I have the most fun I’ve ever had with a game recently, playing it in a way that really makes it shine. Alas, I cannot take credit for the idea – that has to go to my friend and his brother – but it got me thinking about how much more there is to a game once you change the rules in some way. It works with boardgames, almost everyone has their ‘house rules’, so why shouldn’t it with their video counterparts?
A few weeks ago, me and two friends bought copies of Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver between us. Rather than play them normally, however, whereby most people collect the most powerful Pokémon possible and race through the game at an alarming rate, a caveat was added. Each of us was randomly assigned a typing, and we were only allowed to use Pokémon that fell under that category. Trying to beat a full game using only Ground type Pokémon is incredibly hard (is, because at the time of writing I still haven’t managed to beat the game), my strongest team member at the moment is an over-levelled Quagsire. I’d never have used this in any other play-through, its stats are terrible competitively, but I’ve really grown to love its stupid grin. Similarly, a vastly more popular type of Pokémon play-through is a Nuzlocke – made famous by this comic.
This conscious experience of self-limitation in a game made me realise just how often I do it without thinking about it, and how fun it is. Countless times I’ve stumbled home from a bad night out with my friends, shouted “Nuketown, Ballistic-Knives only!” and proceeded to play Call Of Duty: Black Ops until passing out. First Person Shooters are a natural starting point so imposing new rules – the gameplay is often repetitive, and after having unlocked a variety of weapons and attachments, they can become a bit stale. There are, however, much more imaginative ways to do so than my example above. In most of the Battlefield series, the easiest way to do this is by purposefully equipping poor load-outs. DuckySchwag’s infamous “pOOpy Gun Loadouts” series on youtube is a great place to start.
Sandbox survival games are also relatively easy to customise – in Minecraft, for example, players might decided to only use certain types of block, or only utilise more hostile biomes like deserts. “Survival Island” type play-throughs are especially popular, where the player’s sprite spawns on an island with one tree. There are a wealth of them to watch on YouTube, a personal favourite being the YOGSCAST’s.
With games released thick and fast in the current climate, its easy to play through them quickly, before moving onto the next shiny release. Not only is this incredibly expensive (the value of my steam account frightens me), but it also seems to generate a lesser experience. Not a single game I have bought in the last year compares to the reverence that I hold my hallowed copy of Dragonball Z: Taiketsu. I played through this fighter with every single character, denying myself certain combos, even trying to use fewer fingers to control the game with. Sure, this was partially because I loved the game, but it was also because at the time I only had three cartridges for my GameBoy Advance.
Most importantly of all, this self-constriction is incredibly fun, especially when shared with your friends. It gives players much more for their money, and leads to bizarre game-states that were previously unimaginable. Personally, I never thought I’d spend more than a day trying to beat Lance’s three Dragonites – much less with my old, faithful, Quagsire.
Photo credits: Reece Bennett, Carne Gray-Roberts