Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Screenshots vs Immersion

I have the same relationship with screenshots as I do with photos. I love looking at them, but hate taking them. Taking a photo, especially a good one, takes me out of the moment. I have to stop participating and shift to observing which is a very different activity. Participating in an event is where I find fun and joy. It seems worthwhile to devote some time to invest in a photo, because that will extend the enjoyment of the event to later times and/or to other people.

Much like my goal for this blog, a screenshot puts me in a “meta” state that causes me to think about what a game is and what it means to me. Some screenshots can come close to art as some game visual can be amazing, but that artistic quality shot takes an investment of time, composition and editing. Those screenshots can memorialize a game or experience, but are rare. My dad used to take a lot of posed pictures of our family. That style of picture taking is pretty passé in these days of the ubiquitous selfies. Although come to think of it, he used a camera tripod and timer to get into the family photos himself, so those were early selfies too. Most screenshots, like this blog, are more fleeting and spontaneous, but with luck can offer a bit of humor or a snapshot of an experience you want to convey. Even a quick screenshot can be worth a thousand words.

I know I always enjoy blogs that have a few pictures. So I will strive to add pictures to my blog and see what those images have to say.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Variety Spice

This weekend I played a few hours of No Man's Sky. I purchased this game on Steam when it first came out. I found it novel, but the novelty of procedurally generated content tends to fade at the point at which the "infinite" worlds all start to look the same (about 36 hours according to Steam). I concluded that it had potential if the developers put more work into the game to expand the variety of things to do.

Anyway, I heard about the big "Next" patch and went in to check it out. I did get off the first planet by following the tutorial/instruction. Starting players out on a hostile, radiation heavy planet is a good way to get people to go into space early in the game. Last time I played, I stayed on the starting planet for many days of gameplay and just explored there. While there were hints on what to do, I got the exploration vibe of figuring out a very different than the games I have been playing for years, which is all I was really looking for.

 The questions is: will I stick with NMS or was it just a fling? I should give it more time to see some of the other changes, but it has a lot of competition on my computer. Personally, I favor sandbox games in which there is not a lot of hand holding, so NMS fits that preference. But I also like games that offer a variety of types of content, e.g. resource gathering, exploring, surveying, building, questing and I haven't played enough NMS to see if it has enough to do.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Daily Comforts

I only had about 20 minutes to play last night, because my sister in law and her husband are visiting from out of town. The one thing I can do in ESO without a lot of thought is dailies. I logged into two of my characters, my current main and my jeweler alt that I am leveling up. I “fed” their horses, which increases their speed or bag space. I also did the crafting daily for jewelry.


It’s easy to see what the game companies get out of creating daily tasks. They help establish a routine with the plays of connecting to the game, keeping interest during lulls between more intensive involvement in the game. Dailies also provide incremental progress in long term goals for the player at a very low cost for developing simple repeatable quest. I rarely delete or re-roll a character, because I have made progress in some skill that would take weeks or months to repeat.


But what do I get out of dailies? Dailies are part of what is usually referred to as “grind” and in excess can lead to boredom and burn out. But dailies are also an example of habit or routine, and routine can be comforting, especially in times of change. They give me a feeling that I still have some measure of control over your life. My habits can be utilitarian or trivial such as small cleaning tasks or game dailies.


Sometimes my routines can really help me to get something done without having to think or stress out about it, but other times they an verge on negative compulsions. “Casual” games on my phone are more likely to have these compulsive characteristics than computer games. When I find myself playing multiple games of solitaire at work, I am either stressed out or bored. At that point, I need to stop and think about why I am doing this behavior and fix the cause, or at least find a more constructive outlet like going for a walk.


Nevertheless, I recognize that daily routines can be a good thing if done in moderation and mindfulness. Mindfulness of routine is something of a paradox, since routines are the epitome of mindless actions. Mindfulness is more the meta state of thinking about the patterns of my actions and whether my current actions are still serving my best interests overall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Gaming Styles or Stereotypes?

Many gamers are familiar with the Bartle gaming styles – Explorer, Achiever, Killer, Socializer. As with personality testing, this type of categorization is mainly useful for getting people to realize that not everyone thinks the same way or enjoys the same thing. It also satisfies the Achiever’s need to put people in neat little bins. Like all categories, they can either be a useful shorthand for a particular purpose. Or overused stereotypes when deriding alternate viewpoints and lifestyles.

I happily categorize myself as a mix of Explorer and Achiever with very little Killer or Socializer. I love games with beautiful, vast open world with few if any access restrictions. At the same time, it can be a trap to put myself in these boxes. I had a good time last night using the dungeon finder in ESO. It was quick, gave good loot and took me to places I hadn’t seen before. I generally avoid grouping, because I dislike the ambiance of most dungeons (dark and ugly) and I don’t like the feeling that other people are impacted by my screw-ups. Plus, these days, there is really no social interaction in pickup/dungeon finder groups.  

Getting out of ruts and putting more variety in my gaming is a good thing given that I devote so much time to MMO games. For years, I have been spending as much time gaming as working a job and I have spent 5-10 years playing some MMOs. Games serve a multitude of need depending on how I feel at any given time. They can be soothing stress relief, a window to another world, a creative outlet, and a mental or even physical challenge.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My Gaming Pedigree

I think blogs are more interesting if they are personal experiences, so please bear with my while I introduce myself.

I am old enough that I didn’t really get into games in high school or even college. My family did have a tradition of board games (not D&D), but I really came into gaming because of reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction. My first computer game that I remember was King’s Quest, then later came the Sims (original and successors), Civilization (starting with III), Morrowind (and successors) and numerous more forgettable titles. My first online game was EverQuest in 2002 just after Planes of Power released. Since then I moved on to EQ2, LOTRO, Rift, GW2 and ESO with brief dalliances with WoW, Aion, Wildstar, Black Dessert Online, etcetera, etcetera. You get the picture. 

The purpose of this blog is not to debate game development per se, but to chronicle what I find fun, what I find annoying, and why. Writing about gaming will hopefully make gaming a more mindful and thereby more beneficial activity.