This post managed to evoke a lot more questions in me than I was expecting it to. For brief context, the OP had played the original Final Fantasy VII, found themselves not particularly liking it, and spent a large amount of time reading reviews and analysis of it in response. They posed a question revolving around whether they were playing the game because they liked it versus a feeling of duty to play it, and wondered if they wasted their time.
I found myself asking some more indirect answers in response to their situation, and my reply is repeated here. Many of these are somewhat meta-level, but there's a lot here to think about.
- What does it mean to "enjoy" a game?
- Is there value in experiencing games we feel we are not enjoying?
- Is there value in exploring games (especially older, foundational, critically-acclaimed games)?
- When playing an older game, how should we approach it?
None of these have clear answers, but I think they're all worth thinking about on both an overall and individual level. I think I'll take a stab, and perhaps it can spawn some good discussion.
What does it mean to "enjoy" a game?
This answer is halfway easy – the base level of enjoyment is easy to identify, you are excited about a game, you are having fun, etc. The other type of enjoyment is a bit trickier to track down. What makes engaging in the medium enjoyable to you outside of direct engagement? In other words, do you get enjoyment from video games when you're not playing them?
I have come to realize that I get a huge amount of long-term enjoyment from discussing a medium at a critical level. Critical not in the negative sense, but to mean "expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work". I don't think that should be surprising to many readers here, because hopefully that's why we're all on r/truegaming !
Perhaps this is the difference between enjoyment due to entertainment and enjoyment due to exposure. I'm not sure.
Is there value in experiencing games we feel we are not enjoying?
If you find value out of critically approaching games, I absolutely think so. But again, these need to be answered on an individual level, and I do not think there are wrong individual answers.
Far Cry 2 is a good example here. Man, I hated that experience. I gave it an earnest try, but it was one of the rare games I put down. But holy cow, have I had some great conversations about FC2 that I appreciated, about the encounter design, possible goals behind some controversial aspects, etc. I've gotten a lot of enjoyment from the game even though I couldn't stand it (and disagree with most of the defenses of it!).
It sounds like they engaged with FFVII at a really high level outside of the game. They were interested in hearing other thoughts, they were consuming a lot of critical analysis of it, and they spent a lot of time thinking about it. Ultimately, I'm not sure it really matters if they liked it, it sounds like something in them wanted to think about it more, even if it was to answer "what am I missing?". To me, that sounds freakin' great, and is undeniably valuable. But you have to answer if that's what you want out of games.
Is there value in exploring games (especially older, foundational, critically-acclaimed games)?
Another halfway easy answer. If you find a game you love by doing this, of course it's valuable. The harder part comes when you're playing one of the more foundational games that shows age in several areas, like FFVII.
I think the answer to this based on how much you enjoy the analysis of games, and how much you enjoy having a knowledge base of games.
For instance, I like JRPGs. Some really grabbed me as a kid, and I find the genre really enjoyable at times. But after some time reading r/jrpg, I realized that I desired a broader foundation for discussing them, and wanted to increase my exposure, so I've slowly been playing through some older JRPGs that I never touched. I really appreciate understanding the genre as a whole and being able to think about things like gameplay evolutions, defining stories, tropes, and getting into minutiae about some individual titles. Those thoughts and discussions I find really rewarding. I love that I can bring up Final Fantasy II in a relevant conversation and talk about it again. I love that I can argue that Final Fantasy X is the best starting point for new players, because I've experienced the series as a whole and can compare and contrast.
If any of that sounds valuable to you, go for it. If not, maybe just play something else. There's no wrong individual answers.
When playing an older game, how should we approach it?
This might be the hardest question. I don't know! I would say carefully at least. There are some things that I really think you should be careful to not let sour your exploration of old games. If you find yourself complaining about graphics, you should nip that right away. But most of it is going to be subjective, and there are always things that we struggle to look past individually.
Context matters a lot. What was the landscape of the medium like at the time? What had been done before? What did the genre look like? What was typical gameplay like? Were stories stuck in a set of defining tropes that limited them, etc? These can be really hard to answer, because we're basically attempting time travel in a cultural and artistic sense. I find value in doing so, and by the very fact they booted up FFVII in 2020, I bet they do as well. But again, gonna hammer the importance of finding individual answers here.
Remember that appreciation of an experience does not have to mean you liked the experience. If you come away from FFVII thinking it was overrated because of X, Y, Z, great! If you came away thinking it wasn't for you but by researching you gained a better appreciation of what it did well, great! If you weren't convinced by the defenses of it, but it still made you think about the game, great! If you thought it was the best game you ever played, great!
Regardless, I think it's good to be introspective of our experiences when playing games and what we want from our experiences. That's always a great thing in my mind.
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