Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Why I’m less interested in video games than in the past

When I was teaching videogame development and working on my game design book (Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish, Mcfarland 2012), I read a great deal about video games both online and in magazines, and played my usual “stupid video game” that I spend so much time with. Now in 2020 as I work on adding material to the book (but changing virtually nothing that’s already in it) I realize that I’m spending a lot less time keeping up with video games, though actually spend a lot of time watching people play video games on YouTube. I asked myself, why the change?

Of course, I retired from teaching before my book was published, and so I lost some of the incentive to keep up with video games and videogame development. But that’s not the major reason.

I’m afraid I have to say the main reason is, I have a lot less respect for video games than I did a decade ago. Video games have gone a long way into reward rather than consequences, that is, people are rewarded for participation rather than earning their rewards. ANY negative consequence is avoided. This of course cannot possibly apply to all video games, it’s a generalization about what is typical.

Further, too many video games are puzzles, not games, with always-correct solutions. That’s why you can “speed run” a game, why you can “beat the game”, because it’s a puzzle. And I don’t like puzzles.

I also dislike the venality of games with micro-transactions, games that in most cases find ways to reward gamers until they spend some money, or provide those old “pain points” or slow activity points that persuade people to spend money to get ahead, and ultimately to “pay to win.” Such techniques as loot boxes, which as far as I’m concerned are clearly a form of gambling, have caused me to disrespect where the industry has gone. Players are being too-obviously manipulated.

At the same time, some of the woefully entitled players - certainly many of the most vocal ones - are  not worthy of respect, as they behave like badly-brought-up children. I’m not eager to be identified with such widespread behavior.

Why watch video games rather than play them? I do play one old video game many hours a week (sigh). But viewing others play is a lot less work. And I’m exposed to and learn about games (such as Elite:Dangerous) that I would not bother to play, but that I will watch. (Thank you, Mighty Jingles.) And on rare occasions, I actually try playing one of the games.

You probably know that even venerable Dungeons & Dragons is a commonly-watched game on Twitch and YouTube. Lots of people watch other people playing games, these days.

The other reason for less interest in video games is that I prefer to spend my time on game design, making videos about game design, writing about game design, playing my video game, and so forth, rather than having anything to do with toxic video game “fans.”


Speaking of my games: my game package combining Classic Britannia (with plastic figure armies) and the new Duel Britannia (two players, new board, up to 90 minutes), has been released (late August). Last time I checked, it had not reached US online stores except for one that offered pre-orders (gamenerdz.com), and who knows about game shops. 

Likely next year there will be an electronic version (being made in France). Design notes for both games in the package are on my “Game Design” channel on YouTube (http://youtube.com/LewGameDesign).