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Friday, September 14, 2012

Legend of Dragoon - Wrong Turns and Treasure

I feel like every game, even the most linear of games, can be played a number of different ways by any player, and I of course am no exception to that.  While playing the Legend of Dragoon last night, I came to realize that I tend to play with a hint of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Now, I have actually been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and over the years have found that people have a fair misunderstanding of the disorder in general.  At is basest, it is simply something within the brain that causes one to obsess over something (usually something that a normal mind would not pay any heed) and then compulsively act on that obsession, usually without the conscious choice or will of the perpetrator.

Due to this broad definition and the fact that most of the time these compulsions, were they not vocalized, would go unnoticed, the general public has linked the disorder with Germaphobia and obsessive tidiness.  These two symptoms are the most recognizable traits that someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may display, therefore they are often thought of as the only traits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ("or as we in the business call it 'The O.C. Disorder'"  -Tobias Funke).  They are not.  Personally, I do not have either, I  do however have a crippling fear of poisons which causes me to wash my hands raw upon contact with any household cleaner.  I also have a number of minor ticks and such that generally pass as normal, checking my phone/watch ever few minutes, fidgeting with objects, running my fingers across walls as I pass them etc.

These of course, at this point in my life, are things I have in check and therefore don't affect my day to day, but I do recognize the symptoms when they happen to manifest.  As one who is able to recognize these symptoms on the fly I am also a subscriber to the idea that there is no such thing as video game addiction... there is video game compulsion, and it is as dangerous as the people out there who are calling it by the wrong name purport (when in its most extreme and worst cases), it is just a mislabeling of symptoms.  Semantics, sure, but if we are to treat it seriously we should at least start at the root of the problem, which is a mental disorder and not a physical addiction, so we can treat it as such.  Either way, the point is moot for what I am talking about today... because I don't have that.

I may have a disorder where I write long pointless sidetracks to the main point I am trying to make (as of yet unrecognized by any legitimate medical association) but I don't have that.  I generally play video games for an hour or two a night after my wife goes to sleep, I don't think much about them during the day (aside from discussing with friends or writing these articles), and I don't feel a loss when I am unable to play or otherwise occupied (as you can tell by now, I am fairly self analytical so its something I tend to keep tabs on).  I do however express huge amounts of compulsion when playing the games themselves.

Again, while playing Legend of Dragoon last night I realized that I tend to play games in a highly exploratory manor.  I purposely try to take every wrong turn possible to try and see everything the game has to offer.  Now, I don't by any means thing I am the only person that does this, in fact I had kinda always figured this was a norm for most people, but last night I had the realization that I'm sure there are people out there who simply rocket towards the end of a game because, well... they want to beat the game.  I, of course, take it a bit too far while playing, to the point where if I do leave something unexplored, either by mistake or by force of the game, I feel extremely unfulfilled.  What was over there?  What am I missing out on?  What did that area look like?  Did I miss something that would have triggered a cut scene or a bit of dialogue?  The idea that I don't know, and likely won't know, drives me insane to the point where I have in the past, reset a game and played through huge chunks of territory over again, just to explore that single unknown (which is rarely, if ever, worth it).

I feel like this mindset is becoming increasingly lost in modern gaming, and even discouraged by games themselves.  Perhaps not consciously done by the developers, but as a side effect of two helpful little innovations known as "The Mini Map," and "The Waypoint."  While I do appreciate he helpfulness of these two modern gaming staples, I have found that they inherently take away the uncertainty and need for exploration that I feel in these older games.  What was over there?  Oh, well according to my mini map... nothing.  I find that when playing more modern games I feel more like I'm simply running around with a checklist of things to do and a little marker telling me exactly where to go.  There is no uncertainty and no exploration.  Of course, you have the option to explore on your own, and it often yields a lot of benefit, but I still don't feel like the mechanics encourage that mindset.

Exploration, even of an obsessive nature, is fantastic, it is a big part of what draws me to these earlier games.  I imagine how much less I would have gotten out of something like Final Fantasy VII if there were things like waypoints pointing me to every single item I needed to get into Don Corneo's mansion.  I love the uncertainty, I love figuring these things out for myself, and I love making every wrong turn I can in order to see what is there... and more often than not, at the end of that wrong turn, there is a nice little box waiting for me with bounty untold... almost as if... that was the whole point.

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