Apologies for the delay in closing this series (though I’m not quite sure how many are actually reading this yet); I suffered some real life attempts at decreasing my health through adversarial forces. Unfortunately, potion quaffing, cure casting, and faerie dust sprinkling are not options in this world.
Rewards through gaming have evolved in many ways. With the advent of both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360’s online services offering achievements to Blizzard’s recent announcement that World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King will include similar trophies, it would appear that gamers love this little decoration, and have come quite a long way from the Hi Score text fit into one corner of the screen. A trophy, a number, something to show friends and about which one has boasting rights–not too much to ask.
In this thread, however, I am more curious about those rewards not so easily apparent. We’ve had high scores for years, though I will admit that I never really bought into those systems, and it is this other type of reward I personally seek.
One of the things that became apparent in my talks with my friend over Oblivion was that he truly felt he’d accomplished something when he beat a humanoid opponent who had better equipment and was casting spells of which he was not apprised. The accomplishment set forth in an On Par model of game is pretty straight forward, and one that perhaps closest emulates a sense of achievement we expect from competition beyond the videogame world.
In game terms, all that Cap’n Perkins had really accomplished was picking up some new gear and perhaps boosting a few skills. This is a constant reward as one travels in Oblivion, and beyond a few spectacular items you may pick up, the progression through the grades of metal one can find in weapons and armor becomes a way of tracking one’s progress through the game’s leveling system.
What was more apparent and helpful to him was something he had accomplished as a player outside the confines of the code. When next he called me, I could hear the good Cap’n’s triumphant smile and the cheer in his voice. Sure, his character had benefited, but he himself felt more confident in his knowledge. He had died multiple times to one particularly nasty vampire and upon defeating him had learned new tactics, new strategies, and how to better utilize his character’s abilities and skills.
It is a reward not inherently provided by the game itself.
The other two systems seem indicative of the new trend in accomplishments. Your reward for defeating a boss might be some new items, new abilities, increased health, and a variety of other in game progress trackers. Surrounded by a horde of enemies and proceeding to tear through their ranks gives a visual treat. I’d be hard pressed to deny a sense of puerile, sadistic glee in seeing the slain bodies of foes littering about my avatar.
Does that mean these other two options do not provide that sense of accomplishment? Not at all. Any obstacle that is particularly challenging can give a player this sense of a reward that is not quite tangible, and not represented by a certain coding and art provided by the systems on which we play. However, I would argue that a game such as Oblivion, which imitates (though does not perfectly emulate) the challenge one expects from PVP in other games, makes this sense of achievement much more certain (but of course, not guaranteed). The caveat being that the level of self congratulation all depends on our previous experiences. For someone who constantly plays games, that feeling of accomplishment becomes a rarer find, and is why I do engage in PVP whenever I happen to play a game that provides the option.
Perhaps this explains another reason for the dissatisfaction some gamers have when a game promises an evolution in a system to find that it gives the same drug to which we’ve already built a tolerance.