The more we play, the less we love?

20th April 2012

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Okay, I’ll be honest here, I’m not exactly sure I know what I am trying to say with this article, so I’ll just write what I think I mean and see what happens.

A little while ago, I watched a TV show and somebody said something like… “Studies have shown that the more sexual partners you have, the less happy you are with your final partner”.

“Mmm..” I thought. I wonder if that is true. After the show finished, I Googled for a while, using different search terms and found one paper that seemed to agree with the statement.

Now, don’t worry, this article is not about sex or the number of partners, but about games and the number of games we have played.

Remember, the gaming industry is fairly new, at least when compared with other forms of entertainment: films and books. So, it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions. Couple that with the fact that most gamers have grown up with video games as part of their lives, whereas people my age and older didn’t have the same exposure in our youth.

Where is all this going? Well, I am wondering whether the more games we play the more we become blasé them.

I remember being impressed, excited, intrigued, delighted by some many games when I first started playing them. Now, I’m rarely interested in what’s coming out.

“Poppycock!” I hear you cry. Well, maybe, but we should at least consider it.

There’s little doubt that games are getting better, but is that only because of technology? I don’t think so. Minecraft and indie games would be used to argue against that. At first glance it would be obvious. But isn’t that success due to the new technology that allows more people to use their creativity to make games.

Technology isn’t just graphics, it’s a whole bunch of things: AI, editing etc

Making games used to be a lot harder than it is now. Everything related to computing used to be harder.

Let’s turn to books for a moment. I, like most people, have been reading for most of my life. Do books get worse as I get older? So does that mean that the books I read are getting less interesting? No, of course not, but that’s an unfair comparison.

Okay, I’ve got a little off-track here, sorry.

Books, at least the ones I read, contain 26 letters combined into words that use certain rules to create language and therefore meaning.

English hasn’t changed for many, many years. It’s the combination of those letters that make the books interesting.

I would certainly admit that as I have got older, the types of books and films that interest me have changed. Initially, I hated Asimov for what I thought were his foolish references to things like “tape” and other items that were realities a hundred years before their fictional counterpart. I felt that he lacked vision. Of course, I have come to realise that he is a master story teller, using science-fiction as his tool, rather than for its own sake.

My point is that as I became older and hopefully a fraction wiser, my tastes changed. Will the same happen to my gaming? Is it purely because of my age or was it the accumulated experience?

If that was the case, if I had started reading Asimov earlier would I have come back to him earlier? Did I need to read all those other authors before I could truly appreciate him?

Gaming is continually trying to find the next best gimmick, but books just rely on interesting combinations of just 26 symbols. Yes, that’s an over-simplification and comparing letters to gaming will get us nowhere, but instead of always looking for “better” perhaps we should be looking for “different” or “interesting”.

I suppose it would be easy to guess that I am talking about “Art mods” here, but I’m not.

I often wonder what would happen if developers stopped trying to create “new” and just gave us “more”. I would honestly love it if Valve sub-contracted some smaller developers to make 10 more games based on the HL world. But I am almost alone in this.

Even developers want to move on. Valve could have created more of the same after Half-Life 2 but they wanted to push the boundaries again.

Could my obsession with “more” be the excuse for this website?

I’ve mentioned before my musical idiosyncrasy of playing the same piece of music over and over. I remember, as a teenager, I had one track repeated on one side of a cassette and on the other I had the remix version.

I wore that tape out. Even my friends hated visiting me because they hated that song. There a special feeling that comes from familiarity.

When you are younger, the idea of spending your life with one woman was scary. Think of all the “strange” out there! “So many women,so little time”.

But making a connection that lasts has its own pleasures.

Patrick ranted on Podcast 17: Episode 161 about hating the idea of playing the Seven Hour War because he knew what the outcome would be. I believe he has completely missed the point, but I put that down to his youth. It’s not about the destination, but the journey.

We all know that when we play a game, we can “beat it” if we really want to. We know that good will overcome evil. We know the outcome.

But does that stop it being fun?

To go back to the idea of new for a moment.

How often is anything really new? Not often. Most TV shows are rehashes of other basic stories and settings.

Using all the assets that Valve created for the HL series, plus maybe a few new characters, we could have some fantastic fun. Look at the quality of some mods. You don’t always have to introduce something new for it to be fun.

