View Full Version : The Checklist

12-13-2016, 02:54 PM
I've noticed a strange trend going on when it comes to how we digest media in general, but video games specifically. It's essentially the age-old conflict of analysis vs. synthesis. I've noticed it especially in the XV section, but this type of thinking has been prevalent for longer, as there are threads about XII, VIII, IX, or even other games like Pokemon where people are trying to justify their game as being "objectively" better based on a number of traits that are or are not present. Making a checklist, if you will.

So even back in high school during literature classes we talked about this stuff, about how you can take something as a whole or just dissect every little thing about it. Can a work of art - including games - be better than the sum of its parts? Or do we refuse to allow it touch us in the intimate way they used to touch us in the past simply because they lack a certain trait from our "good" checklist - or have something on our "bad" checklist?

This isn't just a matter relating to various social issues like minority representation, but any aspect of a game really. While I think there are certain things in the discourse surrounding FFXV at this point that prove my point, I can't really confront any of that with my personal point of view because I haven't played it. But I can talk about Pokemon and FFXII.

So Pokemon X had a lot of people incredibly happy because it hit a lot of things on a generally agreed upon checklist - good Pokemon variety, more emphasis on gen1 Pokes, 3D models, etc. etc. Game Freak really wanted to win back the crowd with this so they added everything everybody wanted into this game. And a lot of people were thrilled. As for myself - not so much. And that may as well be because it simply had a big spot on my own bad checklist by including a ridiculously weak villain and the most annoying set of rivals ever, but it also may mean that really just giving me lots of fun stuff was just enough when the overall package didn't do it for me.

Then there's the more specific example I have with FFXII - one of my favorite games of all time, btw - where it was one of Formalhaut's old threads that got revived where some people didn't like the fact that the party didn't interact much. That's one thing not ticked off on the list. But for me, the focus of the game was totally different, and the approach was honestly quite fresh and I was glad we were getting a new type of Final Fantasy with a new focus and the complete experience was, for me, excellent. And yet I know a lot of people called it crap because "it didn't feel Final Fantasy", "it didn't have romance", "it didn't have party members constantly making banter and showing me how much they are the perfect band of friends that I want to be part of", "the battle system was weird".

In the end, for me personally, the general impression I have of the game by the end usually has little to do on what things were checked off on a "checklist" of things I want in a game, because I really think it's hard to predict what the overall package will be judging just from the raw data of what's in it. Which is why it's kind of hard for me to come up with an "ideal FF things" list because I honestly don't really think there is one right way to make a game and that there is no tired recipe that will work every time. That's why it's so important that games are handled with vision and focus, rather than aiming to please everyone.

Alas, games make money and cost money, so of course you're gonna want to have your developers tick things off of a list that fans are saying they want and will be looking for entries on that list when deciding to make a purchase :gator: So I guess I'm kind of disappointed by the fact that gaming budgets have become too bloated for their own good.

12-13-2016, 04:18 PM
I have a checklist, I think most people do. BUT at the end of the day, it's the experience that matters. FFIX is my favourite game EVER, but objectively, other games "check off" more stuff on my list. One thing I love love love is having characters interact outside of the main hero/heroine. I don't like when the whole cast revolves around two people and no one else interacts. FFIX is bad about this in a lot of cases. There's nowhere near as much in the way of relationships between the cast as I would like. On top of that, the battle system is atrocious and one of my least favourites in the series. But the experience trumps all of that and I absolutely love the game. That's not to say it doesn't check-off any of my boxes, it very much does, but the absence of certain check marks doesn't negate the experience.

I think the checklist is best for when you're deciding to invest in a game. Video games are expensive and not everyone can just buy everything that comes out to see if they'll like it. So you have a checklist. "Do the characters look interesting?" "What's the story?" "Do I enjoy the style of gameplay?" etc. Everyone's checklist will be different, but if it looks like it ticks enough boxes, it'll be easier to justify spending that hard earned money. That doesn't mean that a game has to check all of the boxes, or that a game might not end up better or worse than expected based on which boxes it checks, but just that it's a good starting point to see if the game is worth investing time and money in to.

Das what I think anyway.

As far as examples like the FFXII one, I like character interactions a lot. However, like I said, the experience is what matters. FFIX is lower on this than I would like, but I still love the game. While I also like FFXII, it just doesn't make the cast work as much for me. While I don't feel much is missing from FFIX unless I stop and think about it, in FFXII it's apparent to me every time I play the game, like a glaring fault I can't ignore. So to me, they didn't make it work as well. That's obviously subjective though and I'm not trying to negate or argue your opinion, just chiming in with my own views~

12-13-2016, 04:26 PM
I kind of see what you mean. But there is a certain difference in how we treat XII and IX - you like IX a lot despite a certain thing from your checklist not being there. Ergo, you recognize it as a flaw. For me, on the other hand, the fact that the cast of XII doesn't interact with each other much isn't a flaw as much as it is a feature that is part of the unique FFXII experience. Like, would it make many people happier if this were changed? Absolutely. Do I feel that it needs to be changed in order to make it a better game? Absolutely not.

I don't know if I'm making much sense with this thread honestly. I can't keep up with myself sometimes XD I guess what I mean is that I don't think there's an objective way to gauge a game's quality, but the consensus seems to be that people are looking for those objective indicators. But there's also nothing wrong if you do keep an individual checklist - as long as you keep yourself open to other options, I think!

12-13-2016, 04:57 PM
There are higher and lower things on our checklists. And the list and priority is of course individual. For example, my 'Final Fantasy' checklist has multiple things on them, but let's pick two:

[] Well told story
[] Has moogles

Now, one of those is more important than the other. So if an FF game looks like this:

[x] Well told story
[] Has moogles

I'll probably be OK with it. If it looks like this

[] Well told story
[x] Has moogles

Then I definitely won't be OK with it. Also, I think our checklists are sometimes deceptive. I'm a game designer myself, so it's something I see a lot, where people think they want a particular feature, but it's not actually the feature that's important to them. So, to take an obvious example, a lot of people will say Final Fantasy has to have turn based combat. ...Does it have to be turn based though? Maybe what I really want is a combat system that focuses more on using my brain more than using my reflexes. And that's just because I suck at action games. So if a Final Fantasy game comes along that fulfils that need, I'll probably be happy even though on my checklist is might say [] Has an ATB.

Making these mental lists is perfectly normal, but we should keep an open mind when trying something new - our actual needs may be fulfilled even if our checklist is empty.