Time-Soaking

[Blaugust Day 26]

Weirdly enough, I find myself back to playing Battlefield 4.

It all started when I was reading the comment section on a random Kotaku page, and someone mentioned that BF4 still had 100,000 people playing, whereas Battlefield: Hardline (the more recent game) had 15,000.

After looking it up myself, the numbers are indeed around those ballparks, but it’s a bit misleading:

As DLC, Hardline ain't doing bad.

Taken 8/25/15 at 10:30pm EST.

As DLC, Hardline ain’t doing bad. Then again, it ain’t DLC.

In any case, I had an itching for some shooting, so I queued up the Origin download, then the BF4 download, then the China Rising DLC download, then got in 5 minutes of gameplay before bed. The next few days after that though, I’d say I was back to my old pattern of soaking up my free-time with games that ultimately don’t matter. And I don’t like it/can’t get enough of it.

I know I’ve talked about it before in this space, but I have a huge love-hate relationship with these sort of games. By “these games” I mean games that are more entertainment than experiences. When I finish playing Battlefield 4, I awaken as from a fugue state, disorientated… and empty. I had fun in the moment, and the moment passed. Which is great if I were simply interested in killing time between meaningful activities, but I’m not. This is my life I’m whiling away. Surely there are better games for it? Games that leave you with something.

Sometimes I just don’t know. Metal Gear Solid 5 comes out in less than a week; I have not even started playing Metal Gear Solid 4. Not that they’re chronologically connected in any way, but still. I could be playing that! I should. I should be plowing through Pillars of Eternity for that matter. I actually am making more progress through that game, methodically, but progress just the same.

What is it about these sort of games – BF4, Civilization, roguelikes, etc – that simultaneously seduces and sickens me? Is it because they are more fun than “traditional” games? Is it because they are more approachable time-commitment-wise? Do I just secretly delight in frivolity? Or perhaps the cognitive dissonance stems entirely from my misplaced sanctimony for “real” games that “matter?”

I wish I had an answer. Because then I could just type that, and be back shooting faces in BF4.

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Posted on August 26, 2015, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The answer for me is the fact that I know I can jump in and jump out at a moment’s notice. If I were to play a RPG, then I’d have to dedicate huge blocks of time to get anywhere in it.

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  2. I love those fun games that provide great experience, and I never understand the game that “matter” without providing good experience.

    In fact, I think I do not understand how a game can “matter”. For me they are always a way to provide fun moment, happiness, new experience, discovery or make me think and resolve problem. The goal for me is to feel something, no to build something.

    Can you try to describes better what is a game that matter for you ? From other people description, it look similar to achieving something (complete the game, build a legendary weapon, or in real life, solve a puzzle, build your own chair, etc…) Is it similar ?

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    • A game “matters” when it becomes a distinct memory or otherwise becomes a part of your personal narrative. I have played probably 200 hours of Battlefield 4 (and around 400 of BF3, and 1000+ of BF2) and have had some fun rounds, lucky kill streaks, and otherwise had a good time. But other than that vague sort of “I had a good time” feeling, I couldn’t tell you much else about it.

      Contrast that with a similar amount of time I spent playing, say, the Mass Effect series, or Fallout series, or FF7, or Xenogears, or ICO, or Journey, or Chrono Trigger. Those games, if not directly changing who I am as a person, at least offered an experience that continues to generate good feelings to this day. I can relive those memories. I cannot relive the good times I had in the Battlefield series; I can remember those crazy matches, sure, but it is not even remotely the same sensation, to me.

      I suppose it’s the difference between watching a TV comedy and watching a TV drama. Both could be entertaining – should be entertaining – but the comedy show isn’t likely to stick around in your mind much longer than it takes you to turn off the TV set.

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  3. The ‘sanctimony’ isn’t misplaced for you, obviously – you feel how you feel, and no point in pretending otherwise – but I’ve found that the ‘crazy matches’ and their equivalent across various titles that are more procedural than narrative driven are rather a big deal. I still remember a few games of Civ or the old Master of Orion or Warband which took especially interesting turns, even if the story part was mostly in my head. I remember the rueful personal camaraderie that built up over a course of many days in a particular demoralised Republic warzone crew in TOR, which kept queueing despite getting regularly stomped. I don’t know, all that stuff made an impact.

    Perhaps valuing storytelling games over gameplay games is a subtle concession to the thesis that games can’t be art, at least to the extent that they’re games.

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