Perhaps I have gone off-track again. I did say I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going with this, didn’t I?

That said, I think for me it’s close to how I feel about many things. I have been corresponding with Robert Yang about “art mods” recently, and one thing I told him was that I didn’t like trying new things. It’s how I am with many things in my life. But of course, I am human and therefore a contradiction. I changed countries and cultures with less worry than most people change jobs.

When I hear of new TV shows that sound interesting I am almost invariably disappointed. I would rather a TV show I like continue for 10 seasons than see something new. It’s the same for food, books and films (and probably other things I can’t think of)

Perhaps I am hard to please, I don’t know. But I do know that the more games I try the less I am impressed.

Indie games and Alt mods are breaking new ground and that’s great. It’s not as if there hasn’t been creativity in gaming all these years, it’s just that the commercial aspects have changed.

It’s easier for individuals to make a game and get it out to a lot of players.

Will that be enough to stop feeling jaded? Maybe in the short term.

I don’t know, what do you think? Is gaming getting less exciting as the years go by?


  1. To chime in with what you started with, I’ve read from a few sources (though none being peer-reviewed studies), that the percent chance of divorce increases noticeably after each subsequent divorce.

    But on your main topic: I haven’t thought about this much before, so I’ll form an opinion as I go and I’ll try to build a bit on what you talk about, so my apologies if I simply just repeat what you’ve already said. It’s natural that as you play through more games, it would take more in a game to pique your interests. For me, I still find games that I really enjoy despite the fact that the game has elements that I’ve found in previous games. However, this doesn’t mean that I find as much enjoyment repeating a game I’ve already played. That’s besides the point though.

    I look back at games I’ve enjoyed and still enjoy, and I find that major factors that determine the level of enjoyment I get from a game are story and difficulty. Playing a game the first time, you have a new story, and not knowing what happens next, you find enjoyment in seeing things unfold. As you play though it again, you already know what will happen, decreasing your level of enjoyment. Now, if you play enough games, you may be able to predict some extent of the story of a new game, rendering the game somewhat more drab. And with difficulty, as you play a game, you become better not only in the game, but also in future games of a similar type. If you find absolutely no challenge at all in a game, it’s likely that it will be less enjoyable. I suppose you can say that combining these factors result in monotony. More experience increases the chances of games becoming monotonous. But this too is not the full picture for me.

    Your comparison with books is actually a good one I think. I believe that it really does not require better and better games to keep a constant level of enjoyment. If you start out reading terrible books, you likely will find enjoyment in them, as there is nothing to compare them to (and if you were to read an advanced book at that point, you may find it terrible since you may not yet understand everything to its fullest). As you become more experienced in reading, you start reading better books. Eventually, there should be a cap where you’ll find enjoyment in a book even if the book isn’t more elaborate or better developed than the previous. I’d say it’s very similar with games. It only takes a certain level of quality to maintain enjoyment. Where that cap is and whether or not a game can reach that cap is strictly dependent on the individual of course.

    Now consider this: statistically, as more games are being made, a vast portion will be of lesser quality, giving the impression that it is getting harder to find a game that you enjoy. Analogously, for every good book written, who knows how many more lesser books are written. Plus, as you mentioned, we are living in an age where games are still developing. Books have been around for significantly longer, so good books are far more accessible, while games that reach that “enjoyment cap” aren’t as plentiful. We can easily reach out and find a book that fulfills the “enjoyment cap”, but it’s more difficult with games, since fewer exist.

    To put it all together, I’d say that gaming is not getting less exciting. Rather, as games are developing, it takes more to keep us satisfied until the quality of the best games reach the point where we will be, on average, satisfied no matter what. At that point, we may still feel it is harder for games to excite us, simply because we are playing the satisfying games at the rate that they are released, leaving a disproportionately large number of games that fail to satisfy us.

    Also, running a site that allows people to play countless mods (basically games in themselves) might accelerate the rate that your tastes develop. Hope what I’ve said made some sense.

  2. Perhaps something my father said,,
    “Its always better to go to bed with the woman you want to wake up with,,”

    I see a new game on Steam every other day,, and its always some guy with a sword –.

