First off, I''m not talking about racing, FPS, (most) platforming or (most) strategy games. We''re talking good old, content-based, (video) Roleplaying games.
With that out of the way, I want ask something. Why are they so addictive? What makes us sacrifice literally days of our lives (ha) to play these things?
My pet theory is that we are watching a story, just like a Film or play, with one added feature. Everytime we fail to perform well in the Strategic/management/twitch aspects of the game, the player dies. When we succeed, the player succeeds. So you really feel a kinship with these characters, even if they are 2 dimensional (literally!) and boring. Their success equates with your own success. Addictive, it is. Yoda, I am.
Where does the Landfish live? Everywhere. Is not the Landfish the Buddha?
Actually.. I know a good game to show a good deal of this.. and more.. NeverWinter Nights, and the entire AD&D gold box series. The games allowed low levels and used mostly the 1st edition rules, although many had the 2nd edition as well. They were petty games based off of a now failing game system. But they were fun, in that you had almost non-stop action. There was no cutscenes, no break.. no movies. You just sat in the chair, hard core.. and played NeverWinter had a whole other aspect.. it was online, on AOL for a long time. I played there from version 2.0 until it died. There were people logging thousands of hours a month in there.. making AOL rich! And it was a fairly poor game system! It had community like none other! Hell, it even had a limit of 400 players at a time.. 400! imagine if todays games had that! I think the community aspect of it developed because there were only hard-core gamers in it. The game was never truely "winable" although you could do all quests. It was a very static game. Things were always as you left them. And i think that made people happy. As long as there were new people to show things to, the game held interest, and community. It lacked today''s graphics, and huge servers.. and yet, I personally found it more appealing then anything out today. And add to the pile Yserbius, a game from Sierra.. so long ago! The first online expereince i had was gaming, and i must say it was so much more fun than anything since! Because it was static.. it didn''t keep changing on people, it was the way it was So i think it''s an interesting mix of things to make an RPG sucessful and addicting. Sometimes static elements factor in. Familiarity, along with the feeling that the character depends on you.. needs you even!
I prefer the ''carrot on a stick'' concept myself. If there aren''t new and challenging monsters in the next level of a dungeon, if there aren''t new and more powerful weapons on the next level, and if there aren''t new and more difficult puzzels on the next level, the game is just another isometric shooter. I prefer the character skill developement and wealth aspects associated with the previously mentioned carrots.
Eye candy isn''t everything. I remember playing 4 color, top down, legoland-looking RPG''s on the C128 and a step by step, 4 color, single dungeon, 3D RPG on the TI 99-4/a. I had a blast with both. I can''t play Diablo very long since it required you to kill every breathing thing on a level to survive long enough for the next level. I keep thinking ''Gauntlet'' when it comes to Diablo. I have managed to keep at Darkstone until the 18th level. The original unpatched edittion was a breeze - I didn''t get killed until level 10. I restarted when I got the most recent patch and now I feel like it is a much more balanced game. No more wimpey monsters. I also like how only certain creatures can open doors and chase you down.
Back to my original theory. People like to get bigger, badder toys. They like to explore. They like to be challenged right along with their PC.
I happen to like cut-scenes and grit my teeth through the monster fights. Well, they''re kind of interesting for a while if the monsters are pretty or funny or require me to actually do some strategic thinking, but I''m always eager to get the fights over with so I can see some new places, find a new puzzle to solve, or see the characters interact and the plot advance. When I play an RPG I think of myself as the characters'' guardian angel, sheparding them to a happy ending.