Monday, 24 March 2008

An awful lot of gameplay and a few thoughts

I've been playing quite of different games lately and have been struck by a couple of things. The first concerns the fact that I haven't actually gotten round to finishing any of them. Which links in quite nicely with Leigh Alexander's article on "Completion Anxiety Disoder" where she considers the reasons why people don't seem to end up completing many of the games they actually have. She covers lots of practical reasons like not having enough time, and games being too difficult/easy or not interesting enough and then ends up suggesting a further reason; that players sometimes just don't want the game to end. Now it's a pretty interesting article in itself, but when you think about it in terms of how this relates to the educational potential of games it raises a couple of interesting issues. I mean lets assume we're talking about good games here, the ones that do get the challenges right and manage to maintain our interest, she's still basically saying that even when the motivation to play is there, people don't actually want to finish what they started. This would mean an end to the game-play experience and so instead it appears better to just avoid playing. So, if we're thinking about games as learning environments, then doesn't that mean that those playing won't get the 'complete' learning experience? Maybe this is only an issue if you think about learning in terms of delivering content and achieving outcomes? Or maybe it's just an odd claim to make, especially when you think about comparing it to not finishing a book or a film. In those cases, the only times I don't are when I'm not enjoying the experience - if I really enjoy it then I usually end up reading/watching it again, rather than trying to avoid the ending all together.

The other thing I've been thinking about has to do with playing Guitar Hero III and how frustrated I got with it when trying to beat Slash in a guitar battle and I couldn't. It really pissed me off. Which didn't exaclty help me when trying to concentrate on getting the notes right, so after suppressing the somewhat rock star urge to smash the tv with the Les Paul controller, I turned if off. Don't get me wrong, I really did enjoy playing and still do - I think it's been a while since I've really felt that sort pure sensation of 'flow' - but only when I'm good at it. It made me think though about all the things I've been reading about learning and fun. I kind of realised that I'd forgotten that just because you enjoy learning something doesn't mean that it's easy. I suppose the point of the story is that I did go back and beat Slash, which felt good, and so I'm still playing it. But if I want to be really good at Guitar Hero, it looks like I might actually need to take the practice mode seriously (where you can practice the songs you unlock outside of career mode). I just can't help feeling that if I'm going to do that, then maybe I'd be better off picking up the rather dusty bass guitar I got a couple of years ago and practice on that instead so I can learn to actually play along to the all songs I've been enjoying in the game.


82jt said...

Guitar Hero III has a problem. It's called Raining Blood.

If you watch the Zero Punctuation review at The Escapist (can't remember the URL, stick it in google) he recognises this same problem. About 3 songs before the end the difficulty takes such a sharp upturn that it's basically impossible to get through without spending days and months in the practice mode. Which is, lets face it, somewhat boring.


Jo Iacovides said...

Hey James
Yeah, it seems to require a lot of investment. I'm just not sure it's worth spending that much time on it when all I feel like all I'm essentially learning is how to play guitar hero really really well. It doesn't seem like much of a transferable skill and you're right - it would end up becoming boring after a while. I'm thinking the coop mode might be a good laugh though, but that means getting hold of another guitar controller for the Wii.