Games are unique form of media, which combines many other art forms – visual art, music, sound design, screenwriting, directing, game-design, user experience and others. Games have evolved from primitive space shooting games like Asteroids to a massive story-driven games like God of War. Games are so different and so diverse, almost everyone can find something appealing to themselves.
But for my wife (completely non-gamer person) all games are basically the same. She doesn't spot many differents from Far Cry 5 or Hollow Knight. "Well, in first you shoot angry fanatics and in the second you fight with cute bugs?" Games for her are just like a toys for kids playing in the sandbox. She does appreciate my hobby, but still think that games are basically are "Just kill everyone / Collect everything / Win every race".
Which made me think – maybe she's not wrong?
Many games provides so many challenges and different activities, sometimes it even feels too overwhelming. I'm not a huge fan of the Platium Trophy, not many games I've beat to 100%, but amount of activities in games drives me crazy. I don't feel I'm actually completed the game. When princess is saved, but someone still begging for help or hidden treasure is still hiding somewhere from me how can I be calm? (why games have so many hidden treasures? I'm the only one who's looking for them?) I never thought I actually beat Witcher 3 or Assassins Creed just because of this reason – main quest ended, but there still so much stuff to do. Stop playing these games always felt like closing a book in the middle of reading. I don't feel acomplishment.
But some day I found Townscraper – recently released small indie game where you can build your own town. And that's whole point of the game – you don't have any challenges, missions or unlockables. You just imagining town in your head, building it and that's all! Well, I barely can call that game a Game, but rather a Toy. Toy provides some set of rules what it can do and what can't, but leaves you by yourselves for anything else. It only depends on you what you will get from this toy. If you want, you can build beautiful looking town or build maze with several layers of height. You can make it whatever you want and no one will tell you is it right or wrong solution. Because there is no problem and as the result – no goals, no solutions. Its all in your head.
That toy feeling reminds me of games like Zelda BotW or Minecraft. They both have set of end goals or side-quests, but the road you will take while playing this game is completely up to you. You can free roam in the world, set your own goals and complete them. Or not – no one will shame you with "98% done" prompt in the Menu screen. You can do whatever you want!
So, this brings me to the main point – do we actually needs predifined challenges to enjoy the game? Maybe it's the whole point of the games – someone gives you a task and you must complete it. But maybe games can be different and take Toy approach – provide tools to entertain us by ourselves and make us to choose path by our own rather than relying on someones opinion and desires? Doesn't it feels like we're just mouses in the wheels, just waiting for cheese to take a run? Do we really enjoy this run, or rather than choosing by ourselves where to go and what to eat on today's dinner?
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