I Shoulda Been A Mathematician...

(Comments continue on the post below. I encourage you to check it out.)

I've been replaying Xenogears recently (which I've already gone on about plenty in other posts), so I'll try to stay away from why I like it so much, but it made me realize something.

While I love it, I'm always reticent to describe Xenogears as a "good game". No one will ever tell you that it didn't have tons of problems: Low resolution sprites, the inability to speed through dialogue, repetative Gear Battles, the lack of a map, poor pacing, occasionally awkward dialogue, and the fact that they clearly ran out of money earlier than they expected, and had to drop half a dozen minor plot threads, just to name a few.

And yet, I still love the game, and have played it start to finish multiple times, despite it taking over 40 hours.

It seems to me that the issue of whether or not a game is "good" is kind of irrelevant. The only thing that matters is "Am I enjoying myself?", but this isn't really meant to be a treatise on the subjective nature of experience. Of course everybody reacts to, and therefore enjoys, different experiences to different degrees. I suspect, however, that everybody has a little mental dial regarding games, on which there is a zero point, under which a game is not worthwhile, and over which it is. Every game gets placed somewhere on that dial based on all the elements that make up a game (let's say story, gameplay, and style. Sure it's an oversimplification, but looking at that is for later), multiplied by some coefficient representing how much emphasis you put on those things at the moment, all of which is modified by some coefficient based on how many other demands (self-imposed or otherwise) you have on your time.

[A*(quality of story) + B*(quality of gameplay) + C*(quality of style)]*(Scarcity of time) > 0

is the formula by which you determine whether or not you're going to play a game. Of course, all of these are too difficult to nail down for a formula to actually be useful, other than perhaps a stylistic overlay for a bunch of game reviews.

What this points out, though, is that while the quality of a game is the quality of the sum of its parts, for some players (like myself), no amount of failure on some fronts can make up for truly exceptional story, gameplay, or style. I play Xenogears because the particular story they tell rates very highly on the "quality of story" spectrum for me, and I'm predisposed towards having a very high coefficent associated with narrative.

Likewise, I play Borderlands because the style column is through the roof, and solid multiplayer is a strong boost to the gameplay column. Without multiplayer, the lack luster to non-existant story means it just barely eeks in above the zero line.

I would describe myself as having a huge coefficient for story, a moderate one for gameplay, and a small one for style, with bonus points going towards stories that emphasize personal relationships and the fantastical as juxtaposed with low fantasy, as well as big bonuses for strong co-op multiplayer, and well tuned competitive play.

Or, in typical H. T. Parnell Fashion:

Story is the best
Things are better with your friends
Graphics can suck it

What about you?

1 comment:

Malgayne said...

I prefer style
Also, this post ripped me off
But I don't mind that