Playing Games I Don’t Like

I got a few comments after the Citizens of Earth Aggrochat episode about my ability to play a game I didn’t like to completion.

It’s something I honed while working as a game designer– forcing myself to play something I don’t think I like lets me turn on the analysis and really look at what’s bothering me about it. In game design, feedback of “this sucks” or “I don’t like X” is effectively worthless feedback; it pretty much gets ignored by default (other than, occasionally, “we need to change this”) because it doesn’t offer any useful information.

On the other hand, feedback that’s specific and focused gives a team a lot to work with, and lets us make informed changes based on things people don’t like. Spending a lot of time in that environment leads you to change the way you present your own feedback– “I didn’t enjoy this” stops being something you say, and instead “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do here”, or “this segment is too easy” or “this NPC’s dialogue doesn’t make sense” all provide comments that offer something useful to work from.

That being said, feedback is important. In college, I had a PSP that was gathering dust, hadn’t been used in years and wasn’t about to see any use. Someone on the college mailing list wanted a PSP really badly, and was willing to trade a brand new Xbox 360 for it, along with a couple of games. I was, at this point, deep in my “PC Master Race” mindset, but it wasn’t like I was using the PSP and I thought it would be cool to have a shiny new console, if only so my roommate and visitors could use it. I basically decided to swap something I didn’t care about for something new and shiny.

The games that came with it were Forza and Gears of War, the two (at the time) most stereotypical possible games to have for the console. Being a broke college student, I couldn’t afford any others, so it was those or nothing. I booted up Gears of War, figuring I’d hate it and that I could maybe trade it in. What I found instead was a game that did some things I’d never seen before (this was the dawn of the cover shooter, so it wasn’t old hat yet) and provided me challenges that I wasn’t getting on the PC side of things. It was different, and totally out of my usual wheelhouse, but I found some interesting things in there nevertheless.

The cover was nonsense to me, the epitome of meathead space marine nonsense that I thought myself intellectually superior to. It was an arrogance I had to choke back down later, because I genuinely enjoyed myself.

Since then, I make it a point to put time into games I don’t think I’ll like. While I was working in the industry, I was a lot better at this, just because I made sure I kept up on every single major release. Now I’m slightly less invested, though I still play the really big-ticket games (haven’t played Bloodborne yet, though).

It’s showed me stuff that I never expected to like, and has informed my design choices, seeing what works and what doesn’t in different games. There’s some stuff you can do in a first-person military shooter that you just can’t in your standard fantasy MMO, and those things are worth experiencing. I force myself to play some games all the way through because I’ve found that even the biggest travesties of video games have some redeeming moment somewhere that’s worth seeing.

Games are diverse and a lot of fun. Try a game you might never have touched before– try a game in a genre you’d never have touched before. You might be surprised, and if you find an unexpected gem of a genre, you might suddenly realize there’re a whole bunch of games you can play that you’d never have considered before.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *