The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Erik_Twice
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The Skill Gamers

by Erik_Twice Sat Jan 31, 2015 6:07 pm

There's a small gaming subculture that I think everyone in this forum knows about and yet isn't readily recognizable. They are what I call the "Skill gamers", a group of people that mostly like games for their challenge, because they like learning how to get better at them and become more "skilled".

These are the kind of games I think the "Skill Gamers" like to play:

- Shmups
- Beat'em Ups and Run 'n guns
- Classic platformers (Strider, Shinobi, Umihara Kawase)
- Action Puzzles (Tetris The Grandmaster, Magical Drop, Money Idol Exchanger)
- Rhytmn Games (Beatmania IIDX, Dance Dance Revolution)

They are also fairly likely to play both fighting games and arcade racers, but the communities are fairly distinct and have a multiplayer component that most of these Skill gamers aren't particularly vested interested into. To me this makes sense because I feel that self-improvement is one of the tenets of the subculture:

- Self-improvement
- Difficult, often old Japanese games
- Big arcade focus
- Focus on mechanics and challenge, little interest in strategy titles or narratives

Here at Racketboy we have a couple people like this, I think Dunpeal is one and I'm sure others here feel at home at places like Shmups.com more than at Hardcore Gaming 101 despite the superficial similarities.

Well, what do you think? Do you belong of this group, feel sympathethic of it or just think it doesn't exist? Well, why don't you tell me about it, then? :)
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Nyukki
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Nyukki Sat Jan 31, 2015 8:38 pm

Definitely all game genres I'm very interested in. In fact shmups, run n guns, platformers and puzzlers are pretty much all I play nowadays, with the occasional bash at some fighting games.

How "skilled" I am at these games is another question though.

Erik_Twice wrote:- Focus on mechanics and challenge, little interest in strategy titles or narratives

Absolutely what draws me into a game these days. I was all about JRPGs in my teens, now I literally have zero patience for any narrative that takes away from valuable gameplay time.

What I really love about all the genres you mentioned (particularly applies to shmups) is seeing your performance improve at a direct correlation to the amount of practice and effort you put in. Suppose that could be said about most games, but I find especially with shmups that the level of satisfaction you get from slowly getting better at making split second life or death decisions is very high.

Reading up on strategy and interesting scoring mechanics is fun and makes every game unique. In fact, the scoring mechanic is often so detailed that it really changes the way you approach a game and offers you different ways of playing.
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Nemoide Sat Jan 31, 2015 9:55 pm

I don't strictly identify as this sort of gamer, but I've definitely spent many many hours honing my skills at certain rhythm games. When I was at the top of my game, I could get at least an "A" rating (and more often than not "AA)" on any Dance Dance Revolution (pre-arcade-version-Supernova... Pluto still gives me nightmares) song on the hardest difficulty! I was also pretty competent at Beatmania IIDX. I was mostly playing that on the easier difficulties, but it's so hard that IMO it counts for something!
For me, it's mostly about fun. Since I love the music, the mental state you get when you are pushing yourself to the limit in order to synchronize movements to that music is an experience that's not easy to replicate! ...and also it's still easier than playing an actual instrument. :P
I also own a super-deluxe fancy DDR pad (Cobalt Flux) and I'd love to get back into the swing of playing that regularly. Sadly I don't have the space at the moment. I kind of gave up with Beatmania after being super-frustrated by a few crazy-hard songs and the feeling that I was kind of just wasting my time with those games. I might get back into that series someday. Pop'n Music is another series I'd like to explore eventually.

I tried to go for "skill" at fighting games a few years back. I'd play mostly Capcom games day after day, trying out different characters to learn how the mechanics worked and how I could eventually become one of those guys who does amazing combos effortlessly. When I took my game online with Street Fighter IV I think I lost about 60% of the time... I got sick of what seemed like the amount of practice needed to even have serious FUN with fighting games and pretty much burnt out. I'm still open to playing with friends in person (which pretty much never happens) but I no longer want to be an EXPERT PLAYER. It's just too much for me!

Even though I love shmups, especially bullet-hells, I'm rarely sinking in a serious amount of time over a sustained period for top scores. I'll play through a game, then typically try some more at a harder difficulty and/or with different characters and then decide I'm pretty much done with it for now. My "backlog-guilt" is mostly what prevents me from spending as much time with shmups as I'd like.
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Exhuminator Sun Feb 01, 2015 1:10 am

Reflex intensive games are great, and we all know many take true skill to beat. There is certainly a gush of pride and self satisfaction when you take down a truly hard action game. I totally understand the appeal of the hardcore challenge.

Personally as I've gotten older I've noticed I don't gravitate towards those types of games as much as I used to. It's not so much that I don't have the reflexes, I still do. But I think it's because I want more cerebral fulfillment such as one gets with RPGs, SRPGs, turn based strategy, and adventure games. I'm more interested in working out my brain than my thumbs these days.
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Ghegs
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Ghegs Sun Feb 01, 2015 2:24 am

Yep, I'm a member of that group. Got videos at my site of me clearing shmups, action-platformers and run'n guns. I started Rolling Start!! so I could get focused discussion on arcade racers, much like Shmups.com is for shmups, I can easily spend hours just time attacking a single course lasting less than two minutes per run. I've got PCBs of the first two Tetris: The Grand Master titles and I hope to get GM on both one day.

