Why Don’t We Play Strategy Games?
Game designers are often accused of copywriters. If you’ve ever sat down and read a book, you’ll quickly realize that a lot of the words were written by someone other than the writer. If you ever watch TV, you’ll notice all the commercials, where some company names (or product names) sound exactly like words used by another company. In many ways, game designers have similar things happening.
Games (in fact, almost all created things) always are pulled toward what an audience wants to hear versus what their creator wishes to say. This usually results in two types of disappointment. (1) The developer makes a thing that sounds like it was written just for them, but then her work just falls flat on its face, because an audience doesn’t want to hear that particular brand of new level or battle royale anymore.
(2) Sometimes the creator knows exactly what an audience wants, but she doesn’t have any good, concrete, experiential proof in front of her. Sometimes this is due to lack of training in writing, although it’s more likely a combination of both. When this happens, a new level or battle-royale just won’t feel right, and the developers quickly go back to the drawing board, realizing that they could have provided better content if only they’d had the time to develop it properly in the first place. Of course, they can’t make any money unless there are players who want to play that new level, so it never gets produced.
I think this all goes back to the central point of this article- that we need to stop seeing video games as “grey matter” games, where the goal is to solve puzzles or conquer battles. The fact is that video games require some problem-solving skills, just like reading or math. Just because you can’t directly see the answers, doesn’t mean you can’t figure out a way to find them. In many cases, the best way to learn a new skill is to simply practice doing it in the real world. We can’t all become proficient at chess or bridge tomorrow, but learning to play video games requires a little bit of practice first.
It’s not that we should stop creating adventure games or shooting games or whatever- it’s just that we shouldn’t be looking to those forms of entertainment as the whole solution to our educational problems. Sure, it might be fun to create our own little characters, meet new people, do some adventure, and explore the world through the lens of a new level. Yes, that’s part of the pleasure of role-playing, anyway- but to call that kind of game a waste of time (and, let’s face it, most Americans don’t play such games very often) is to set yourself up for failure.
The best strategy games involve playing with real people- it’s not a virtual world, after all, where victory and failure are measured in terms of numbers of “deaths”. Yes, there are lots of computer games which encourage fast action, special skills, and even the ability to get rich quickly. But those are mostly games for the young- adventure games, role-play games, and the rest, can provide a real education, by teaching the players how to think and how to solve problems. So, consider all this.