Super Repetition World
I remember me and my friends about a decade ago. We were all about the Super Nintendo, straight after school we would jump behind the TV and we’d only stop if our moms started complaining that we were home late, again.
Last week I started playing some of our old classics again: Super Bomberman, Super Mario World, King of the Monsters 2 and of course Street Fighter 2 Turbo. And I still remembered some of the old worlds and how to navigate through them and which buttons to press. Especially the parts that we couldn’t get through in one time were still in my memory, because we repeated them endlessly. Most of them came from the arcade halls, and avantgaming.com had a nice short article on the word arcade quoting Merriam-Webster: ‘An arcade is a series of arches with their columns or piers.’ So you could say that an arcade style game is a repetition of simple forms. Just take a look at this picture to see the arcades in action in the game itself.
Those SNES games are really fun to play, but visually I get spoiled more lately with games such as Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and to a certain degree Gothic II, which was quite a fun game to play (if you don’t count the bugs) with a good flow which kept you going on and on with new things all the time. If you couldn’t solve one thing, you’d just skip to another quest.
So on the one hand we have the Super Nintendo games with a lot of repetition of one specific action. On the other hand we have the new visually rich games which give us some repetition in objects(enemies can look the same, buildings sometimes, etc.), but not in action. Most of the time we can do something else if we fail at one thing. Both gametypes depend on a different type of flow; one style leaning more on progress through repetition of one action, and the other more on a constant sort of progress without the repetition of one action.
Needless to say that I did get frustrated some times when I made Mario fall from a cliff again, or when Ryu got beat up by Bison again. Instantly I longed for something else to do, another quest. So I just made myself a cup of coffee. And making good coffee also requires repetition of course. The flow of the game was broken though.
In the case of the new visually rich games which often offer free roaming, you can take the sidetrip in the game itself. Make a cup of coffee inside the game so to speak (think of The Sims maybe and all the options of what you can do with your household). More and more the older games seem like the films from George Melies: Brilliant but harder to understand for a new generation. And I’m not even talking about Spacewar here.
So, is this repetition in videogames so different from real life? Not really. If you want to accomplish something you have to repeat things. You might say that the newer games come closer to the full package of real life: offering sidetrips in the game. And the older games are more like just one of the many options in your life: One single option among the many things you do.
Also progress in the old games is like a circle you constantly follow untill the moment that you get up a level, then you go to a circle higher, etc. etc. Untill you reach the last circle/repetition and then you’re finished. In the new games it’s more a straight line (main quest) with all sorts of dots around it from all the sidequests you did, which maybe even weren’t that important for completing the main goal. And what that goal is?
Save the princess. Or make a nice cup of coffee.