Why Do We Play Games Nowadays?

Anyone who reads this blog closely or follows me on Twitter would know that I am at a bit of an identity crisis of sorts in gaming. I made this blog and Twitter with the sole purpose of talking Hearthstone. Lately, I’ve had issues with Hearthstone, mainly precipitated by my not enjoying the changed Arena format. I actually did not realize that I liked the Arena so much. In my taking a sabbatical from Arena play, I can barely play the game anymore.

By sinking in less time into Hearthstone, I have opened up time for other games. Notably, I am playing three other card games in addition to Hearthstone. Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links is the mobile game I have played since January and podcast about. Shadowverse is the secondary card game I played probably once a week, now more regularly. Gwent is a new card game released in open beta that I am trying out. Playing all these games together has given me some ideas which lead to this post. Why do we play games nowadays?

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The changed landscape

Gaming has evolved tremendously since I was young. While I wasn’t around for almost all of the 80s, I can say I sampled my share of old games. And by old games, I mean titles from SNES and Sega Genesis. I didn’t really play games regularly until my family got a computer, and I have been primarily a PC gamer since. The main evolution in gaming, besides the obvious upgrades to gameplay, graphics, and design, is the ubiquity of the Internet, and the ability to play games with people you’ve never met physically. I admit that I was playing games alone for a really long time, and it wasn’t until I started playing Diablo III that I started to play games with other people.

The fusion of gaming and Internet has not only changed the landscape of gaming, and also the reasons why we play games now. Back when I was playing Operation: Inner Space in my cold basement or Syphon Filter 3 in front of the TV, I can say I did it for fun. Sure, I wanted to set high scores in Inner Space and unlock secrets in Syphon Filter. But now the reasons are more complex and varied. I will try to dig into the reasons why we game using the games I am playing concurrently as an example.

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I feel really old saying I played this a lot

For fun

The generic umbrella reason for why we play games. Games are a hobby and it is something we do for fun when we’re not doing something else (more important) in life.

I have played Hearthstone almost daily since December 2013. While I have taken breaks now and then (including now lol), my enjoyable experiences have kept me in the game for all these years. I have logged thousands of Arena games just because I found it so fun. Arena is known for not being the most generous when it comes to rewards. You don’t make the 3.33 gold/win you get in Ranked play and even in Casual. According to Hearthstone, I have 3710 Arena wins. This equates to 12,366 gold I missed out on because they were Arena wins. When it comes to my enjoyment playing Hearthstone, it lives and dies with Arena.

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Good times before Arena 7.1

As mentioned before, my relationship with the Arena is currently strained. The fun factor is mostly gone as the Arena revamp with Patch 7.1 coupled with Journey to Un’Goro cards has brought on never-ending reactionary play and big power creep on card quality. And truthfully, it isn’t because I’m losing significantly in the Arena now. It’s important to note that these are just my feelings (and some other players), and not those of the entire Arena community. I don’t know if most people share my feelings on the Arena changes. I’m sure people who enjoy Control decks are having a blast.

To fill the void in gaming fun, I have resorted to the other card games. I am having a really fun time playing Gwent,  mostly from the Casual game mode available to me. As someone who is completely foreign to The Witcher universe, I have no idea what the underlying story is. I don’t even know what the ubiquitous keg-opening character is called. A lot of the fun is derived from the game just being a new experience, and a break from the Arena. I am also playing Shadowverse a bit, though the game hasn’t gotten more fun than before. I’ll explain later.

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I have no idea who this guy is, but he opens the kegs.

For fame

Those who graduate past the notion of playing games just for fun are more ambitious in the hobby and want to make something of their gaming career. By playing a game at a high enough level, one can be known for something, and springboard off a new height. This is a new development in gaming, given people were not connected to the Internet to track scores back in the day. It likely started with the seeds of eSports, and have known people play games. All four of the card games I am playing have leaderboards, with your legend tiers, points, or high scores. And by playing at a high enough level, you get invited to participate in tournaments. In the end, you fight the final boss (real life person) for a trophy. Gaming is just like real sports now!

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eSports!

Alternatively, you can achieve fame by doing something with your gaming experience. All of the “creation” nowadays associated with gaming, your streaming, recording, blogging, podcasting, and drawing would all fall into this category. A lot of people I follow on social media and associate with would fall into this category.

