Friday, October 22, 2010

A Riddle

Using the clues in this description try to figure out which game my friend is playing:

My friend Harvey is the type that only plays one game at a time, and the one he's playing now he plays almost as much as he can every day. Most people consider this game too easy, but others would argue that the very ease and simplicity of gameplay is why its so popular and has millions of players worldwide.  When he receives instructions for a task in the game, any superfluous details or context either confuses him or is ignored completely, thus he prefers only the most basic instructions so he doesn't waste time and can get on with the game.  These tasks usually involve doing a very basic action again and again, and even when he completes a task he is willing to take up the same type of task again and again and again just so he can maximize his rewards and minimize downtime.

Harvey doesn't mind PUGs, but he prefers to group with those he's more familiar with.  He judges people by oversimplified factors and doesn't even consider their intrinsic skill or experience.  He enjoys grouping but in the end he isn't doing it for anyone but himself, and is only willing to cooperate when its in his best interest.  If it comes down to it he will shout at even his best friend over a contested reward.

Harvey enjoys the simple combat of the game even if he isn't particularly good at it, primarily because the punishment for losing a battle is minimal.  He isn't interested in any tradeskills, and when he does make something it usually ends up being a worthless piece of crap that he has no personal use for and couldn't sell for much if anything.  Since he is reward driven he focuses primarily on the task that yields the fastest rate of reward.

Despite usually being happy with the state of his game, if he believes that there isn't enough new gameplay being introduced or he isn't being entertained enough, he feels entitled to whine about it to everyone and anyone willing (or unwilling) to listen. 

Think you know which game it is?  Here are some curveballs before the answer:

He pays nothing to play this game, and still expects constant entertainment.

There are no levels, but he does gain experience.

He hasn't killed a single thing in the game.

So what is the game?  Do you know?

It's Fetch.  Harvey is my one year old puppy.

The only thing I cheated on was the capitalization of Pugs.

Our games are really that basic, and our game habits are really that simple.  Why hasn't our genre evolved yet?


  1. Because we're dogs. Games are really just elaborate dressings we lay over the truth: we want to participate in systems that seem to reward us so that we feel like we're accomplishing something--even if it's only for the simulated smiles and goody bags given out by some less-than-one-dimensional NPC. We go where the food is, just like a dog; our food is accomplishment. We follow Blizzard around like foolish schoolchildren because they provide us with scraps of ever-so-delicious entertainment just as a dog follows its master around the house because his master feeds him.

    It's simple. We just have complex veneers over the simple fact to make ourselves feel better. Games are entertaining, but not more entertaining than fetch is to a dog. We are dogs and sparkly ponies are our bones.

    We all need to realize this fact and disregard that urge to feel superior to others who play other games. Some dogs just learn to do more complicated tricks than others. Because one trick is more complicated doesn't mean that the dog who learns it is better. A dog doesn't condescend to other dogs because they don't play dead as well, and neither should you condescend to other gamers. It's hard (for me as it is for anyone), but it's the truth.

  2. You raise a good (if depressing) point, what if this is the extent of what we want from our games? Maybe the rich, complex gameplay experience we say we desire is a myth, that if ever delivered would fail miserably because it would end up being more work, require more effort and concentration, and would thus abandon its escapist, endorphin-inducing roots. I could see that being the case, but I'd still like for that game to be made just so we can be sure you're right :)

  3. After further consideration, this dog-like treatment of human beings is a staple primarily of the MMORPG (and perhaps MMO in general) genre. Strategy games tend to be a bit better. Shooters are perhaps marginally less fetch-like than MMORPGs.

    But, really, MMORPGs aren't far from Farmville these days. Just elaborate, violent Farmvilles.