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New Games, New Players

I’ve seen a lot of different breakdowns of the different kinds of players and what they look for in games, but only now has it occurred to me that the reason the breakdowns keep changing is because games themselves keep changing. This analysis by Nick Yee presents nine different “player segments” - and two of them (Skirmisher and Gladiator) are described as looking for “team arenas” for different reasons.

“Team arenas” haven’t always been available as a gaming experience and only rose to prominence in the past decade or so. Before then, the sort of people who would seek out team arenas were around, but there were fewer games (if any at all) to scratch that itch, and these people were less likely to get into games. Thus these personality types were less represented in the overall subculture of “gamers.” Once these experiences became more feasible, these people became gamers and emerged as distinct player segments.

This is why I’m saddened by loss of variety of game experiences. It’s also why I like seeing game experiences outside the mainstream narrative find success. And as games continue to grow, I can’t help but wonder at the as-yet-uninvented types of game experience on the way that will create brand new player segments by giving even more people what they’ve been looking for.

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Content Gating and Repeat Playthroughs

I think it’s the case in general that games that have significant non-mechanical content (like, say, a lot of story and dialog scenes) should ideally provide players with means to skip the mechanical challenges and still enjoy the other content (an argument that deserves a fuller treatment, but here’s where I’ve given it the most attention so far).

But I think this is the case especially for New Game Plus modes or repeat playthroughs. Even if you’d argue that normal first playthroughs shouldn’t have this option and the player must earn their fun, they’ve done that now. Why not let them revisit the parts they’re most interested in?

A couple years back, I played Solo, a relationship personality quiz / puzzle platformer. It was interesting, and I’m a bit curious to replay it to consider how my views on relationships have changed since then - but I have no interest in going through all the same block-moving puzzles again in order to do so. Why not let me load my clear save to restart with all the puzzles still solved?

And now I’m playing CrossCode, which does some great stuff with story and characters. In theory, I might like to do a close reading article about it like I did for Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut, but there is simply no way I’d suffer through everything that frustrated me about the game again, especially now that I knew the story and will no longer be driven by needing to find out what happens to these characters.

Even if we can’t get full-on “story mode” in most games, I wish it were normal to at least unlock it upon completion of a playthrough.

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It turns out that more people are playing...

It turns out that more people are playing CrossCode on Xbox Game Pass than on Switch and PS4 put together. This is wholly unsurprising.

On console and on mobile, subscription models mean that price is no longer a barrier for individual games. Once the monetary cost of trying a game is literally zero, players are far more willing to try way more games. And it’s clear that the greatest beneficiaries of this are weird indie games that players wouldn’t otherwise be confident enough to spend money on.

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