    Its a waste on me,,
    I know what I like in games,,

    I have over 400 hrs up on L4D, but its a just a wedgie till Valve wakes up,,

  3. Jim Partridge

    I’ve been having recent discussions about originality in gaming.

    My friend and I came to the conclusion that we don’t want originality. We want more good quality games. As mainstream (i.e. console) developers spend more and more on triple A titles such as MW3 something gets lost in the mix. Originality and fun gameplay can often get left behind in favor of graphics and production values. Plus they reduce their game making quota down to a few AAA titles per year and invest all their cash in those.

    I was trying to get at this point a while back when I wrote on here about the cost of producing games vs graphical quality but I missed the target.

    My point was, I don’t care about graphics.

    I can quite happily sit down with a friend and play “Spy vs Spy” for the Sega Master System and have a fantastic gaming experience. Or I can boot up “Zombies Ate My Neighbors” for the Sega Genesis and have a blast.

    If the game is good, the graphics don’t matter. This is what the indie gaming community have realised and are delivering to us in spades… and it’s wonderful.

    I think people are growing tired of the bland AAA titles and the dominating franchises. Time for something new (or old) and refreshing to make us remember why gameplay is most important and that playing a game is mostly just about having fun.

  4. 2muchvideogames

    in terms of mods, this is kinda true. As people play these mods, the quality expectation increases. People are always hoping for the next Azure Sheep or Minerva, etc. so anything less than that will seem not as good.

    Also, the modding scene is definitely not as active as before. I mean, it’s 2012 and so far there’s about 3-4 new hl1 mods on moddb. Compare to how many mods were released in 2003 and the difference is clear.

    Unfortunately, graphics are becoming more important than gameplay, especially because alot of gamers are little kids, which means the gameplay can’t be too complicated or anything.

  5. razvan252

    I agree. I for one dislike change as well.

    My arguments may be invalid due to the nature of my job (ive been a game tester for 3 years now) and for me games are getting harder and harder to impress and make me play them. Because of this, I turn to mods and old games I know I enjoined and had fun playing.

    My “battle” is not because the games are actually bad or that the industry is “changing”, but it takes a lot for me to get to try a game and decide if I like it or not.

    For example I wasnt as hyped about skyrim after I completed it as the rest of the world was. I loved the trailer and was just about as eager to play it as anyone. But after completing it, it got impossible for me to fire it up again even for the side quests… As opposed to oblivion which ive completed gold 3 times and also enjoined the mods…

    One thing I do know, gaming has changed a lot for me lately. There are days when I simply hate the idea of gaming or talking about games and I kinda miss the good old days when I did gaming just for fun…

  6. Hec

    Is what I love of HL and I will still love it untill I got 99 YO, is a universe!!, mod is the answer and I fell that for every HL game Valve delivers will be hundreds of mods to play relating the story plot line, that’s what I really love.

    Is something that the Call of Duty Modern Warfare franchises couldn’t give me, I mean EA and CoD give me something I really like: War realistic FPS, but they definitely suck in create a solid great community of gamers and modders as HL does. I mean i’ve alredy played CoD MW franchises 1 to Black ops, and yeah is nice to see the soldiers and the realistic warfare stuff, but that’s it, once I finished those games I end up with them almost forever and even uninstall them.

    That’s something it won’t happen with HL or any other mod-able valve game as L4D or Portal franchises, they are warranty for a solid developer comunity of the great games I love, and I preffer that to 1 million new games.

    I also love combat flight sims, like IL2, Thirdwire titles, and I also love them because they don’t need further complex developes just some new add-ons aircraft sometimes, and the rest is decided in the combat dogfight simulation I love.

  7. Error 404 Not Found

    I’ve become biased in the last year or so when it comes to games. I hadn’t played Portal or HL2 AT ALL / EVER until last year and they both had a big effect on me. The atmosphere of both games was perfect and very immersing, and I kind of look for that same kind of feel in other games and I’ve played lots of games since then but almost none of them have hit that paticular nail on the head. I loved Portal 2, but I felt some (a small amount) of that atmosphere was lacking, although the sheer (sp?) scale of the Aperture laboratories complex was mind-blowing, which was a different (but very welcome) atmospheric feel (The more I talk about it, the more I want to play it again).

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