possibility space

A while back I noticed I play video games in a way that seems different from how I usually see people experience them. Ask a person why they like games and you might get an answer like “because it’s a test of skill” or “for the creative expression only available with interactivity” or even “for the community available through them”. The approach I tend to take to games is more like “so I can see what happens mechanically when I interact with its systems”.

I tend to avoid games that stress that you learn their precise systems before you can take your second step in; the practice required to reach that point is way more tedium than I can tolerate. I tend to avoid games that are primarily about besting other people; once I’ve learned a game enough to fare on my own I’m no longer interested in coming back to hone that skill.

How this usually manifests is that I’ll play a game for about an hour before getting an impression of how much possibility space exists within it. If the game seems like it won’t develop much more over time, I’ll either set it aside, or plan to come back and never feel compelled to. However, if it seems like more modes of interaction might develop, or that more systems might come into play, then I’ll probably be willing to play more.

I was exposed to JRPGs fairly early on in my gaming life, and they tended to cultivate this mode of thought pretty well. They tended to provide stories and settings that felt fairly unique, and while mechanically you could say the genre is filled with variations on a theme, I’ve been interested enough in feeling out those variations that they held my interest for a while. I also often mention Pokemon and “creature-collection RPGs” in general for having a special place in my heart. The breadth of content required to make one of these games effective is usually enough to provide a continually-developing possibility space.

Of late, though, as gaming as a whole developed and as my tastes changed, I’ve noticed that my “patience” for a game, so-to-speak, is rather thin. I’ll dismiss a cinematic big-name title out-of-hand because its marketing has already told me all I need to know about its mechanics. Even smaller, more self-contained experiences are made for a different audience than one who would want to tinker with a game like I do. If I do pick up a game and actually play it, I’m more quick to just stop playing it, if only to move on to the next one.

Whether this is a product of my tastes diverging out of sync or an artifact of some kind of depression or attention-deficit, I get worried. Because I know I can really enjoy what gaming has to offer but of late I haven’t had the heart to dive in as much as I have before.