In all honestly, I started this blog for a reason. I wanted to be known in the Hearthstone community as an all-purpose writer who talked about Arena a lot. I had ambitions that it would all lead to opportunities in my future. While those dreams are at a moribund state, I was able to meet and talk to a lot of people in the process of creating the blog.

For money

Those who become really famous for gaming may eventually reach the top tier of gaming for money. There are those who are full-time video game players for a living, making money through tournaments, streaming, endorsements, and donations. Others work for a living or go to school, and have supplementary revenue streams from gaming. Obviously, gaming for money didn’t happen for decades, and is just a recent development.

Unfortunately, the window of gaming for money is closing for existing games, as the market is gets more and more saturated. Gamers who enter the game (lol) later are at a bigger disadvantage, as they have to compete with existing players and personalities. It is a more prudent idea to try to forecast the next big game, and become an established player in that realm. For example, it is much really difficult to make a name in Hearthstone, given it has been in existence for close to 4 years. Your big name competitive Hearthstone players are mostly making money with their streaming brand now. It has become really difficult to make a name for yourself, with so much competition. This goes for other forms of creation in Hearthstone. I doubt that a newbie bug-finder can dethrone Disguised Toast at this point.

It could be easier to game for money in newer games. Notably, Lifecoach has become the first professional Gwent player signed to a team. Right now, I don’t think there are any Duel Links players who play the game for money, but that could change, given the World Championships coming in August. I do not know if there are Shadowverse players who game for money. The challenge is knowing if the game will stick around for the long term, long enough for your efforts to come to fruition.

For community

Gaming has always had an occasional social aspect, as multiple people playing a console was a way to hang out. As a kid and teenager, I fondly remember going to friend’s houses to play video games for hours. With the availability of Internet, the social aspect of gaming has evolved into playing games with people online.

Hmm… I don’t remember girls being around

In the Blizzard world, Battle.net was once the site you used to connect to online servers. Now known as the Blizzard Launcher, it is a one-stop-shop with an instant messaging list to your friends, online news, etc. Hearthstone has quests for playing games with friends, and now allows questing to be done in friend games. Duel Links has the Vagabond sharing system with friends. Spectator mode is another aspect that gives a social aspect to gaming.

 

For rewards

In my card game carousel discussion, I mentioned I am playing more Shadowverse than in the past. This is because they are offering doubled rewards for completed daily missions. This means 2 free card packs for 4 Ranked Wins, or 100 rupies for 4 wins with x class. The rewards are so good that Shadowverse isn’t the second fiddle card game for this month. They also have the Freshman Lou promotion, so I am trying to earn those card sleeves.

Freshman Lou is quickly becoming my one of my favorite cards

Shadowverse has really exemplified the gaming for rewards aspect. We are playing games for in-game currency, so we don’t have to (or spend less) spend real money. This is something that clearly didn’t exist in older games. You bought your game at the store or online, and you paid it. That ended the spending. In the age of Internet and microtranscations, companies want you to continually spend money on a game, by adding more new features. It really is an interesting thought to think we are playing a game a lot because we don’t want to pay for it.

For experience

A lot of people play new games for the sheer experience of trying something new. Trying new games has numerous advantages, as you can discover really fun aspects of games that are not apparently obvious. Steam is now the go-to source for PC gamers to get access to a wide swath of games. Monthly Humble Bundle deals allow one to discover a lot of new games at a low price. One can also purchase old games online, though this is mostly a thing done on consoles now.

My fun playing Gwent is mostly a gaming for experience venture. Given all the comparisons to Hearthstone, I just had to play the game to see for myself. What I discovered is that Gwent is nothing like Hearthstone, and is just linked to it because of Lifecoach’s endorsement of the game. Part of the new experience is learning names in Gwent and trying to understand the unexplained rules in the game.

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An unfamliiar deck building interface

In climbing the Shadowverse Ranked ladder, the experience is turning less fun, as I start seeing the same “good decks.” I typically go in as a Tempo Runecraft deck, which is not a meta deck in a class that primarily plays the fun and interactive Dimensional Shift deck. However, I see a lot of Forest Roach decks, and Heavenly Aegis Haven, popular climbing decks. In Hearthstone, seeing the same variants of decks was always second nature to me, and something that was burned in the brain as normal. Going into a game like Shadowverse, the same emphasis on bringing the same good decks still applies, but I was just not inured to it.

