What is a game?
One might as well ask why does chocolate taste good? Why is a flower pretty? What it is about poop that makes it so interesting? We have full-time philosophers who study these things but no answers yet.
Let me take a crack at it. A game should be fun.
The word “should” gets the italics treatment because of my pinhead professor in philosophy class. He imparted into me the basic wisdom: “One shouldn’t say should.” Dammit all to Hell, man. Why did you say that?
The word “fun” gets the italics because its usage in that sentence opens a brand new rabbit hole for us to jump down.
What is fun?
See what I mean about going deep? If you follow this crazy train you’ll quickly jump the rails. It’s like having a conversation with young Mr. Data. “What is ‘is’, Captain?” Oh shit. This might take a while.
The point here is simple: I thought “games” were supposed to be “fun.” Then I owned an iPad and it totally changed the way I looked at what a game should be.
Computer games used to be different. It was a simpler time. Software would do something, like play a game of chess. The computer would move and you would move. This process would repeat until victory or stalemate conditions were met. This process was “allegedly” fun and that made the activity allegedly a “game.”
Obviously that system is old and busted and stupid. These days if someone was going to make chess into a game app, it would be decidedly different. The player would be given something like Chess Bux (CB). It would cost 1 CB to move a pawn or the King, 3 CB to move a bishop or a knight, 5 CB for a rook, and a whopping 10 CB to reposition the Queen.
You’d be given 10 CB to start and would earn 10 CB every 24 hours. Or, if you are the friggin’ impatient sort, you could buy more Chess Bux using actual cash in the app store.
20 CB = $1.99
55 CB = $4.99
120 CB = $9.99
325 CB = $24.99
700 CB = $49.99
1,500 CB = $99.99
Hey, software publisher! You don’t have an overly high opinion of your game-crafting worth, do you now? You actually think your little “app” is worth a purchase price of $99.99? And even then, with a built-in time limit of usefulness? You mean to tell me I can spend $99.99 of real money on your game and eventually get back to a place where I run out of Chess Bux and revert to the 24-hour waiting paradigm? Check and mate, asshole.
I have this theory. The theory is that this modern “game” pay-as-you-play paradigm is based on a scale model of the solar system.
If the diameter of sun was 21mm (a little less than an inch) then Pluto would be a tiny speck (.05 mm) floating 100 yards away. Please excuse the confusing mix of metric and english measurements, but we Americans don’t play football on a pitch defined by metres. The football field is the international standard for measuring solar system scale.
My theory states this same scale-measuring system is applied to leveling in game apps. The player typically starts at level one and, by earning experience points, can level up to gain additional skills, power, abilities, new items, and more.
Most apps allow a player to level up to five in the first playing session. This is to whet the appetite, make the player crave more, and sufficiently activate the OCD centers in the brain to ensure ongoing play (and no small amount of drool). The thing with leveling is that you always want just one more. If n is good then n + 1 is even better. The sky’s the limit.
At level six something peculiar takes place. The time investment required increases slightly.
This trend continues for all subsequent levels. Additionally, the time required to achieve the next level increases exponentially. I made a little tool for estimating the process. (Specific games may vary in their application of this phenomena.)
Level 5: One day
Level 10: Three days
Level 20: Two weeks
Level 30: Eight weeks
Level 40: Six months
Level 50: Three years
Level 60: One decade
Level 70: Five decades
Level 80: Two centuries
Level 90: One-Half Millennia
Level 100: Three Millennia
Of course, “bucks” can be purchased with real money to speed things up a bit. The important thing to remember, though, is that it’s theoretically possible to “win” without spending money. The game is advertised in the App Store as “free,” remember? So, technically, they are not lying when they say that no “in-app purchases” are required to complete the game.
It’s just the trivial matter that it will be your descendants who must carry on the fight in your name. You better hope your bloodline likes to reproduce. It would suck if some selfish bastard in the 15th generation decided he didn’t like parenting.
Gee, if you think about, this game is fun after all. I don’t know how I ever believed otherwise.