Is skill a factor in how much people enjoy playing video games?
Hi everyone, Happy new year! 2015 sounds so… futuristic.
Today’s article has been in limbo for a very long time; the first draft of it was outlined back in 2013. A lot of ideas get saved as drafts and never see the light of day for one reason or another. I decided to dust this one off because it’s a topic I hold close to my heart and has stayed relevant. It’s a question of skill – namely, do you have to be good at video games to enjoy playing them? And if so, how good?
The video game medium differs from other forms of entertainment in that it’s interactive. If you can turn a page or navigate a scene selection menu then you’re fully equipped to enjoy a book or movie, but video games have to be played and we judge the medium through this extra layer accordingly. Sometimes this extra layer is a hindrance, as terrible controls will ruin any potentially good game. Sometimes this extra layer becomes an attraction, a feature of the game – think Dark Souls and its difficulty, or games that really encourage fast reflexes and timing, a growing genre in mobile gaming. In every game, our own personal skill affects the outcome. Every action we make or fail to make will change our experience in said game. Our skill at playing the game is important in affecting the outcome, but how much does it affect our enjoyment?
Having run this blog for the last few years, I’ve shared my opinions on the video game industry. I’ve reviewed several fantastic games and I’ve died about 800 times at Spelunky. People have emailed me asking about opinions on certain games, I’ve had others tell me I’ve convinced them to try things out. It feels great, and if I’m given the chance I’ll talk until my vocal chords divorce me, but every now and then I feel a slight twinge of guilt. You see, I’m not that good at video games. People don’t normally die 800 times in a row in that game from hell. Monster Hunter kicks my butt on a daily basis and don’t talk to me about Dark Souls. F*ck you Ornstein.
Growing up as I did with a brother two years younger, we always played games together. I was never the superior gamer and that remains to this day. While I sit here and type opinions about the medium I love, my little brother is decimating people and bots alike in any game he turns his hand to. He’s always been the more competitive of the two of us, but even factoring that in, at the end of the day he is the more skillful player. His Sektor blows away my Sub Zero, his Switch Axe hunter always ends up saving my Bowgun coward. I always finish campaigns five or ten hours later than him. I’m too busy sucking and admiring the view. Yet I’m happy.
There is no shame in being a noob and having your butt kicked. In today’s online- focused multiplayer world, there is a real stigma in being anything less than brilliant at playing games. The difficulty curve has stretched so taut it’s a 90 degree angle. Yet there is no reason to not enjoy a game just because it challenges you. Once you have a basic understanding of the controls, there is no reason why you should ever feel bad for dying hundreds of time. Everyone knows dying in video games doesn’t matter in the slightest. If you’re anything like I am, your skill at playing the game will come in time. Until it does, enjoy your time being terrible, because you can never get it back once it’s gone. Take time to suck and admire the view.