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Reassessing What Maturity Means To My Gaming Habit

Once in awhile, an individual is given exactly what they thought they wanted, and this provides the necessary background to better understand what it was they really wanted all along.

I thought I wanted good games to play and, technically, that's still true.  But here I am with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, a game which I think is undeniably good, and charming besides.  Yet, I unlocked the second location in the game ,I just imagine that here is a 3D platforming game full of all sorts of hand-crafted content and realize, to my chagrin, I find I really don't want to play it anymoreWhy?  I have what I thought I wanted, but it apparently is not what I want at all.
Maybe it has to do with my tastes maturing with age.  When I think of the kind of people who would be interested in playing a platformer, I have to take a stab at what the game offers and why it would appeal to those people.  Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is charming, and I think being charming appeals to people of all ages, but it's ultimately just the dressing, a coat of paint on the real deal: the actual game mechanic itself.

What is the game mechanic in LM:DM?  In the original Luigi's Mansion, I think it was mostly about investigating a Haunted House, it was almost a point-and-click adventure: you would try to find where ghosts were hiding and learn their weaknesses.  But, upon arriving in the second mansion of LM:DM, it seems to me that it is now an action game: it's much more focused on platforming, including a sequence where you avoid crows flying through a fence, sequences where you fight off several ghosts at once, and so on.
What really seals LM:DM's fate as a spastic action game is that, in order to unlock everything, you are encouraged to replay old stages at peak performance: as quickly as possible, taking as little damage and collecting as much loot as possible.  This is done in order to raise your "star rating" for each level.  Yes, this does add a great deal of replay value of the game, but at the cost of alienating somebody whose reflexes aren't what they used to be.

So, it a nutshell, it seems Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon has a lot to like about it, including some of the quasi-point-and-click-adventure-like aspects of the Gamecube original, but I lost interest at about the point where I realized its long-term focus would appear to be on speedrun skills and this bores me, I don't care at all for twitch gameplay for the sake of twitch gameplay.  So this has me thinking that what I really want is not just a good game (which LM:DM certainly is) but a good game that focuses more on depth and less on twitchiness.

Oh, a little twitchiness is alright - I did not mind the advanced moves in Dungeons And Dragons: Shadows Of Mysteria PC demo, for example: they're easy and just require you know how to do them.  It's just when you expect me to do a perfect speedrun or execute an instant headshot that I feel a tad out of my element.

This is the appeal of games like Solitaire for more mature gamers.  This game does not require great reflexes, but it does keep your mind well-occupied because you have to consider about a dozen positions at once: the stacks, the draw deck, the discard piles, ect.  Though, personally, I'm not a great fan of Solitaire because I also like my games to be fair, and some games of Solitaire simply can't be won due to the way the deck is dealt.  (This lack of fairness is my primary gripe with Planetside 2, it's largely a technical limitation problem.)  Maybe Sudoku would be a better example of a simple, yet mentally involving game.

But I'm still an electronic gamer at heart, so I am thinking perhaps I aught to stop buying "action/adventure" genre games and instead stick to buying games that are less twitchy, more thinking.  For example:
  • Like Dwarf Fortress-type games, which are largely about management of individual NPCs to get something built or overcome trials.
  • 4X games, standing for "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate," these games are basically strategy war games where your empire starts off small and eventually expands to become the best in the land.
  • Role-playing video games, but only those which have tightly-balanced gameplay that perpetually challenge the player to bring victory off the winning side of a knife's edge.   (I suspect Etrian Odyssey 4 will be one such game.)  A lot of games from this genre - like virtually every MMORPG - are focused not simply on rewarding persistence, and are not what I am interested in playing in, particularly because I outgrew most of being a Bartle achiever - oh, an occasional in-game shiny reward is nice, but I don't care about getting one nearly as much as I used to.
  • Even miscellaneous casual games work provided they have good mental busywork such as Diner Dash clones or Bejeweled clones... actually, I'm not sure there's a whole lot of gameplay depth to Bejeweled, it's mostly about the pretty colors and blinking lights (but I do like what Puzzle Quest did with it - pity about the overly random nature when played competitively against an NPC).
  • Strategy games in general, not already covered by mentioning 4X games.  Scrolls is one such example, and perhaps I should try other collectable card game style games.  Advance Wars and Fire Emblem: Awakening (which I have yet to play) are others.  I mentioned "bringing victory off of the winning side of a knife's edge" above, and that's basically what many of the scenarios in these games are about.

