Boring Games

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So my daughter loves Star Wars: Battlefront.  I watch her run around, shooting Stormtroopers, hijacking AT-STs, throwing thermal detonators – and all the while she’s shouting at the screen.  She can play for hours.
“You wanna play with me?” she asks, holding up the controller.  I demur.
Because I find Star Wars: Battlefront stupidly boring.
Sure, I like shooting people in the face as much as anyone, but I personally need to know why I’m murdering twenty people.  And sure, there’s the overall mission of “Take over Hoth Base,” but a real story indicates knowing what’s at stake if I lose – what people will be hurt?  What does my character stand to lose if I fail?  What’s this battle mean for the Empire?
The answer is “nothing.”  If I lose, the screen will reset and I’ll play again, on the exact same screen, with the exact same layout.  It’s like some techno-Groundhog Day, where this battle eternally occurs and nothing ever changes as a result.
And for me, I look at the explosions and the deaths and the TIE fighters strafing from the sky and the orbital bombardments and it’s just background noise.  I don’t want to play unless I feel like I’m making some kind of difference – and this is like Mitchell and Webb’s The Football sketch, where the endless series of climaxes have no end game and no real point.
When Erin was out, I played Heavy Rain, the first of a new breed of narrative games.  And in the first fifteen minutes of Heavy Rain, I literally:
Woke up (and had to move the controller to get out of bed)

  • Looked in my closet
  • Shaved
  • Took a shower
  • Got dressed.

That was it.
And yet I found Heavy Rain infinitely more interesting than the explosions in Battlefront, because presumably whatever happened that this guy was abluting himself for mattered to him.  And sure enough, it was his son’s birthday, so when the next hour of the game consisted of doing his architecture plans and setting plates so he would have time to play with his son, I felt good about the time.
(And then I laughed, horribly, because his son died.  Because when there’s a heavy-handed scene at a CROWDED! MALL! when you buy your ten-year-old son a red balloon and he wanders into traffic and gets killed, it winds up being so over-the-top that it’s totally narm.  No spoilers, folks, that’s literally the prologue for a five-year-old game.)
But the point is, I spent an hour of my time prepping for a birthday party, and even though Heavy Rain’s controls are clunky and nonintuitive, I was way more interested than I was in shooting Stormtroopers.  Because for me, games are all about the story.  I’m playing Angry Birds not for the puzzle quotient so much as I am to defeat the pigs.  And the pigs can be shallowly depicted, but watching their stunned surprise before they poof away into clouds is enough for me to play for a while.
Games like Battlefront and Halo and all the other multiplayer games where you pile into an arena and kill and kill and kill and nothing will ever change as a result of it?
Can’t do it.
Sorry, kid.  I tried.  But do you wanna watch me shave this guy’s face?

1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth
    Mar 11, 2016

    So relatable (from the other side). Thanks for playing Eragorn with me on xbox, dad.

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