Talking about Games: Counter-Recommendations

Giving game recommendations is just an everyday component of being a gamer. We have games we like we want to share, and we’d like others to do the same for us. But sometimes loving a game and how we express that love can hurt the chances that other people will share in our enjoyment. In this essay I explore how we can effectively recommend a game to a degree that people end up hating the game.

Peer Pressure and Puzzles

Puzzle games are often associated with “intelligence” – if you play a lot of puzzle games, you must be smart. But that association often cultivates some bad behavior: it can lead us to insist on playing puzzle games even when we aren’t having fun. In this essay I will be examining the social pressures that exist around playing certain kinds of games, and how giving in to those pressures can hurt our ability to just enjoy things.

Talking about Games: Bad Analysis and Consumerism

We like to talk about games in ways that make us feel smart. It’s not enough to just say that a game makes us feel good or bad – we need to explain why it made us feel that way. And yet, trying to engage in that kind of analysis becomes almost destructive. In this essay I’ll be looking at one way in which bad analysis misunderstands how games are made and results in people just having less fun.

Talking about Games: The Pitfalls of Analysis

There are so many games to play, and sometimes they take so long to complete, that we feel overwhelmed. Sometimes we’d like our games to be shorter, or we are frustrated with a game’s challenge. And so we try to turn that frustration into a principle of design – how could I make this game so I didn’t get so annoyed? In this essay I’ll explore that logic in relation to a particular topic – “padding” – and how it leads to sloppy analysis of games.

On Storytelling: Playstyles and Endings

Ideally, a video game’s story should react to your actions as a player. How you play the game should affect the story. And yet, that fascination with interactive storytelling lends itself to problems about how we approach a given game – or maybe even games in general. To what extent might your own approach continually funnel you toward a specific ending? In this essay I explore the conundrum of trying to mesh interaction and storytelling and the strange dilemma that faces developers.

The Struggle of Predicting Players

Sometimes the most interesting stories are the ones that mess with you in some way. But messing with the audience in some way requires predicting how people will react – if you miss the setup, then the payoff never hits. But no matter how hard we try, perfectly predicting the audience is impossible, and it is important to examine the ways in which those predictions can go wrong, and what that means for us.

Being Comfortable with Our Own Judgments

Gatekeeping is a frustrating component of enjoying games. People who seek to tell us the right games to play and the right way to play them ruin the experience of gaming itself. And yet, we tend to let these people not just dominate the conversation, but dominate our own perceptions of games. In this essay I will be exploring the social problems that prevent us from really being comfortable with not liking a game – especially when that game is popular.

“You Should Try This Game”

As people who love playing video games, we love to share that interest with others. And that can include sharing it with people who don’t play games themselves. Meaning that we often face the problem of “what game should I suggest to introduce this person to video games?” However, in this essay I explain how this question is more complex than we normally treat it, and how we should instead approach this problem.

On Storytelling: The Promise of Mystery

Mysteries can be fun and engaging, and hold a lot of promise when a player can be the main character. Yet, so many games that offer mysteries end up falling short. Where do they go wrong? In this essay I will be looking at some ways in which games that hold the promise of a mystery end up not making good on that promise.