Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blips: Encore, Encore

Source: Performance and Replayability
Author: Michael Lutz
Site: Correlated Contents

"Replay value" is kind of an odd concept, no? Some games are clearly built for repetitive play, and others aren't, but more than anything, the desire to play a game again is entirely contingent on the player. I'll keep playing Tetris over and over, trying to improve my score or get to a higher level, but for most games that have stories with definitive endings, even if they're bad, skippable stories, I never touch them again. When I played Uncharted 2 earlier this year, I unlocked a bunch of character skins, one of which let me swap the Nathan Drake character model with a skeleton. I thought this was pretty amusing, and probably would have tried playing with it for a bit, but that game starts you off having to tortuously climb a vertical train car. If you're going to let me break the game in all these other ways, why not just let me skip sequences too?

In a recent piece on his blog, Michael Lutz compares playing games to live performance. Because of the interactive nature of games, repeat playthroughs will never quite be the same as the time before. If I want to play the beginning of a game a second time with a different character, I'm not really "replaying" the game, I'm continuing to play it under different circumstances. Even without New Game+ options, the experience will be different. You may develop a further appreciation for certain nuances in the game's mechanics or pacing, which changes your focus from what you paid the most attention to the first time around. When a stage actor performs in back-to-back shows, the second time isn't a reperformance of the first, it's another performance, based off the same material. While there are some well-known strategies for getting players to keep engaging with games once they've seen the ending, rarely is replaying the game the actual intention.

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