OTOH Experiment

Everyone knows the importance of first impressions, and how they can color every experience thereafter. The situation is a bit more dire when it comes to blogging (or at least it feels that way), because once we nail something down with words, it not only helps cement the first impressions in our own minds, but it also becomes baggage that gets checked any time we say something contrary in the future. You would not see Wolfshead or Syncaine posting about how much they enjoy Mists of Pandaria, for example, even if they were genuinely impressed; so much of their identity and “e-cred” is wrapped up in historical posts about hating WoW that everyone would assume they are trolling at best, or hypocritical at worse.

I was thinking about all that this weekend, as I mused over the sort of feedback and counter-arguments I have been getting about my Guild Wars 2 posts. Do they have a point? Am I letting my first impressions and foreknowledge about the “endgame” color my moment-to-moment enjoyment? Am I not talking about the fun/interesting things because I subconsciously fear “contradicting” myself?

To answer these questions, I decided to try an experiment I am calling: On The Other Hand. The idea is to carve out a space between playing Devil’s Advocate and cleaning the slate as much as possible for a second impression. The experiment does not involve me being relentlessly positive or pretending to like things I do not – it merely gives me mental room to acknowledge that I may have been unfair in the past.

I’m wrapping this all up in a fancy “experiment” instead of just coming out and admitting possible wrongs, because… well, it is easier. Hey, I never pretended to be a humble guy.

In any case, the first night of the experiment actually happened on Saturday when I strolled into a zone I had never been to before; took some screenshots, jotted down some notes. Since I spent all day Sunday playing FTL (ominous foreshadowing?) I am going to try and run the experiment for another day or two. The end result may be in one big post, or several smaller ones. I especially want to try to get back into a third dungeon.

So look forward to that, or dread it, as is your predilection.

Posted on October 1, 2012, in Guild Wars 2, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I’m not sure I understand the point of all this.
    What I mean: enjoying something is a personal experience, which is affected by all possible prejudices/placebos/biases/younameit. Aren’t you running an experiment which will lead to a final results which is completely useless?


    • Only if you believe “all possible prejudices/placebos/biases/younameit” are static, predetermined things that can never be altered or changed over time. I hated fish my entire life, up until I had to eat it all the time (e.g in Japan), then I found it quite good. Years later, I am back to disliking it, but it probably has more to do with liking chicken more and having it widely available.

      Besides, if this was all a terrible, pointless idea at the end of things, you at least get 1-2 posts and a smug sense of satisfaction out of it.


      • Well, even if your “all possible prejudices/placebos/biases/younameit” change it’s not like they will vanish…. what I mean: if in the end you play it because you like it, what difference does it make?
        And, more importantly, why would I want to go through an “adaptation” period where I somehow force myself to reconsider my position for….. A MMO GAME?!?!
        I can understand very much the attempt to extend one’s horizon by going beyond prejudices, it’s something which is definitely important and useful in real life. I just fail to see why it would be relevant for a game.


  2. I think I do understand and basically what you are saying is you take a second look, trying to be as objective as you can.
    Great idea and whats to lose – you either confirm your original view (>theres that not so humble ego ;)) or you change your mind and have more fun than you thought you would have. Win-win if you ask me :)
    On what server are you, if you dont mind telling?
    (Underworld myself)


  3. I think its a great experiment to see what you are actually doing in a game.

    After getting aquainted with GW2 and the first “have to look/listen/marvel at everything” time passed I started playing differently.
    I ran through zones as fast as possible, never visited the heart guys before doing there tasks-only reading the upper right corner and clickign randomly on things on the ground, alt-tabbed out to find out the way to the vista and harvested everything on my way. After doing that for a whole afternoon I logged out, exhausted, frustrated and unhappy asking myself: WTF was I just doing?

    Since then I switched back a gear and taking more time reading, listening and enjoying the journey again. Maybe GW2 is a game that you can actually play the wrong way. At least that afternoon I definitly played it wrong to get my enjoyment out of it.


  4. I honestly think you do yourself and your previous opinions (which are markedly more logical and empirical than virtually every overtly positive blog post I’ve read) a great disservice my saying “well, gee, if these people are enjoying it, perhaps I’m not enjoying it because I’m doing it wrong”.

    Why does only living in the second-by-second action have to do catalyse something if you are, in doing so, denying yourself the satisfaction of knowing that there is something at the end of mashing hotkeys? To be frank, I think people who play like that are doing roughly the same thing as reading ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and thinking it’s all about the sad story of a chap called Winston.

    You pretty much said yourself that for a certain player, analysing a game (and min/maxing) is part of the fun, even if others go “zomg work in a video game!? GTFO!”. Why should an equally valid idea (looking at the long term design ideals) be worth writing off?


    • It is important to me on an intellectual level that I allow myself the possibility of being wrong. And while personal preferences cannot be “wrong,” first impressions absolutely can be, if not wrong, at least not representative. I experienced this exact thing with FTL wherein the first 4 hours were terrible, absolutely abysmal, and yet somehow here I am on hour 28 and still thinking about the game on a daily basis.

      A year ago, I would have defended the practice of 1-damage mob tagging over a percentage based system. Today, I am convinced mob tagging altogether is an anachronism that needs junked at the earliest available opportunity. Six months ago I thought an AH in Diablo 3 was (maybe) still a good idea. And so on. If I care so much about progression-based endgames, why am I not playing an MMO with such a system? I went more than a year without playing any MMO.

      How will I know if my preferences have changed without critically examining them, especially when I have a natural incentive not to?

      In any case, I would recommend saving any possible disappointment for the posts themselves.


  5. It’s just a video game. Some people will like it, some people will hate it, most people won’t have strong feelings one way or the other.

