Deferred Success

This title stems from educators wanting to remove kids from an ‘F’, or ‘Failing’ grade. No more failing – just deferred success! Clearly the change in terminology will make kids all become hugely successful.

This Epic Defer is part of a longer list of deferrments by public offcials who manage powerful unionized employees (the same unions that say it’s unfair to periodically test teachers to ensure they are, you know, smart enough to teach kids). So in essence the teacher’s union has accepted their own deferred success and want to pass that onto the kids. That part makes complete sense.

Sorry for the mini rant, its funny stuff.  The gaming slant comes next.

Gauging success in all forms of gaming has me in a proverbial pickle. Is wiping on a boss mechanic, only to come back and conquer it, any more or less satisfying than restoring from a save game point in a single player game? Single player games do have ‘difficulty’ levels, while MMO’s have been adopting that same sort of mechanic with Hard Modes. Developers have to take into account all sorts of play styles and ability levels to range the expected outcomes of success. Players want to win, developers want players to win too – for the satisfaction of the purchase. So in a sense, developers are just setting their own levels of deferred success for their player bases.

Make it too hard – players revolt. Make it too easy – players don’t feel challenged and have a superficial experience. Where, and how, is that line drawn?

This thought process has lead me to a pillar that should be of more importance – the story. Regardless of difficulty level story is a trump card. If the story is amazing, I’m more likely to bang my head against that wall in a tough level to learn what happens next. I’m also left with a feeling of satisfaction after completing an easy level as my waltz through it is still rewarded with a narrative. Call of Duty, Black Ops did this particularly well in their interactive movie experience single player campaign.

World of Warcraft, and most of the other MMO’s I’ve payed have not done the story aspect  particularly well.

Then we have the outliers, the games that don’t present directed experiences as the challenge but where the players create the stories. Minecraft is a good example of this. Sports games where players play against other humans also has a much stronger skill aspect.

All games are created for you to have success in them – they are just designed in a length of time format that players expect a return on based on the monetization scheme.

I don’t have a conclusion here and just throwing this up for discussion. It just all feels very shallow to me right now -the deferred success in our games – like the Wizard of Oz is just some dude behind a curtain was just revealed to me.

3 Comments

  1. Tesh

    As to the school thing… I think it’s absurd, but probably not worth ranting much about, so as to keep things more or less on topic.

    For games, it’s different, though. Games are a consumer product, not intended for competition and education. That’s not to say that they can’t challenge players, just that challenge really needs to be more flexible. If, perhaps, the monetization was chunked out like W101’s content pieces, and only the most adept players have to pay for the most demanding content, that’s doable. If we’re making dev-designed story important, though, players of all skill levels should be able to see it all.

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  2. Liam

    Or a game like Super Meat Boy (SMB). You die dozens of times rapid fire non-stop. The genius though is each level is only about 30 seconds to 1 minute long, and when you die the return to being alive again is instantaneous.
    It’s an incredibly difficult game at times, but they don’t give you a chance to stop, success is constantly a few seconds away.

    I’m not sure there is a line. The trick is design. Frustration comes in when people think the game is against them. EA’s NHL series is notorious for the AI just “deciding” when it wants to score. It’s out of the players hands. The player needs to be saying things like, “Oh damn I forgot about that.” or “I know what I did wrong, ok, I got it this time.”

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  3. Isey (Post author)

    @Tesh: Yeah, best to leave the educating discussion out of it – I mostly included it to steal the terminology and define where the tag came from. The broad brush I painted was a bit vague – competition in games are very much front in center (in MMO’s and FPS’s alike) whether developer programmed or not. I do agree with monetization as a supporting factor for dev content.

    @Liam: I think that is where I get kerfluffled, to be honest. When I think of game design as ‘Oh damn I forgot about that’ I push to the extreme example of Dragon’s Lair – the old arcade game that you not only had to do exactly the proper steps to not die, but at the right time. There was zero leniency for success.

    My secondary thought here is that perhaps the games should not push a fail, but ‘reward’ based on level of success. You don’t wipe on a boss because of lag in an MMO when your tank dies and you are out of in combat rez’s, but when you do down that boss (that has been downgraded to easier mode on the fly) the rewards aren’t as great. Is that really any different than what we have today, theoretically?

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