The Existential Gamer: Why Some Games Fail
Sometimes companies struggle to find identity with their games. Beautiful works of art have been created only to fall short to the unscrupulous and critical eye of their consumers. Other times, generic and bland regurgitation’s appear to pop up every year to the tune of millions of dollars.
At the end of the day, does anyone ever wonder why?
Titles like Mirror’s Edge and Remember Me introduced beautiful works of art that went overlooked by the majority of the gaming community. Spec Ops: The Line presented one of the finest stories I’ve ever seen in a video game. At the end of the day, these titles are often thrown into bargain bins or hawked into Steam Sales. Meanwhile some franchises create similar re-creations of their previous titles year-in and year-out to the tune of millions of sales, rarely seeing a sale over 50%.
So my question becomes – “Why?”
My follow up question becomes – “Does it even matter why?”
For the sake of argument let’s assume that the question is relevant and important. That some part of us has this desire to understand or acknowledge that when we play video games the goal is to accomplish something, and that by finishing a game there is some sense of accomplishment or success. Then, for those online games where we don’t really need a “goal” or “finish line” then the impromptu goal becomes, simply … winning. Winning is now the goal.
When we play artistic titles that become monumental success stories, like Journey, we feel this sense of pride rush through us. There is an acknowledgement that we have been participants in something greater, something bigger. When we are in awe at the scenic views of the Witcher, or Halo, or Elder Scrolls, we feel like we are engaged in this virtual world. We want to feel like we matter, like we belong. When we jump into competitive games like DOTA or Call of Duty, we want to jump in, take the win, bask in the glory, and walk away.
So we return to the original question.
Why does some games keep releasing, while others just wither away?
My argument: It’s all about timing.
In large part, every gamer needs something different at any given moment in their life. It is all part of the chaotic indecisive nature of being human. We love to hate Michael Bay movies, yet his films continue to reap millions in profit. We love to hate the concept of Call of Duty and call any game attempting to recreate its presence a “clone,” and yet with each release there are millions of copies sold.
Does it make sense?
No. And I argue that it doesn’t need to make sense.
Gamer’s need different things, at different times in their life. How many gamers have a steam account with 100, 200, 500+ titles in their library? How many of those same gamer’s have actually finished every game in that library? 75% of games? 50%? 10%? 1%?
Sometimes we will play a game that inspires us, changes our mood, shifts our perspective on life itself. We have that shrinking feeling when the credits run recognizing that it’s over, it’s done. We accomplished … something?
Other times we feel obligated to complete games, or even play them in the first place. Sometimes we just play them to have the social interactions with our friends.
At times I need to feel like the game I am playing has some kind of meaning behind it, some kind of purpose. I need to accomplish something. It doesn’t matter what it is. I just need a goal. If I load up
Minecraft I know that I can create something incredible, and it’s my own creation. I participated in that. When that craving to accomplish something is so strong, any games that have no target goal or developmental process feels phony, fake, boring and ends up being uninstalled. Sometimes I need to build a virtual village and feel like I created an environment for something digital to live in.
Sometimes I need to save the world.
Sometimes I need to compete against the world.
Sometimes I need to install 15 different games to manage the mood I am in.
So why do some games wither away, while others succeed?
Sometimes we just need something different.
Sometimes we just need a goal.
Sometimes we just need purpose.
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