Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Winning Winning Winning in Games (part two)

I don't have time to get into this today, but I'm going to do it anyway.

"Hey, I have a gameplay element I want to see in Fortnite," I said to Eli 16.8. We were on the way to rink, which is stunning, I know.

"What is it?"

"The one thing I don't like is that there's not much reason for in-close combat," I said. "So if you get close enough to touch another player, you can possess them. And they can't get their body back for at least ten seconds. So you could possess a guy with superior weapons, kill him, and play as him--with your gamertag--for the rest of the round."

"That's a terrible idea," Eli said. "Literally no one would play that."

"Why?" I asked.

"This is why everyone plays Fortnite," he said. "It's so simple that you can understand it in seconds: find a weapon, shoot other players, win. And it's like the The Hunger Games. That's it."

He's right.

Curiously, as I thought about the first game I could remember that gave me the drip-drip-drip winning feeling, I settled upon an unlikely candidate: Mario.

Super Mario Bros., for the original NES. Coins. COINS. COINS!!!!

There was plenty of winning on each level. Every few seconds, it seemed.

The difference, of course, between a Mario game and Battle Royale games like Fortnite is that Mario games have secrets and explorations and all kinds of wonderful things that can't be easily found. Fortnite, in contrast, is paper-thin, but it shares that constant feeling of success.

Compare a game like Super Mario Bros. to Pac-Man. Pac-Man was near constant-tension interspersed with invulnerability. You were helpless most of the time, and could only avoid the ghosts. Mario went in a totally different direction, including mechanics like eating mushrooms to become giant-sized. As a player, you never felt helpless, because there was always a counter. That gave you an entirely different feeling as you played.

What I find disturbing now is that it appears that our collective need for "winning" has shaped how we consume media (or, quite possibly, the shape of media has created our collective need). Journalism isn't investigation anymore--it's winning or losing, and that winning or losing has to be clearly defined in the title of the article, because most people won't even bother to read it.

It's consumption with no intent to understand.

It's Fortnite media consumption, instead of Mario, and it's crippling us.

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