Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Joy of SSX

Stop sniggering, you at the back there. That was an S in the middle.

The ever-spiffy 'Tips has posted a little heads up about SSX on the PSP. She's also mentioned that SSX is the only game her friend Paula will play, and enjoy.

Now, my ex, Sarah, generally despised computer games; had little interest in them despite being extremely tech literate, and used to get very bored of me playing Sim City, Civ, KOTOR etc for hours on end. To be honest, this played a small part in our eventual break up. I even got her the CSI game, as she was obsessed with the show and loved anything gory or forensic; it held her attention for all of five minutes.

BUT - the one game she would play was SSX. She loved it; we used to sit in bed on saturday mornings playing 'going down the mountain', as it got nicknamed. She had her favourite character (Zoe, in SSX Tricky; she's sassy and a bit punk; perfect) and became incredibly focused about winning tricking medals on each level, to the point of learning controls and mechanisms; she got at least as far as the Alaska level before getting stuck and frustrated.

The frustration set in when the time limits for racing down became too tight - she couldn't get to the next checkpoint in time, let alone fit in enough tricks in the meantime; the game punished her for preferring and developing skills in the freeform trick mode over the focused race mode.

We talked, once, about why this was the only game she liked. I can't remember verbatim what it was she said, but I absolutely remember the gist. It was this:

That she never died. No matter what happened, she *always* got to the bottom of the hill. It didn't matter if she came in last, or didn't win a medal; the fact that she could always 'complete' the level meant that the game didn't make her feel 'bad'. She didn't feel she'd failed.

I think producing games that still give you the feeling of having beaten something *even when you've failed to beat it* might be a key factor in designing games for non-gamers. It could even be the feeling that if you've failed to beat it, it just hasn't worked out right, like patience.

I see it in myself, too; I always play games on the easiest setting, and am a sucker for cheats; I loose interest as soon as the time required to build up skill to play the game is greater than the (usually very tiny) ammount of time I'm prepared to invest in playing. The number of games that are compelling enough to be more fun than work when getting over the difficulty-spikes approaches zero for me; of the 40 or so games stacked up in my living room, I've completed... two? Three? Certainly less than 10%, probably closer to 1% of all of the games I've played in my time.

It's an extension of playing styles, I think. I'd question if the kind of person who tends to develop games is likely to be the kind of person who temperamentally prefers a certain playing style that is at odds with the casual gamer.

Reaching more people through games will be about expanding the types and styles of games, not about agressive marketing or ubiquitous technology. Growth will come from careful thinking about content.

1 comment:

kim said...

A Comment via email:
On 08/09/05, International Hobo wrote:
> ...otherwise you're going to be very confused.
> Damn your blog, Kim. It won't let me post a comment because I'm not a
> registered "blogger(tm)". :(
> But yes, you're bang on the money here from what we can see. Type 3 Wanderer
> play style in our DGD1 model doesn't want to fail under any circumstances -
> it's discouraging. It's okay to not succeed - but not to be told they've
> failed. Type 4 Participant probably has some overlap with this, as well.
> Trouble is, failure is essential to the pursuit of fiero (triumph over
> adversity) which is a key payoff for Type 1 Conqueror and (to a lesser
> extent) Type 2 Manager play style. And, unsuprisingly, most game designers
> prefer Type 1 or Type 2 play. As do a large proportion of the vocal Hardcore
> who are the natural evangalists for games.
> Welcome to one of the key problems blocking the expansion of the games
> market. :)
> Best wishes,
> Chris.