Tobold's Blog
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Innocence lost

A decade ago, when I was still actively blogging about MMORPGs, the idea that I could record myself playing let’s say World of Warcraft and people would watch that seemed ridiculous. Today there is Twitch, and YouTube is full of “let’s play” videos as well. And even I am sometimes watching. Usually in order to learn how to play better, because that is easier achieved by watching than by reading an explanation. But recently I also watched somebody on Twitch playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the first time. Which at the same time made me want to play that game again, and had me realize that it wouldn’t be the same.

World of Tanks, which I have mostly been playing this year, has more or less infinite replayability. Even if you end up with the same tank on the same map, the actions of the other 29 players in the battle won’t be the same, so the battle will be different. The replayability of a game like Zelda is a lot more limited, because it is a game of exploration and discovery. Once you have discovered something unexpected, like drawing a bow next to a fire and discovering that this turns your regular arrows into fire arrows, you can’t unring that bell. On the next playthrough you will still know this, and be unable to have another “wow, discovery!” moment. The second playthrough of Zelda is necessarily much less exciting than the first. If I want to recreate those moments, I either need to wait for Breath of the Wild 2, or play a completely different open world exploration game, and then I can’t think of one as good as Zelda. Still I’d probably have more fun playing one of the newer Assassin’s Creed games that I haven’t played yet rather than playing Breath of the Wild again.

The great thing about Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is that a) you can go anywhere you want due to the climbing mechanic, and then b) there will be something there to discover. Most other open world games either have lots of areas you can’t go to, blocked of by visible or invisible walls, and/or you can get to the top of the mountain and find that there is nothing interesting there. In Zelda there would be at least a small riddle up there that rewards you with a seed, used to enlarge your inventory. I haven’t really found another game since Zelda that does this as well.

This is where nostalgia comes in. You hit a point in time where you remember how much you enjoyed something and a little of why but the precise detail is lost. Then you try it again, if it's something that can be tried again, like a game, and you get the same discoveries and surprises, only now, instead of revelations they're reminders. It doesn't feel the same but it still feels good. GIve Zelda another decade, then play it again and see how that feels.

Of course, the same doesn't really apply to other entertainment forms, let alone real art. Your second or third or fourth reading of a novel or viewing of a movie is as likely to be revelatory as the first. More likely, really. Are games really so empty they give up all their meaning on first knowledge?
> your second or third or fourth reading of a novel
> or viewing of a movie is as likely to be
> revelatory as the first.

How so? I don't get it. Watching a movie the second time will never be as revealing as the first time.
Perception is a powerful thing. There have been quite a few single player games that I have went back and re-played and enjoyed just as much as the first play through. The same with movies, books and other media. I don't re-play a game, re-watch a movie or re-read a book to get that "first experience" feeling. I do those things because I get to experience the enjoyment of everything I loved about them.

I don't know how many times I have re-played the original Half-Life, and to this day I haven't taken the same path or used the same method to bypass the silo monster. I also remember how much I hated the platform jumping puzzle section and still wonder aloud how the devs ever thought that section was a good idea to include in the game. Then there are games like Portal/Portal 2 where multiple methods of completing the game(s) are limited only by your intelligence/problem solving skills.

Based on this post from Tobold, the reasons I would re-play a game will be completely different than his, because my expectations will be different than his. The reasons I would re-sub to WoW would also be much different than his.

Tobold wears rose colored glasses just like the rest of us =)
I actually quit playing Half-Life due that stupid jumping area! But by all accounts Xen wasn't the best aspect of the game anyway, so I probably got most of the good bits. I started playing it again last year but to be honest I forgot about it though I did enjoy my re-visit.

I think you can probably enjoy RPGs if you leave them long enough so long as you are in them for the mechanics rather than the story, and if age and modern games haven't staled your tolerance for the grindiness in most of the classics of the genre. But oftentimes it's best leave them as a happy memory.
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