For loyalty

By loyalty, I mean loyalty to a brand or franchise. It is unlikely that Hearthstone would’ve been the success it is without being under the “Heroes of Warcraft” title and Blizzard flagship. People who bought WoW, or Diablo, or Starcraft were willing to give Hearthstone a try since it was made by Blizzard. This is not unlike buying a brand of clothes or car. Trust is earned through reliable workmanship and satisfaction.

I bought into the loyalty to Blizzard games long ago when I first played Diablo when in 1997. Then I played Starcraft, Warcraft III, Diablo II, and flash foward to Diablo III and the Bnet launcher era. Who knew that entering the Cathedral, and spending hours and days walking (couldn’t run back then) through the labyrinth in Diablo would lead me to everything else Blizz has now.

Where it all started

The gaming for loyalty aspect is a also big reason for why I started playing Duel Links. @hsdecktech posted some screenshots one day on Twitter, and I haven’t put down the game since. My enjoyment playing the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG in 7th and 8th grade awoke, and I destined to relive the nostalgia I had playing cards. And this is allure to Yu-Gi-Oh is not a unique thing, as Duel Links is catching on like wildfire, hitting 45 million downloads recently. Konami created a great franchise, buoyed by a TV show and card game, and that loyalty now it is manifesting in Duel Links’ popularity.

For fulfillment

Back in the day, playing a game for a new high score at the end was the goal. When my ship blew up in Operation: Inner Space, I wanted to get on that leaderboard. This isn’t lost in today’s games. In Hearthstone, competitive players have a goal of hitting Legend in Ranked Play. Some just want to do it, for the sake of doing it, and others have the goal of hitting it every month. This is playing games for fulfillment. You’re trying to hit a goal. Another common fulfillment goal in Hearthstone is getting golden characters. While getting Legend and golden characters technically result in rewards, it is more of a set goal, as the rewards are paltry.

As an Arena guy, hitting 12 wins for the Lightforge Key was a sense of fulfillment. I tracked my 12 win runs for a time with screenshots. I set a goal to hit 12 wins for every class, and that is something that still eludes me. I’ve never hit Legend in Ranked, but getting Golden Rogue was very satisfying.

Gaming for a sense of fulfillment really is a fascinating thing. Most of it is how one derives fun, by continually winning. I wouldn’t have fun if I lost a game many times. Some of it is fueled by competitive drive. Some of it is fueled by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But you’re sinking in hours into a game for something that isn’t even tenable. And by not hitting the goal, you could become angry or depressed (usually both). Crazy right? But hey, it is the reason many play games now.

Well, that’s all I have to say about why we play games in these present times. There probably are a lot more reasons out there, but this post is long enough already. Why do you play games?

Assessing the Fun and Interactivity of New Hearthstone Mechanics in Un’Goro

Assessing the Fun and Interactivity of New Hearthstone Mechanics in Un’Goro

While I typically don’t know what is going on, I think I know enough to eke by in conversation to get by. In a generation of youngins crawling the World Wide Web, it is important to know some memes, to “speak the language.” Memes come and go, but the very best have long-lasting value. There is no question that my favorite Hearthstone-related meme is the phrase “fun and interactive,” a phrase used to explain a card nerf many moons ago.

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The phrase is often conjured up by Hearthstone players and viewers and used in a facetious manner. When people use “fun and interactive,” they are referring to something that isn’t.

In the spirit of preserving the usage of “fun and interactive” in it’s intended way, I’ve decided to rate the new Hearthstone mechanics in Journey to Un’goro by fun and interactivity. There are a lot of new things done in this expansion, that warrant a deeper look. These ratings are subjective, but I think I’ve been around the block long enough to not be too far off.

My base definitions

  • Fun – How far off a card/mechanic is from Basic cards (vanilla minions, or deal damage spells).
  • Interactive – How well a card/mechanic can be countered by your opponent, through heroes, minions, and spells.

New mechanics/functions

Adapt Mechanic

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One of the new keywords, Adapt, will appear on 14 cards in the new expansion. For a single adapt, there is a 30% chance to pick each 1 of 10 abilities. I would say this falls in the vein of “good RNG,” given the opponent can expect only 10 outcomes. I think it is pretty fun try to figure out what Adapt ability to pick given the game situation to gain the advantage. It is a good test of skill and some luck. On the other hand, it isn’t too far off the regular Discover mechanic. 2 of 10 adapts, the Untargetable and Stealth gains aren’t too interactive, but the other outcomes definitely can be countered. Even Untargetable and Stealth can be interacted upon, depending on the class.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 7/10

