Tag Archives: gaming

The Casual Gamer: Grinding, Energy Caps, and Other Arbitrary Limiters

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

If you happen to be one of those individuals lucky enough to make video games for a living, then do me a favor. Have a seat, grab a drink, and listen up. Because as a gamer, I’m about to have a chat with you about a couple of elements of certain types of games that infuriate me. This isn’t because I want to hear myself gripe, but because I want you as a developer to start making better games.

So, comfortable? Good. Now pay attention. I want to chat about game mechanics that block forward progress. Let’s grind away at this issue.

The Casual Gamer: Elemental Kingdoms

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

I’ve been a fan of trading card games (TCG) for several years now, but the fact that you have to keep investing in new expansions as they become available in order to remain competitive prevents me from enjoying them as much as I’d like. So, whenever a free TCG for iOS launches, I get curious. Finding one that’s actually enjoyable over the long haul, though, is a bit more of a problem. (You get what you pay for.) →

The Casual Gamer: Assassin’s Creed

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

Over this past holiday season I finally finished the first title in the Assassin’s Creed series. I picked up the Platinum Hits edition a few years ago, playing it in fits and starts, but it wasn’t until now that I decided to push through and complete the game. And I’m really glad I did.

Be forewarned: potential spoilers beyond this point. Continue reading The Casual Gamer: Assassin’s Creed

The Casual Gamer: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

I’m a gamer, but because I’m also a full-time professional with a family, farm, and other ambitions, I don’t have the time to play games nearly as much I would like to. I’m also a writer, and I enjoy writing about the games I play. For a while now I’ve wanted to start a new web site called “The Casual Gamer” where I could pontificate at length on this particular passion of mine. Except there ended up being a little hitch in my plans. As it turns out, just about every variation of domain name involving ‘thecasualgamer.xyz’ has already been purchased by some cyber-squatter or another, and I’m not really interested in paying the exorbitant fees that will undoubtedly be required to get one of them released.

So I’ve decided on a compromise of sorts. Instead of building a whole new website with a domain name I’ll never be entirely happy with, I’m going to start a new series here with the same name. Doing this is an on-going series allows me keep each essay linked together and serves the additional benefit of keeping my work consolidated under my own brand.

I’m planning to run this as a weekly series, with new essays appearing every Monday, rather than as a daily or even semi-weekly series. It is called “The Casual Gamer,” after all. There are some weeks I never have time to so much as pick up a controller.

You can expect to see game reviews, philosophy and psychology of gaming (which will hopefully be more interesting than it sounds), discussion about exciting moments, and anything else that happens to interest me that given week. I also don’t plan to limit myself to just video games. There will also likely be essays on tabletop and card games, as well. This is going to be a bit of an evolving experience, I think, and I hope you’ll come along with me for the ride.

The first official essay in the series will appear sometime on Monday, so stay tuned!

Rules versus Laws and the Breaking Thereof

So, back in November I posted this thought for the day:

There is a significant difference between breaking the rules and breaking the law. One is a key factor in progress and innovation; the other is a breach of morality and trust.

I deliberately didn’t provide any context for the statement, partly because it was an idea still so fresh in my brain I hadn’t had a chance to determine the scope or the validity of the idea. Part of it, too, was that I wanted to see who chimed in on it and what thoughts they would come up with. Hey, psychology major here, remember? Sometimes I care about observing the process of people thinking through things more than I care about the final outcome of that process.

Here’s the context for that statement.

I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about what kinds of games I like to play and, more specifically, what kinds of characters I like to play in those games. One upcoming title that I’m extremely excited about is Bungie’s Destiny, a first-person shooter with heavy MMO overtones and a robust backstory. One of the classes of Guardian you can play in the game is the Hunter. Bungie describes the Hunter thusly:

Hunters once prowled the wilderness and wastelands, taking big risks for even bigger rewards. You’re no outlaw—at least, not anymore—but making your own luck has always meant bending the rules. Your unique brand of daring and ingenuity is needed now more than ever.

I have to admit that the Hunter appeals to me in part because of this penchant for bending, or even breaking, the rules. It appeals to the artist in me, since a lot of creative expression involves taking established processes and finding new ways to use them, ways that might be viewed by some as breaking the rules of the format. It’s the free spirit in me that is drawn to the Hunter, to the type of Guardian that is most likely to do things his own way.

Compare that, then, to a game like Grand Theft Auto (GTA), where the character you play is a criminal, the type of person that is highly likely to break the rules. The gameplay, in fact, demands that you break the rules, violate laws, and be otherwise disruptive in order to expand your criminal empire. For this reason, GTA appeals to me not at all, despite the dozens of rave reviews I’ve heard about the game.

This gave me pause to consider what was different about the two types of characters represented by these games. Both are rule-breakers with a tendency toward lawlessness. Why then does the Hunter in Destiny appeal to me while the gangster in GTA doesn’t?

The difference comes down to the thought stated above. The Hunter breaks the rules of established tradition in such a way that leads to progress and innovation. His process provides creative solutions to difficult problems. If he breaks a law established by a governing body, he does so with the end goal of protection and the establishment of order. The gangster, however, breaks the law, often just for the sake of lawlessness itself and always for greater personal gain. It is a violation of morality and trust that serves to do little more than push society further toward entropy and chaos. The Hunter pushes toward the greater good, even if his methods may sometimes be ethically questionable; the gangster pushes toward greed and self-indulgence, caring little for those he hurts along the way.

It at least the first part of an explanation why games like Destiny appeal so much to me and games like GTA never will.

The Joy of Halo 3

I avoided Matchmaking in Halo 2 like the plague. I played a lot of Rumble Pit early on when I first got Xbox Live, and I’m sure that certainly helped me develop a lot of the necessary skills to be a somewhat competitive player. My favorite type of match to play, however, were custom games with friends. There were two reasons for this.

The first was that Matchmaking was rife with Timmies. For the uninitiated, a Timmy is a play – usually a child or adolescent – who, regardless of skill at the game, mouth of with words that would make a sailor blush, verbally abuse anyone and everyone around them, declare themselves video game gods when they are playing well and accusing everyone else of cheating when they don’t, and spend a large portion of their time teabagging the virtual corpses of their opponents – whether they were actually the one who defeated them in battle or not. The Timmies still exist in Halo 3 Matchmaking, of course. It’s just a lot easier to put the mute on them and to stick bullets into them.

The second was that I was never quite able to match up competitively with most of my opponents. In all my games of Rumble Pit, I can count on one hand the number of games I actually won. When playing with “my fellow Gunslingers”:http://tiedtheleader.com, I always felt like the dead-weight who was more of an impediment than a help. In Halo 3, I’m _very_ competitive, having achieved skill levels so far in the 18-19 range, where I never consistently made more than a 12 or 13 in Halo 2. I’m enjoying Halo 3 much more than Halo 2 – and for those who know me, they know how much I raved about Halo 2. The games seem much more balanced now, and I feel like I still have room to go up in skill points.

The game itself is visually and audibly stunning, taking advantage of the full processing power of the Xbox 360 to provide a cornucopia of delights. Forge is a beast, allowing you to customize maps to your heart’s content, and Saved Films, Screenshots, and File Share are revolutionary pleasures. I’ve joked in the past that Halo 3 is probably the most expensive video game to date, since many of us acquired an Xbox 360 for the sole purpose of playing this game. It’s no joke now, though. Halo 3 is worth every penny, and I look forward to many more hours of enjoying this game with my friends and the Halo community.