Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Thought to Chew: Why Do We Replay Games?

At first I though that I would create a two-part double whammy with another article entitled, "Why Do We Play Games?", but, y'know, everyone's done that already.
So instead, why do we replay video games? Or at the very least, why do I? What is the point?
Completing a video game always feels like a personal victory; it fills you with an internal efficacy I can only describe as excitement or pride. It doesn't necessarily stem from overcoming a challenge, as not all games are on the same difficulty caliber, but rather just the fact that you finished something. Regardless of what you do or watch, finishing it is almost always the best part, and you can leave it with a hopefully different mindset than before you began it.

This is a trait shared by all forms of media. Just as we play games, we watch movies, television, or videos online, and more often that not, we tend to circle back to them. For example, I literally saw The Grand Budapest Hotel two and a half times within a week; I mean, I genuinely love that movie. The weird thing is, however, that it never actually changes when you rewatch or replay it (to a basic extent- the variations with which you play the game are a different story and open-world games are a whole other can of worms. For the sake of simplicity, I'm speaking more of linear games); we know that Mario saves the princess, that Aeris dies, that Monsieur Gustave H... actually, I'll just wait for you to watch that movie. Seriously. It's amazing.
Even so, the feeling of completing a game even if we already beat it is still as strong the second time around. There's a reason that I've completed Super Mario Galaxy 2 so many times. Sure, it's my favorite Mario game ("BUT WHAT ABOUT SM64?!?!" I'll get to that one day). Speaking of the game exclusively, its soundtrack is beautifully orchestrated,  its graphics are some of the cleanest on the system, but most importantly, it's linear but is open enough to not feel like a tedious act. I feel that games that are open enough to encourage different playthroughs are the best games when it comes to replaying.
While it can be argued that sandbox games like Minecraft are the most fun to replay, you don't really 'replay" it in the sense that it doesn't end. Plus, maybe it's just me, but after a while it just becomes a game of "What should I do?" Meanwhile, games like SMG2 are always on a railway, constantly moving but moving at your own leisure.  You can take a break and still feel an incentive to come back to it.
My completionist attitude also kicks in for such games. I'm the kind of person who, while not necessarily that good at video games, will try to complete a game all the way through, or at least as far through as I can possibly get. This is the reason why I circle back to games like SMG2, DQIX, and ACNL.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Noticing a theme, people?) is a game that appeals to more than one group of people. It caters to young gamers, casual gamers, and diehard gamers who want to clear everything. Focusing more on the latter, the game offers challenge after challenge. First, you complete the game, then unlock the bonus world. You complete the bonus world and the rest of the game levels to unlock green stars, occasionally stupidly-hard-to-get stars found in each level. After all of THAT, you unlock the final galaxy. Then, as an award, you have to do it again. With one life.
The escalation of a game like SMG2 is perfectly well-executed.
Meanwhile, games like Dragon Quest IX and Animal Crossing: New Leaf rely on somebody who wants to unlock everything, as the game is built entirely around it. In the case of ACNL, it's more forgiving. The target audience is everybody, so it can be played on different levels. You can either build your house to perfection, perfect your town, complete your encyclopedias, etc. or you can do all of them. Meanwile, Dragon Quest IX opens itself up through DLC (unfortunately no longer available). First, the game opens after you complete the main story, with several side stories, and those oh-so-beloved grottoes. If you have the DLC, though, it's like an almost completely different game: there are 100 more sidequests, many of which have their own story arc, and many more challenges.
These games exceed from more of a collecting standpoint, appealing to the obsessive. Which is me, apparently.
With all that being said, replaying a game is no worse than playing a game. Whether better or the same is debatable, but speaking personally, the ability to try something new... again... is one of the best experiences you can have.

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