I played a bit of my other GameFly (here's a referral) rental, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and I have to say that I generally enjoy it more than Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon because the gameplay is not about spastic arcade action, it's basically a strategy game of syncing up several stickers to use each combat round.  It is interesting to note that PM:SS is a roleplaying game that completely skirts typical power accruing methods - instead, it's all about finding more powerful stickers, and those stickers are each one use only attacks. There is a minor twitch aspect to performing attacks, but it is basically a shallower and easier version of Mario and Luigi mechanics I had mastered before.

So far, the main downside of Paper Mario: Sticker Star is that it is a continual chore to have to backtrack and buy more stickers from the ticker store because I used up all my attacks.  Being limited to just 3 pages of my sticker album is a pain... perhaps I get more album pages as I go along but, if levels end up longer, then that counterbalances itself out.  Also, while the core combat mechanic has a greater amount of depth to it than a pure action game, the overall game's depth could be better - clearly, PM:SS is a casual-friendly game.
Ah, the feel of being a guy in his 30s playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf who comes across this commercial while sitting in a movie theater, waiting to check out the latest Pixar masterpiece.
I wonder why I play Animal Crossing: New Leaf?  Well, truth be told, AC:NW is a bit of an odd duck.  It's not really a game, per se, in that the most challenging activities (e.g. fishing or catching bugs) are neither all that challenging nor important to do.  To an extent, AC:NW is a single player massively multiplayer online game with a wicked achievement mechanic built in: "log in" every day to earn bells and buy this-day-only available clothing, furniture, and so on.   I think that, on the purist level, AC:NW is basically a city building game, because the long term goal of the game is to make your little virtual animal town, as well as your house, look great.

There are better city builders out there, in terms of depth and scope, but there's none that play quite like AC:NW.  Perhaps the closest resemblance could be seen in Harvest Moon: A New Beginning (a game where you play a farmer who also has a hand in rebuilding a town) or Hinterland (a game where you are a barbarian warrior who is also creating a settlement) because both games are about earning money and acquiring certain goods which are then invested in building your own town.  Come to think of it, Dark Cloud may have popularized this idea.

I probably do not need to explain why a maturing person would want to play Brain Age: Concentration Training.  It's a bit iffy, though, as there's apparently considerable scientific debate as to whether or not brain fitness is a thing.  Brain Age claims to be supported with MRI studies, but you will surely find others who have found means to disagree.  Well, what the heck, it only costs me maybe 10 minutes a day, and I can't say it's completely un-enjoyable, even if it was not worth the $60 it took me to buy this game twice (once for a physical copy, again when I realized it's better to get as a downloaded app).

TotalBiscuit really didn't like Marvel Heroes.  I really can't argue with anything he's saying here despite initially liking it.

Neverwinter and Marvel Heroes turned out to be a waste of $50, each.   They're just RPGs in the vein of, "persistence equals rewards."  Which means they're not very challenging to me, the player.  Which means they have no real depth.  Which means, guess what, my maturity level completely rejects these games.  Had I only realized this sooner, I could have curbed my old buying habits and saved myself a tenth of a grand.

Another little change to my buying habit which I think would be beneficial to make is to stop buying games before I have finished playing the ones I have.  That's a fairly tall order, though, considering so many games make it hard to assess when they are truly "finished."


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