    If taking a different look at it means you end up having fun, great. If not, so what? The former doesn’t mean you were wrong first time and the latter doesn’t mean you were right.

    Maybe it just isn’t the MMO for you, even if it’s exactly the MMO for someone else. It’s not a question with a “right” or “wrong” answer.


  6. @Dril
    ..maybe because you aren’t having any fun anymore and wish you had?

    I agree with bhagpuss. can’t argue value or personal preference. I can respect almost any opinion on an MMO as long as it gets clear the person made and effort at playing the game, informing himself and giving it a little more time than what it takes me to cook a dinner meal. that’s why I have no issue with syncaine’s GW articles, either – I don’t agree with most of what he says, but he bothered to play the game to level 80 before he started judging complex aspects like endgame or cooperation.

    you don’t make the impression of a particularly emotional person to me or somebody looking to hate rather than putting effort into analyzis – so really, you’re good ;)
    that said, if you feel there’s any potential game in re-trying some stuff in GW2, go for it. it’s not like MMO players aren’t often giving games a second chance, right.


    • “..maybe because you aren’t having any fun anymore and wish you had?”

      I agree, completely shutting off one part of my thought processes in order to try and convince myself I enjoy a game is something I should actively seek to accomplish so I can get some enjoyment out of a game that has been developed from day one with inherent and crippling contradictions, confusions and hyperbole.

      How silly of me to have assumed that the games I do(n’t) enjoy are due to game design instead, of say, my looking glass being wrong.


      • Your argument is beside the point. if you could actually accomplish to ‘convince yourself’ to enjoy a game, the opposite would be possible too. and since enjoyment is subjective and made up of many fickle factors anyway, we’re probably convincing ourselves constantly all the time by biased rationalization – which matters little to us if we actually succeed (and are having ‘fun’). if you think you can actually think outside your own box, then you’re the first to walk the earth with such a gift.

        also, MMOs are more than ‘just design’ – they are based on interaction and social dynamics. it’s players who create guilds, communities and in fact part of the individual content and challenges for themselves. which is why MMOs are harder to rate than other games. they’re not the same one-way street and some of their aspects only develop over time. sometimes it’s just bad timing too – I’ve replayed some MMOs I disliked at first and actually found them more enjoyable the second time around. there’s games I loved in the past I wouldn’t touch today.

        buy hey, if the extreme all-or-nothing approach floats your boat, go for it. I don’t think it gets you very far in the MMO genre, which is not to say that I don’t enjoy hyperbolic sarcasm every now and then. on paper, anyway.


      • @Syl

        Besides your belief that my argument is completely irrelevant (in which case, why bother responding to it?) you seem to have missed the fundamental point: I can’t actually shut off my thought process, because, hey, I’m a normal human being. That’s pretty much my whole focus: I don’t see what Azuriel (or anyone) gains from trying to play something in a way that forces them to alter their mind to try and enjoy it more, because I don’t think it’s something most people can reasonably expect to do with any degree of success.

        All social interaction comes from design. If a game allowed millions of players to log in together but was, gameplay-wise, a completely single player game there would be very little social dynamic. Functionally, at no point in the GW2 (or, indeed, any MMO) levelling experience did I ever feel compelled to talk to any of the automatons around me (why would I? I’m not taking my chances based on Map chat) or try and engage with people who I didn’t already know, because the chance of regularly seeing them again is incredibly slim, and the chance of them being both competent and decent company is even slimmer.

        All or nothing does float my boat. I intend to spend a lot of my gaming time in a single MMO; why would I not be picky? If I wanted to flit between games I’d play my lobby-based multiplayer games and single player games, since they’re far more accommodating to that playstyle than MMOs.


      • “I can’t actually shut off my thought process”

        you’ve not lost your ability to inform yourself though? to evolve perspective? or just change your mind maybe?

        sounds horribly fatalistic to me. as if our thought processes were always the same at any given point in time. sorry, that’s just not how I personally play games.
        even if chances aren’t high opinionated people change their mind, there’s something to gain from second experiences or different approaches.

        and at least you admit that you put in no effort into getting to know anybody in GW2, “because the chance of regularly seeing them again is incredibly slim, and the chance of them being both competent and decent company is even slimmer.”

        if it’s truly ‘just’ the design though (which surely is always the same) and not you – how come so many people currently enjoy GW2’s social mechanics for being more positive and cooperative? unless of course they belong to, y’know, that big group of silly people currently playing GW2 who are clearly neither competent nor decent.
        oddly enough I never meet automatons in the game; I only come across other players currently engaged in a quest or other activity, just like myself – and when I join them or speak to them, lo and behold they spring to life! it’s magic, I tell you.


      • (in which case, why bother responding to it?)

        why leave out the easy ones?


      • Seems to me there was only one automaton playing. The rest were people enjoying the game.


  7. I think this is an interesting exercise. A number of the responses to criticism about the game, at least from what I’ve seen, has been along the lines of “you’re not playing it right”. So, if you’re able to get some mental and emotional distance, I’d be interested to hear about your results.

    I tried this myself during the brief time I played after launch — turned off the mini-map, didn’t look at my level, and tried to just BE THE ASURA. It didn’t change my opinion as it turns out, but it was certainly an interesting experiment and it helped inspire me to try and be a little more “in the now” in other games I play.

    Also, being wrong is part of blogging. Being right all the time is for people who don’t publish their opinions on the internet. :)


  8. You could say for any game that other people enjoy and you don’t that you’re not “playing it right.” If you were, then you’d probably enjoy it. That includes your mindset. However, if the game doesn’t appeal to you, there is no need to try to force yourself to enjoy it. Try playing a different way you if want, you may end up enjoying it. But no need to force it. Good luck with your experiment. :)


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