Elemental Battlecry Mechanic

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A staggering 24 new minions will be have the Elemental tribe, with an additional 12 other Standard minions gaining the tag. The main Elemental mechanic works in that a minion gains a big buff, if an Elemental was played in the turn before. Some of the battlecry effects are quite strong, like Blazecaller and Tol’vir Stoneshaper. I guess there is a bit of fun and forcing subpar Elemental cards in your deck to activate strong effects. It could also be fun playing strong minions on curve. Well, not really. In terms of interaction, there is no way to stop Elemental effects from activating. Nerub’ar Weblord is a Wild card, and no other card has been printed to offset Battlecry. Sure, you can remove whatever gets boosted by the Elemental Battlecry, but will force a great expenditure of resources. Truthfully, this mechanic isn’t really fun or interactive.

Fun = 3/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Quest Mechanic

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Quests are a new spell type, which hopefully does much to make the game more fun. Everything from deckbuilding and gameplay will hopefully be galvanized. So quests seem fun, just because they are new and will provoke new deckbuilding. In terms of interaction, there isn’t a way to specifically get rid of a quest. I guess the old fashion counter of rushing your opponent down to zero is a valid method.

Fun = 8/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Sherazin, Seed / Nether Portal

These 2 cards are the first in Hearthstone which leave something on the board that isn’t a minion. Both cards could be quite fun, as Sherazin provides an undying minion, and Nether Portal provides eternal tempo on the board. While playing with a new mechanic is fun, they provide fun deckbuilding challenges, along with gameplay. Neither card could be removed from the board by minions or spells. Sherazin could be silenced, preventing the Deathrattle effect from happening. Nether Portal can’t really be countered, and is more of a consequence of the Warlock discarding the right cards.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Time Warp

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When this was revealed, it immediately took me to Shadowverse, and the card Dimensional Shift. This was on the minds of many others, as “DSHIFT” spammed the Twitch Chat. Anyhow, this is super fun if you are the Mage, as getting a whole extra turn could be an easy win. You can either cast a bunch of spells or simply outtempo the board. Unfortunately, there is literally no way to interact with this mechanic as the enemy, besides rushing down the Mage before you the Quest. Loatheb can work in a Wild stall tactic, and Ice Block can stall as well. But no way to counter this.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 0/10

Elise the Trailblazer

The new Elise provides the novel joy of opening a booster pack in the middle of a game. So fun! The packs also have a high chance for wacky cards like Legendaries and Epics, and span across all class cards and neutrals. In terms of interactivity, all you can expect are 5 cards from an entire set of 135 cards. There is no way for the opponent to prepare for it really, and it is a “bad RNG” example. I suppose you can try to find some way to fill your opponent’s hand, so they won’t get the 5 cards. Elise is heavy on the fun, not on the interactive side.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 1/10

Elemental Invocation

This isn’t really a new mechanic at all, but just a spin on an old one. Kalimos allows the player to get 1 of 4 invocations, and it isn’t random at all. This is really just Discover with a 4th option. This makes you think about cards with Spare Parts and Xaril, which are random draws. Anyhow, this isn’t really fun, as they are very basic abilities granted by the invocation. But, as you can only expect 4 outcomes, the opponent shouldn’t be blown away by what happens.

Fun = 3/10, Interactivity = 5/10

Explore Un’Goro

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In typical wacky epic card fashion, this replaces your whole deck with 1-cost cards, to Discover random cards. This is another card like Elise, in that it is all fun and no interaction. Unlike Elise, this card will almost guarantee you have no chance of winning the game through conventional methods. Elise is a card that isn’t too bad statwise, and provides card advantage. This card is just for fun, and that only.

Fun = 10/10, Interactivity = 0/10

Curious Glimmerroot

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This is an extremely fun spin on Discover, which creates a guessing game of what your opponent is playing. I suppose this effect is less fun when the meta is stabilized, and you know what your opponent is playing. Additionally, there will likely be a big split of getting the right guess on Constructed vs Arena. You can really get anything in the Arena, where as you can tell bad from good in Constructed. It also can be interacted upon, as you know what is in your deck, and can calculate the probability of your opponent getting something. It isn’t too different from previous Priest steal mechanics.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 7/10

Primalfin Champion

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This is a completely new mechanic, which can allow a Paladin to replenish their hand with buffs, after this guy bites the dust. As this provides an avenue for the Galvadon quest completion, and provides card advantage, it could be fun for the user. There are plenty of ways to interact with this card through silence, and bounce effects. You can also try to get rid of the board, so that no minions that remain can be buffed.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 8/10

Tar Creeper/Lurker/Lord

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The new tar creatures were created solely for defense, all possessing taunt, tons of health, low attack, and counterattacking enemies only.  One could figure these cards were designed specifically to satisfy the fanbase’s general hatred for aggro in the game. While these cards are great, they pretty much are not fun in anyway. They are boring as heck, and don’t even represent fun on offense, as they hit for 1. They can be interacted by the opponent through spells and attacks as well as any minion in the game.

