught by the common pitfall again. Using the walkthrough impatiently, in every chance I got. This is the reason I am writing this post today. It has been proven to me for another time that being tempted to use the solution for an adventure game spoils the fun of discover it all by yourself.

Usually, when I get stuck three things might be the reason. The most common being that something has to "happen" in the game for new stuff to be revealed. Either you have to visit a place again after you have finished another action or talk again to a character, gather all essential items you will need in the next part to survive and so on. It's not dumb if you stuck there but maybe it's not a fair enough reason to look at the solution. Another reason for stucking might be that you are simply stupid. Or you are so impatient to finish the game that you stop caring about the story and the details that might help you understand what to do next. In this case if I read the solution, I realize that I have unnecessarily (ab)used the walkthrough for something that I could easily think myself. That's the worst case where I feel that I genuinely slaughtered the whole gaming experience for nothing. The third way to stuck is of course when a riddle is ridiculous or very hard to figure out, something you would hardly ever imagine and it feels fair opening the solution in this case. Though, even in such a case, figuring it all out by yourself would give you the ultimate feeling of accomplishment.

And it's not only that impatience makes you eager to look at the solution and spoil the fun. This kind of mentality makes it also harder to play an adventure properly. Sometimes in order to solve some riddles one has to observe the environment very well or follow the story carefully for clues. If one doesn't have the patience to actually play the game but only being too harsh with himself to finish it for the cutscenes or the finale, one is bound to not think clearly, missing obvious clues while feeling stupid again by opening the solution for no good reasons. The brain doesn't work well under pressure or when you are too fixated with the goal (to finish the damn thing) and not with actually being there. So, the rule of not using the walkthrough so impatiently, might also have to do a lot to do with how you play the game.

But why do we succumb into temptation and spoil the fun? How is this thing connected with what I am saying about a different mindset or sophistication behind playing adventure games? It's not much about the fact that in adventure games you have to think. Someone would say that even in strategy games or even fps you have to think. The major difference is that with adventure games you need to have patience. You should try to find a free evening, a peaceful moment, that period of time when you don't have other things in mind and decide to dive into the world of some random adventure title. You must not hurry up to finish the game, you should not worry about the two hours spent on a single riddle, you should be in a relaxed state where you can accept spending your time in the same environments searching for the next damn thing to do to move on.

Maybe our way of life is rapid or so do they say (was it ever different?) that we can't accept spending our time playing a computer game in a more relaxed manner. The fact is that most computer games nowadays, even those where you have to think for a while, are made for people who wish to play something fast in their limited free time that gives them a lot of action or content in very short periods. Guy comes back from work very tired, needs to relax with his friends on the internet, joins his favorite multiplayer RTS / FPS / MMORPG / whatever for a fast 1-2 hour play. Give him his fix now, now, now and fast!!!

Think that real time strategy games are the most popular of the strategy genre. People used to play many turn based strategy games in the past where you could have a break to make a coffee during your turn :). Nowadays, RTS are far more popular because a lot of funky stuff are happening in the screen, keeping the player always occupied. This is ideal for a person who wants to play a game for say half an hour and still experience enormous amounts of fun for the short time being. Even modern puzzle games, as seen for example by casual games company Popcap and others, have been following the rule of "big reward per click" ratio. You've got to just click "randomly" (see bejewelled :) somewhere in the screen and lot's of funky stuff will happen. It also explains (among other reasons) why people prefer multiplayer games instead of classic single player games with a story. They just want to experience some short period of fun without being much involved in a longer story-driven gameplay.

This is the situation with most modern games, yet I don't imply that this is necessary bad. I would only like to stretch that for the case of adventure games, one has to adopt an entirely different mentality that might be opposite to what one is used to in the majority of games.

I am a "victim" of the common mentality, as I sometimes tend to worry about the hours I spend playing a game when I could be doing something else. So, in the case of adventure games, when I am courageous enough to start one, it's so easy to fall prey to the walkthrough. I make another common mistake, wanting to play some classic games, just to finish those games, just to say to myself that I have finished that classic game forever, as if they were movies or books that you "have" to see/read so that you feel more complete culturally. We make this mistake a lot, even in non adventure games. We play a game just to finish it.

It's really that hard. Adventure games ask exactly the opposite behaviour. I think that the next time I will give it a try, I will try to have some discipline concerning the use of a walkthrough. If I get bored, being at the same place for an hour, then I will just close the damn thing and start it the next day. Sometimes it's nice to get off your computer and wonder in your sleep, how the hell are you supposed to solve that riddle? Now that would be fun, living this adventure with it's riddles bothering you in your everyday life, even when you are not in front of the computer. Isn't that an interesting feeling? As in the case of turn-based rts. Going to the kitchen to make some coffee while wondering about your next move. Or any other game that could possibly be played in a more relaxed manner. That's an interesting thought even for an fps.

p.s. The last adventure game I've finished is Orion Prime and this is a recent adventure on CPC made by sceners. One reason I truly enjoyed it is because there is no solution for it yet. The adventure was very well thought in terms of riddles (quite logical but some were hard), interesting non-linear gameplay, lot's of fun stuff and little puzzle games inside, enough care to make this not ridiculous (for example no insane pixel hunting or being unable to finish without knowing it) so that one can finish it without the solution yet have a hard enough time with it so that you feel accomplished. The author even has something different in his site instead of a full solution, which is hints that work quite well even if you get stuck and rely on them. The thing is, even if you get tempted to see a hint, you don't feel the same stupid or dissapointed as you would be reading the solution. You get some help to be unstuck but it doesn't seem to spoil the fun. So, hints could be a much better alternative if you really are impatient.