After writing yesterday’s post, I found an interesting article on IGN (of all places). The insights offered were from fans and players, rather than the staff (thankfully). You can find it here.
I think the second post hit it right on the head. It got past all of the jargon I was losing myself in. It’s the experience that matters most. Having all of the elements the other points made definitely makes the game, but it’s the experience that those elements combined offers that determines quality. The experience, in this case though, is delivered through balance. A word I’ve struggled with and hated for the majority of my life. Mostly, due to my inability to obtain it.
I can’t think of a single game that I wouldn’t consider great that didn’t have each of those elements in proportion to each other. Certainly, as I said, you can find individual elements of greatness or quality in just about any game. I struggle to think of any games I’ve played that didn’t succeed at least one of the major areas that people use to define quality (or perfection).
Editing note: I thought of one, Knack.
But that’s the point, isn’t it? Great graphics don’t make the game. Neither does great story/writing. The balancing act of the sum of the parts is where quality rears its head. The independent features only offer a novelty. A distraction. Which is fine. The audience is definitely looking for that distraction. However, the ability to walk away from that distraction and be able to relive it time and time again – to find that it is in fact timeless, is the denotation of true quality.
I think the nature of quality, also, lies in the ability of the end user to recognise it. In my time of gaming, and more recently in selling the media, I have found that even if all of these elements manage to find themselves within the same game, that it doesn’t inherently equate quality. I’ve had many arguments with customers and co-workers that specific games are definitely games I would label as quality – and they disagree with me. Now, choice and individual criteria most certainly factor in to this decision. However, I think, much like in literature, there are certain titles that are universally good. You’d find yourself hard-pressed to find an admirer of quality books that doesn’t have an appreciation for Shakespeare. I think there are games that fit that bill as well.
Bioshock Infinite is one that quickly comes to mind. Because not only does it have each and every one of the elements that combined and balanced out represent quality. But it manages to do something very few titles can. It turns back into itself, tying it all in, and reiterating its own brilliance. Through its infinite (huh, see what I did there?) possibilities – story-wise, I mean – it demonstrates all of the levels of quality: graphics, story and play, and continues the experience in the mind of the player. Knowing that a game like that can demonstrate limitless potential, because it hinges on the player’s experience instead of forcing the user to take note. The quality to take note of, in this case, is that the piece of art – game or whatever you want to call it – is able to express introspection and self-reflexiveness.
Now, to finish up, I’m not making any claims that a game needs to have that or it has failed. All I’m saying is, convoluted as it may seem (even to me, to an extent) is that there are even levels of quality, within the defining act of trying to place that title onto something. In this case, games.
I hope that to some extent, you the readers (and hopefully the person who asked the question that stirred in my brain for some time) are able to take something away from this. I’m not sure if I did any justice to answering the initial question, but it made me think.
– The Ego