Fun = 1/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Living Mana

For the first time, mana crystals come to life! This is a card that could set up combos with Savage Roar and Mark of the Lotus. Cool and fun deckbuilding around it. I guess the concept of bring your mana to life is fun, but really it is just making a bunch of 2/2’s. Your opponent can also interact with the board well, or just deny you getting your mana back. Silences with Mass Dispel will ensure a loss.

Fun = 5/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Dinomancy

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Control Hunter was always not a thing, as the Hero Power is all about damage. That is no more, as Dinomancy allows the Hunter to build their board and minions for the first time. This is honestly revolutionary, as it opens an entire library of cards and deckbuilding possibilities for a class that was all aggro. Just amazing. Additionally, this hero power is more interactive than the standard one. Plus points for fun and interactivity.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 9/10

Envenom Weapon

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No, Envenom won’t make Blade Flurry playable again. But it is a novel mechanic. Rogues still don’t Taunt or Heal, so a lot of face-tanking will continue to occur. In a way, it is bringing back the days of Blade Flurry, where Rogues held on to the weapon. So it will be fun picking what to destroy. There are numerous ways for the enemy to counter Envenom, including weapon removal, playing taunts, playing high attack guys, etc.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Razorpetals

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This is a new token spell, which is 1-mana, deal 1 damage. A bit over-costed for what it does, but Rogue mechanics have always been a bit janky. Also, they are still cheap spells. Mostly, this is fun in that it represents a deck building challenge with the new plant cards. Most likely it will circle back to how Auctioneer could be used. It might even have consequences in a Malygos deck. Otherwise, 1-mana and 1-damage doesn’t represent anything new. In terms of interaction, the opponent knows how many Razorpetals you get. There isn’t really anything to do to counter a 1-cost, 1 damage card.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 5/10

The Definition of “Fun” in Hearthstone

I saw the little post below on Reddit yesterday about Elite Tauren Chieftain:

While the post is obviously flawed because ETC is promo card from 2013, it does bring forth the interesting discussion about what quantifies fun in a game. This is especially interesting to talk about in Hearthstone, a competitive game played for big money in eSports competitions.

Fun means having fun

Hearthstone is designed as a game with many comical elements in it. There are also a lot of random things that happen, which could be fun. The OP of the Reddit post encapsulates someone who just wants to have fun when playing Hearthstone. He/She eludes to ETC likely losing you the game, and acknowledging the RNG aspect of the card. But above all, they only care about playing fun cards.

Fun means winning

The counterpoint is that losing sucks. If you’re winning more games, you are having fun. Pro-players relentless grind for legend and getting out of so-called “dumpster ranks.” This just means a lot of winning, and a whole less lot losing. This likely involves playing decks with no waste at all, that are optimized from beating the meta of the week.

Fun means a balancing act

I think most people who play Hearthstone will fall under this. You care about winning games a lot, but also want to have a little fun. Most people here have a goal to get to a certain season rank, and then mess around with a fun deck. These people have lots of innovative ideas but are often pressured to netdeck themselves to a certain rank for self-satisfaction/rewards.

My views of fun

As an arena main, I don’t have so-called “fun runs,” where I would go for some weird synergy or only pick the left-most cards. I draft the best deck I could every time out. I also play with the class I am best with (Rogue), and balance the other classes depending on feel/success.

In ranked, I try to get to a certain Rank, 10 or more recently 5. I often do this with some deck I made myself. Then I fail, and netdeck something to get to the desired rank. I really don’t like losing in any game mode, and that limits my capability to grind for legend.

Final words on fun

It is impossible to quantify “fun” in Hearthstone, as the word means different things to different people. Hopefully posters in the future would be more cognizant to realize that the game isn’t just about winning or just about having a good time. The Hearthstone community isn’t monolithic at all when approaching the game, and that’s a good thing.

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Fun!