My gaming blue

Finishing a really great game can sometimes lead to mixed emotions. While games can be appreciated more than once the realisation that a compelling chapter of your gaming life is over is still a hard one.

For every part of my life, there has been a great game running in parallel to my daytime. While I struggle on with the difficulties of the day there is always a game to lighten my evenings. When that game is over it leads to what I can only explain as my gaming blue.

How and why

I’m sure this isn’t a phenomenon unique to me. Sometimes the influence of a game can be so overreaching, so powerful that I find myself unable to move onto the other games in my gaming pile, it relates almost directly the mood created. The inability to wean myself from the environment the game has created for me leads to an almost pining need to continue exploring that world, making it difficult to move to the next game, sometimes days will pass before I can pick up another title in my “to-play” pile.

It isn’t always a reflection of the tone of the ending of the game , it’s not a sulking reaction to a soppy ending, or a jubilant stop. Happy ending or sad it seems to relate almost exactly to how deeply goal-driven the game is, how elaborate the world, how satisfying the combat is. Thinking back to those happy moments in my working day spent carefully planning my next gaming session, exacting the progress to be made – that stops temporarily, and its hard to pick that momentum back up.

A rollercoaster ride

If this happens I normally take it as measure of the games success. It doesn’t happen very often. Generally even with a great game the focus is to finish to move to the next one, to seize the moment of the current experience and chain another, maybe trying a different genre after the steady saturation of the last. A game that stops me in my tracks is rare, almost every game provokes enjoyment or moments of reflection. Few pull me out of my strong desire to play with such force.

The length of time spent on each game is certainly a factor. If weeks have been committed to a particular game, or days spent familiarising myself with the tiny little details no other game has; it becomes difficult to move onto something else. Our growing replay culture extends this feeling encouraging us to continue an enjoyable experience at the expense of our other, newer games.

Moving onto the next game

The most recent example I can think of is Mass Effect 2 – without discussing the detail of why (the reasons of which have been discussed in my post on video game spoilers) The profoundness of Mass Effect’s story, world and character detail has made me reluctant to pick up another title out of sheer awe, but similarly reluctant to start another game of similar size and scope, I have a particular sort of dread about rebounding to another game to fill the void created by such an entertaining, enthralling classic.

I’m interested to hear about your moments of quiet reflection after a game has ended, which titles have most inspired your moments of gaming pause?

Video games

The Spoiler Problem

Rather a big game came out this week, and it occurred to me that I am more at risk of having the narrative of Mass Effect 2 spoiled for me than I ever was with the original.

This is because the excitement of a new game creates ripples online, with all most gamers eager to share their personal experiences in a greater number of ways. What is most interesting about spoilers is the choices we all make about what to share, and what to keep secret; I know it as the spoiler moral compass. As you’d expect this post contains no spoilers.

Different viewpoints

As gamers we have differing opinions about what a spoiler is, I would describe the definition of a spoiler as anything that reveals a significant detail about anything narratively interesting. To some this means keeping the ending of a game quiet, to others it means keeping as much of the story of the game as unknown to others as possible, including pictures, descriptions or even hints to particular events.

This is because some people are happier to discuss game elements than others. Some prefer to read as much information as possible about a particular game before it comes out, others choose to read very little, it’s in this way that information that is out in the public domain can still be a spoiler to a certain amount of the gaming community – those preferring their first experience with a game to be that be completely new, out of the box, a complete unknown. This is now even harder to do than ever before.

So how do we each develop a moral compass about spoiling games? Usually it comes out of the process of having a game that we’ve particularly enjoying spoiled by another, an avoidance strategy to stop it happening to ourselves or someone else. As a result some gamers become as defensive of game plot, bosses or events as developers, keen to improve the chances of other player’s experience.

Even someone hinting what is likely to happen to a game or character ruins the “as intended” concept, for every game be it the most personal single player journey to the largest multi-player experience, the difficulty remains how to keep “the secret” as something we can each piece together ourselves, so we can all enjoy that beautiful epiphany moment independently.

So we do largely depend on one another to contain ourselves, to leave those tiny morsels of details for others to appreciate, and despite the massive temptation to throw ourselves into debate it’s important that we continue to have those moral struggles about whether to share or hide plot or gameplay information.

My version of Shepard, the female version based on my original Mass Effect character.

Time and location

The age of the game in question is also an interesting premise, older games that have passed a gamer by are usually fair game when it comes to spoilers, the deciding factor of which is a combination of whether the game in question existed in this generation or the last, or even before, and that respective games influence. After all in the eyes of a new player, does a massive story spoiler from a game that’s ten years old have any less impact than a game released one week ago?

Even if nothing is narratively is spoiled by these discussions, there is always the risk that positive or negative associations about a game are being noted by the person yet to play, with their opinion of the game effected beforehand, for better or worse.

While some developers put limits on what can be openly discussed by gaming magazines or websites there are no such limits on the public domain. Once a game has reached it release date it often becomes fair game out on the world wide web. The problem being that even with a growing number of worldwide simulatenous releases, there will always be a region of the world who gets a particular game after everyone else, and even if this is not the case, timezones and distances add to the problem.

What I often see as a gamer in Europe is players from other parts of the world openly discussing a game which was out weeks, maybe even month ago (for them), the Pandora’s box has opened and much of the information that was candid has now been exposed to the most amount of people possible from that region. This period of time seems to last in direct correlation to the games initial release date, and then another factors such as the time it would take an average gamer to complete, plus an extra amount of time for slow completions, as such I would argue that regions including Europe and Australia (among others) are most as risk to the open dialogue that begins once a portion of the community finishes a game and takes time to reflect.

A larger view of the Illusive Man smoking in front of a gaseous planet.

Expanding web and social networks

Back in the old days of the web it was easy to stay clear of information that compromised a game. Websites or forums where games are discussed almost always have a moral codes surrounding spoilers. These days with the rise of the ability to make impulse broadcasts about game thoughts and progress on social networks like twitter, it’s even harder to avoid snippets of information that could ruin a particular moment.

The changing face of the web is the biggest risk for the gamer. Every corner of our favourite gaming websites are a minefield for spoilers, some handle this better than others, clearly marking any content that may effect their readership, but this is an editorial decision on the part of the website or publication, which in turn boils down to a personal decision by the moderator, editor or contributor about what may or may not be spoiler content. Morally and editorially it’s almost as difficult as trying to decide what may offend someone, difficult to predict and hard to imagine the consequence until it’s far too late; another game ruined, or weakened, by the inadvertent slip of the spoiler moral compass.