I don't play fighting games, though. I never really got interested in them. I imagine a large part of this is that I don't have anyone I could play against in real life. If there was someone of about the same skill level to play against and talk about the game with, that might just make the difference. But, alas.

~20 years ago I played a lot of adventure games and JRPG's, but can't really stand them nowadays. I hate how in adventure games you're forced to find the solution the designer wants you to use, even if there was a different way that's perfectly logical and viable were the situation happening in real life. If I want a story, I'll read a book.

I do still dabble in some other genres as well, they make a nice chance of pace. But they're like snacks between proper meals.
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J T
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by J T Sun Feb 01, 2015 3:24 am

Erik_Twice wrote:These are the kind of games I think the "Skill Gamers" like to play:

- Shmups
- Beat'em Ups and Run 'n guns
- Classic platformers (Strider, Shinobi, Umihara Kawase)
- Action Puzzles (Tetris The Grandmaster, Magical Drop, Money Idol Exchanger)
- Rhytmn Games (Beatmania IIDX, Dance Dance Revolution)


I think these are the games enjoyed by skill gamers who enjoy single player.

For skill gamers that like competition, then I would also include FPS, fighting games, MOBAs, RTSs, and anything else you find in an e-sports competition. I think the game design in these highly competitive games is really interesting because they have to so carefully balance all of the game elements so that victories feel honest.

I tend to most enjoy the single-player skill genres you mentioned. I also really like art-games and story-driven games for different reasons. Well, really I play video games for lots of different reasons, so I play lots of different types of games. But the skill-based single-player games are the ones I have the most patience for and tend to have the most fun with (though I don't think all games need to be fun to be appreciated).

I used to play fighting games competitively in the 90s, and I rekindled that love for a moment with Street Fighter IV, but with my gaming interests being so diverse, it's hard to devote the time it takes to really be a competitor.
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Exhuminator
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Exhuminator Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:46 pm

Ghegs wrote:I hate how in adventure games you're forced to find the solution the designer wants you to use

In many of these hardcore skill based games, there's also only one viable solution to beat the game. That's why so many are based on pattern learning first, blister fast reflexes second. You have to use the pattern the designers intended. And you can read a book for a story yes, but it's not an interactive story. Unless you're reading Choose Your Own Adventure perhaps.

I'm not knocking skill based games mind, I enjoy them regularly. They are certainly a great option for gamers with limited free time.
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Ghegs
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Ghegs Mon Feb 02, 2015 7:49 am

Exhuminator wrote:
Ghegs wrote:I hate how in adventure games you're forced to find the solution the designer wants you to use

In many of these hardcore skill based games, there's also only one viable solution to beat the game. That's why so many are based on pattern learning first, blister fast reflexes second. You have to use the pattern the designers intended. And you can read a book for a story yes, but it's not an interactive story. Unless you're reading Choose Your Own Adventure perhaps.


You cut out the important part "...even if there was a different way that's perfectly logical and viable were the situation happening in real life." This is the part that really bugs me. Adventure games at least give the impression of being somewhat realistic (despite unrealistic and fantastical situations) but sometimes the solutions are just so far off removed from reality or even the game's own internal logic they might as well be in Narnia. The infamous puzzle in Gabriel Knight 3 is a great example of this.

Exhuminator wrote:In many of these hardcore skill based games, there's also only one viable solution to beat the game.


I disagree, there are many ways to beat skill-based games. In most of them you choose between different ships/cars/weapons/etc. which change how you approach the game. For example, you can beat NES Contra with the spreadshot, or the default weapon only, or even do pacifist runs (outside bosses, anyway). Or mix them up as needed. All these are viable ways to beating the game.

Comparing adventure-game situations into skill-based-game -situations is extremely apples vs. oranges.
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Exhuminator
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Exhuminator Mon Feb 02, 2015 9:56 am

Ghegs wrote:I disagree, there are many ways to beat skill-based games. In most of them you choose between different ships/cars/weapons/etc. which change how you approach the game.

You may change the vehicle or the weapon, but you're still going to play that same level and kill that same boss. That's not any different from an adventure game where you can change the order of examinations or dialogue flow of conversations you have, but you're still going to be solving that same puzzle to finish that same chapter. These genres are often equally linear in their own intrinsic ways.

Comparing adventure-game situations into skill-based-game -situations is extremely apples vs. oranges.
Not when considering the linear nature as I referenced above. But apples vs. oranges is certainly how I felt about your comparison of books versus adventure games.
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Re: The Skill Gamers

by Ghegs Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:59 am

Exhuminator wrote:You may change the vehicle or the weapon, but you're still going to play that same level and kill that same boss. That's not any different from an adventure game where you can change the order of examinations or dialogue flow of conversations you have, but you're still going to be solving that same puzzle to finish that same chapter.


I would say it's a very different thing indeed. Order of examinations or flow of conversations is inconsequential to the gameplay, whereas changing weapons et al can radically alter the tactics you need to apply and the way you play, sometimes to the point that it can almost be considered a totally different game.

The linearity is present, but it's only superficial when it comes to skill-based games. In those there is a vast array of different, yet meaningful and valid ways of getting from A to B. There is no such equivalent in adventure games, they are linear by gameplay design as well as narrative design. Skill-based gamed are linear only by narrative, which isn't their point anyway.

And that just applies to single-player games - bring in multiplayer skill-based games and all traces of linearity get thrown out of the window.
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