If there is one beautiful and universal, archetypal motivation, the one underlying constance that guides the ethereal normalcy of gaming conduct is, well….money. But if you omit the fiscal acclamation, simply for the purposes of this article, the other “singular” canonical mandate is that you should never give fans what they want, but what they don’t know they want. If gamers such as myself were granted dictatorial providence over what developers should be cultivating, then Uncharted 5 would already be here with any subsequent sequels already renewed and slated for bi-annual release. Oh and the cinematic adaptation should definitely star Chris Pratt as the titular forager of antiquities, with Bruce Campbell portraying the cigar chewing renegade Victor Sullivan (This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, I just really want this to be true). If we did acquire the specious right to neutralise any new or deviating notions solicited by devs, then we would resent being lumbered with generic, rehashed versions of games we’ve already intimately experienced before, just more expensive and in essence, crap. Though this affluent rule is innocuous at best, in an industry that hardly abides to a subscription of conceptual productivity or being principally brazen with its narrative, but repetition is the number 1 cause of most gaming stagnation. Its true, I made it up! But my primary concern isn’t systemic duplication, but the fervent use of the word repetitive to describe a bad game?
Let me explain, surely by design all games are repetitive, good or bad. There is a set expression that implies repetition is the embodiment of monotony, an accusatory diminishing of a game, and at first glance it appears to be cogent to convey derivatives as mundane. I’ve certainly infused various capricious statements to rationalise my inferences by stating in a complicit tone that repetition means bad, which simply isn’t true. “I enjoyed this game for a spell, but it does become very repetitive, very quickly”. Well of course it does Karl! All games pursue a regimented ideology that if altered with no prior explanation, will leave participants more perplexed than I was at the casting choice of Stallone’s beard in the Expendables! You don’t want to progress through Shadow of Mordor, dispatching hordes of Uruk’s, to then be dispossessed by Lionel Messi and wondering why reptilian adversary Smaug, has been replaced by Spyro the dragon. It’s a very liberal interpretation, a deceitful adjective who’s diminished definition has been spuriously misinterpreted, with the practice of indicating a specific or general grievance as repetitive, is a diluted connotation of the definition. It’s a regressive terminology mutually affiliated with linearity too, as though liberation from conceptual restraints is the only way to achieve a truly immersive and fun experience, despite the fact that some games benefit from conceptual or narrative restrictions, in the same way others thrive on the spontaneity of exploration.
The overused nuance that repetition symbolises perfunctory castigation that ratifies an individuals criticisms into a nicely bundled summation: It’s bad because its repetitive. But its a dereliction of expression and shouldn’t be the principal derogation, because every game utilises repetitive procedurals. That’s like saying breathing is repetitive! A game can be bland, dull, unoriginal, or not your cup of tea if you’re a middle class Brit or a 19th century detective. It can hinder enjoyment, provoke aggression or just be plain bad. But describing a poorly executed game as repetitive is inaccurate and lazy. Remember that for next time Karl!
Do you think games can be repetitive and fun?