Sometimes You Need More Than Competition
From our Director of Operations, Chris Germano
Over the past few months, I've spent an increasingly minuscule amount of time playing games the way I used to: fast-paced, headset on, lights low, no distractions, and giving it 110%. However, I've recently come to the conclusion that while my interest in competitive gaming hasn't diminished, my satisfaction with online first-person shooters (as a designer) has significantly waned. Don't get me wrong, there are many amazing games that I would love to keep playing, but I know in order to best stay updated on the marketplace and trends in modern gaming, I need to take a step back from what's big and popular. So that's what I did.
Online Gaming: The Usual Suspects
While I managed to free myself from the grasp of Counter Strike and League of Legends earlier this year, I put more time and attention towards Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege. While the two games are very different, the appealing attribute they have in common is the option to play in a ranked, competitive environment. This deadly trap here is the ability to immediately affect your personal rank with every game. It's like MMORPG Syndrome reinvented: perform a repetitive task to see numbers go up. This time, the repetitive task is a time-consuming, exhausting online match with no guarantee of success. Overwatch is fantastic with friends and Rainbow Six is one of the best tactical experiences I've played in a long time. Between the two, I'd get whatever online experience I was looking for: fast-paced, slower action, realistic, ridiculous, you name it. Unfortunately, it only took so many frustrated nights of losing my hard-earned ranks to recognize that I had gradually become driven by the numbers game more than the game itself. Once familiar with the core mechanics and objectives in the game, I simply couldn't be bothered to play the game for anything but the competitive modes. I wanted validation for a strong performance, and as soon as I recognized that, I left the match, quit the game, and uninstalled anything that required an internet connection.
For anyone interested, in the last few years or so I've spent a substantial (100+ hours) amount of time playing ranked Overwatch, Rainbow Six: Siege, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, Call of Duty, and Battlefield. Obviously weighted towards generic military shooters.
Designers, ask yourself if you spend too much time with one kind of experience. Start with the kinds of games you like, but abstract what appeals to you. Going genre or mechanic-specific is too narrow, what about the experience appeals to you? The feeling of power? The social connections? Alternatively, the isolation? Once you identify what you're drawn to, look at what you've been spending most of your time playing lately. If you're feeding your desire for a specific experience, that's great for fun but not an effective way to learn and grow as a designer. Never feel bad about what you play, but as a designer you need to always be conscious of why you're playing it.
By no means am I done with online gaming. I know that there is a world of amazing experiences when connecting with players across the world. The problem is, like with most things, there are too many different experiences for any single person to enjoy in a realistic period of time. I plan on going through my laundry list of offline, single-player games, and spend a little time playing them the way they're meant to be played. Exploring a variety of experiences is far more powerful than mastering one, and as a game designer and professional in the industry, I've spent too long not broadening my horizons.
So far I've been greatly enjoying the relaxing yet complex Stardew Valley. I'm looking to stay away from AAA titles for a little while and work my way up in scale. What should be next on my list?