The Astronauts is a game developer blog that has thrown a wrench in my conception of games. They have post up which shows five games and their five most memorable moments.
First ten minutes. Entering Rapture.
CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2
No Russian. You take part in an airport massacre of hundreds of civilians.
GRAND THEFT AUTO 3+
Driving around, listening to the radio.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION
Riding into Mexico, accompanied by a moody song.
The desert section. Dehydrated, tired Drake walks in circles in the desert’s heat and cold for two days.
– – –
The problem is that these memorable moments have nothing to do with the typical gameplay found in these titles.
In other words, certain things worth remembering from certain video games are not what these video games are all about.
Is there an explanation?
I think than when we’re focused on overcoming a challenge – we try to kill an attacker or win a race – we go into savage beast’s survival mode and shut ourselves down for any “higher class” emotions. Our vision gets extremely narrow, and we’re no longer multi-tasking. Beating the challenge becomes the only thing that matters.
The best example is QTEs. You either engage in them emotionally or win them, but you cannot do both at the same time.
Does it mean that if you want a deeply emotional game, you should drop regular gameplay, with all its core combat loops, gameplay mechanics and other voodoo?
But if we remove the challenge and trial and error gameplay from video games, can we even still call them video games?
I do disagree somewhat in that the best moments of videogames can still be gameplay. There isn’t a specific time, but I found my first few encounters with a Big Daddy one of most memorable things in games. What makes gameplay unique is that you experience it endlessly and never really repeat the same thing twice, which may be why its harder to remember than a scripted cinematic sequence. We might be able to talk in detail about the desert scene in Uncharted 3, but witnessing it gets stale after the third time. Gameplay remains fresh for much longer. Perhaps the solution isn’t to trash gameplay, but just to make it better. That’s easy for me to say, and very hard to do.
A good counter argument to this can be found here.