What I Like About You

brn's picture

Obviously, I like games. But in the interest of clear communications and fair warning, you should probably also be aware of my prejudices. The activities I enjoy in games feel like very primal ones to me, far below the lofty concerns of narrative cohesion, human intimacy potential, and other things the designer folk talk about.

Come and join my monkey dance!

At the most basic level, I love interaction. Push a button; the little man jumps. What child wouldn't love that. And unlike mommy and daddy he never gets fed up and sends you for a time out. :)

One level up from that, I like excitement. Most games play on mortal fear. Dodge that fireball! Jump that gap! Shoot that bad guy! The immediacy of danger all around, combined with the tools to narrowly escape it is intoxicating stuff.

One level up from that, I like style. Sure, cheating death is cool, but if I can do it with dastardly cunning (Thief) or flourish and grace (Devil May Cry) or ridiculous overkill (Hulk: Ultimate Destruction) or capering sillyness (Joint Ops), that's a huge bonus.

Just to be clear, I'm mostly talking about action, platforming, shooting, and fast puzzle games here. These are my genres of choice. You'd think I'd like fighting games, but the amount of specialized knowledge (combos, throws, special moves, attack speeds, ranges, and priorities) required to play them well leaves me completely cold. Nope, I like games that are quick to pick up and too engrossing to put down. Once in a while, though, a game can be engrossing without being a reflex tester.

One way is through atmosphere. Some games are simply entertaining to experience, regardless of whether there's really much of a "game" there at all. The first examples that spring to mind are always old LucasArts games. I played through Day of the Tentacle again a while back, and Sam and Max Hit the Road a while before that. I'll probably play through Full Throttle or a Monkey Island game next. Some of the jokes go stale, but for the most part, those games are still very funny. On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, I enjoy a good horror game from time to time as well, despite the fact that most of them are just action games with bad controls and shambling opponents. Music games (like Parappa, Amplitude, and Guitar Hero) also fall partly into this category and partly into the next.

Other games touch my creative side. I don't know if it's a needed catharsis after all the destruction of my action games or some other impulse, but once in a while it feels good to build stuff. Sometimes that's a music game or karaoke. Sometimes it's actually making music. Sometimes it's building something fun (Roller Coaster Tycoon) or something enduring (Pharaoh), but it's nice to just tinker once in a great while.

Then it's back to throwing feces and blowing stuff up. :)