Out of Practice

While musing about which games I was going to play after abandoning “Hearts of Iron”, I started thinking about a big difference between the games I played when I was younger and the games I play now.  Most of the games I played back then were games that I had to in some sense practice in order to play well.  The one that most reminded me of that was my recalling an attempt to play a quick game of “Defender of the Crown” and then recalling that I’d have to learn the mechanisms again, such as learning how to use the catapult to knock down walls, or learn the jousting mechanism again, or learn the fencing mechanism again for raids and to rescue the fair maidens (and actually get a bride with I couldn’t with the C64 version which had a bug in that scene that crashed the game when you did that).  I also remembered that I really love “Pirates!” but then recalled that in order to do well with it I would have to learn the sword fighting game and the ship combat system again.

Now, in my younger days I was really, really good at these mechanisms.  I was good enough at jousting that I could eliminate most of my competitors’ lands just by jousting them for land.  The catapult part was automatic:  three rocks and then three Greek fires and then attack.  In “Pirates!”, I was so good at swordplay that I could attack when greatly outnumbered and win just by beating the enemy captain, and only remember one case where that failed when the numbers were hugely against me … and I almost won that one, too.  So at the time I was indeed able to play and practice enough to get good at these mechanisms, and in fact not only good but exceptionally good.

But when I think about the games I play now, I don’t think I play any games where that is required, and the necessity to practice mechanisms seems to turn me off of playing those old games.  Sure, there’s learning that I had to do, at least, in playing the Persona games, but that’s about strategizing, not about practicing to get the right muscle memory.  Dragon Age and Mass Effect are games with more real-time combat systems but I’m not in any way mastering it and am still mostly in button-mashing mode with the strategic activation of abilities, and I gripe about the real-time systems in both of them.  I’ve gravitated away from sports games and more action-oriented games to games where strategy is more important than actual reflexes, and when I consider playing sports games or other games like that I don’t feel that I have the patience to take the time to learn those mechanisms, which is why I prefer playing sports games on a difficulty that’s too easy for me than go up another level and have to learn or relearn the mechanisms to get good at that level.

There are a couple of games where I still have to do that, specifically “Pinball Arcade” and “Everybody’s Golf”.  However, both of those games either start easily enough or have enough easy tables that I can for the most part start out doing well enough that it doesn’t bore me and so I can develop as I go along.  Since there were other elements in games like “Pirates!” and “Defender of the Crown”, I guess that might have been the case there as well:  while learning the strategy of those two games I was able to do just well enough to not get frustrated at my constant failures and keep playing for fun until I was able to master the mechanisms.  So perhaps my fears are a bit overblown, and are fostered not by not being able to do well enough to have fun, but instead by not being able to do as well as I remember myself doing and not wanting to take the time to get back to my practiced level, since time in general and game-playing time specifically is too precious for me to try that.  However, I still do have an aversion to games that require practice to master their mechanisms to make progress.  So I suppose I definitely should stay away from “Dark Souls” …

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