Getting close to wrapping up my second time through Mass Effect, and since I almost never replay games, it's been an interesting experience. A friend asked me today how it was going through again, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn't nearly as fun as it was the first time.
Don't get me wrong—I'm not saying that there's anything the matter with the game itself, it's more about the kind of player that I am.
For me, the thing that drives me forward in video games is the feeling of discovery, and a personal curiosity to see what lies ahead. As long as I'm interested in seeing how a particular game's story turns out, or if a talented developer keeps surprising me with new mechanics and formula twists, I'm there. However, if I already know what's coming, then most of the appeal is gone for me, no matter how good the quality of the game itself.
Crusading through the universe with Commander Shepard again, there was a certain quality missing from the experience… A little bit of the mystery stripped away; a little bit of the magic gone. Although the very fact that I bothered to play the game again (going for all available quests with the exception of the ultra-tedious collection missions) speaks volumes about the quality of the game, I have to be frank in saying that it just wasn't the same. I wasn't in the kind of feverish, get-back-to-the-360-ASAP grip of must-play madness that I felt the first time.
Why not? It's because I knew what was coming.
With the knowledge that there were no more surprises; no more left-field revelations or new challenges to overcome, the game ceased to be an interstellar escapist adventure of the highest order, and instead became a very good game that I played. But still, just a game. As I was checking off quests on the way to achieving level 60, my brain was often distracted from what was going on in front of me, thinking about the new titles I have waiting in my to-play stack.
It just wasn't the same.
Some people may think I'm a little odd for only playing games once, but there are players of every stripe. It takes all kinds to create an industry and an audience as large and as pervasive as video games are today.
Although I'm sure some people reading this blog can't relate at all to the idea that there would be little-to-no appeal in revisiting a superb disc, that's no stranger than being the kind of player who combs every inch of a title to collect 100 hidden gold icons stashed away in the furthest corners of geometry, or the sort of player that gets every character in their party up to level 99 before beating the last boss.
It's no stranger than the kind of drive that makes people perfect second-shaving speed runs, or practice and memorize their performance so many times that they can clear levels with their eyes closed.
It's no stranger than the kind of player who buys a brand-new game and jumps straight into the multiplayer to shoot their friends in the face for for two weeks before even touching the campaign mode, and it's certainly no stranger than the compulsion of someone who regularly buys the newest, hottest title only to quit after the first three levels and trade it back in the next week for the next big thing.
Are any of these kinds of players more "true" or more legitimate than the others? Not really. Although the thought of spending more than fifteen minutes playing capture-the-flag would be enough to drive me towards any other kind of activity rather than sit around and repeat the same actions over and over without a finite endpoint, there's nothing wrong with that for people who enjoy it. Conversely, some would call me crazy for buying a game that I knew in advance I would likely only go through once, but that's just fine with me. It's how I prefer it.
It really does take all kinds. Though an entire legion of us may unite under the "gamer" banner, we're just as diverse and varied a group as any other. The thing that I'm thankful for, I suppose, is that I actually know which kind of gamer I am and I'm all right with it—and by being all right with myself, I'm just fine with every other gamer, too.
What about you?
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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