A mantra used in so many methodologies, from project management to development of software and plans for meetings/sessions. What about games, though?
Plan, Do, Review.
It’s clear, it’s concise and it’s remarkably effective.
A cycle, not a linear map to follow. As soon as you hit the “review” phase, you go back to planning your approach next time, or for the next step. You’re always evolving your understanding of the task at hand, and looking at news ways to approach things.
Of course, these methodologies go into much more granualar levels of detail, and made bespoke to everything that it’s applied to. What occured to me the other day, is that this is something I not only use in work and study, but in gaming. To a point of excess sometimes.
I think I like the logic and structure of it, and it appeals to me personally as a way through life on some subconscious level.
Currently, I’m playing Hitman 2 and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Two games that require much patience, repetition and assessment, they couldn’t be a better fit for this approach.
One of my all-time favourite series. A game of stealth, deception, puzzle and usually a little bit of frantic knocking witnesses out, and stuffing them in boxes.
The newest entries into the series. Essentially re-booting the franchise. Provide individual sandboxes with massive amounts of variety when it comes to approach.
You have challenges to meet for additional experience, you can just do it your way, and you have a set of tools with which to experiment.
Every mission, to me, requires mutiple playthroughs. Not so much because I’m a perfectionist (see my Mark Faba piece over at FullSync.co.uk to understand how I’m really not), but because there’s so many moving parts, I need to assess and plan my way through.
If a map has multiple targets, I have to find them, find a way to get ot them, and find a discreeet way to eliminate them. This is at the very least. Ignoring bonus objectives and cool ways to create “accidents” and the like.
So, there it is. Planning by exploring, learning where things are and essentially getting a feel for the whole thing.
Doing, by deciding my next playthrough is the one in which I take everyone down.
Reviewing. Did it go well? How many people did I have to “hide” down an elevator shaft? What did I discover after going further into specific areas?
Then it starts all over again, because I know I can do it better, I can hit some of those additional objectives, and I can reach a level of satisfaction before I move onto the next level.
It almost become some kind of subconscious meta-game that I play in my mind, I kinda love it.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Much less forgiving, far more granular in the application of this cycle, too.
Sekiro is again a game that lends itself to stealth and assassination. But you’re in on big map, broken down by areas and gated-off by bosses.
Each area and each boss is a mini environment in itself. You have to navigate the spaces effectively, you have to choose how you’re going to attack or try and slip-past enemies.
Bosses are a very literal interpretation of the cycle. Sekiro is a game that relies heavily on timing and precision. If you die or lose, it’s your fault because you didn’t stick to the plan. Game or not, you’re responsible for the outcome.
You die, you load-up, you try again. And again. And again.
Every fight is a lesson learned. You try a different approach, you try different tools, you try new counters. Then you die, chalk it up to experience and knowledge, and go again.
It’s a little addictive, it’s incredibly frustrating, and it really scratches an itch for me. Quick skirmishes that allow for new knowledge to be gained about an encounter. It makes a game a little bit more than just a game, and it sticks with me.
Sometimes, you’re just sloppy and Sekiro allows for nothing but precision. Fine, I’ll go again and time it better this time.
Always hitting that little cycle.
I can totally see why people get put off by these games to be honest. The level of patience and honestly, sheer will to see things through, is incredible. I can’t say for certain that I’ll see it all the way through. I dropped off Dark Souls and Bloodborne really quickly.
In a world where games offer victory on a plate (through purchase, of course!), Sekiro and other From Software games don’t give a crap about that. You earn your victory, and it’s all the sweeter for it.
The more I think about it, the more I realise how I have this logical affinity that I apply to games, and that is often times how I get the most enjoyment out of them. Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of reasons to enjoy games, and I love them for many reasons.
This is something a little deeper, a little more in-built into me. I get to apply a certain level of control over something in which I have limited control, and I can eventually perservere by learning and re-doing.
Look at Raids in games like Destiny and Destiny 2. Massive 6-man adventures, with mechanics and things to learn, all whilst working with others. There’s no real control there, it’s about communicating a plan, executing it and then reviewing what went wrong, until we get it.
Monster Hunter World, same again. Learn a monster and it’s movements. Hunt it over and over until you’ve learned and mastered it.
There’s some real deep-rooted satisfaction drawn from this approach to me, and so many games lend themselves to it with ease.
We do have exceptions though, and that can be equally exciting/appealing, because it leaves you with very very little control at all.
Sometimes, you have to just throw caution to the wind and just go with whatever you’re faced with. There are games for that, too. It’s not easy when you’re someone that loves as much control over a situation as possible, but it’s kind of exhilarating, too.
Look at Battle Royale games. The only constants are the maps. Everything else is random (to a point), and the other participants all completely in control of their own actions.
Sea of Thieves is another. So much can happen when other players are in the same instance, and a lot of stuff is reliant on things going well. Chance encounters with a Kraken or Megalodon, or a crew that want to chase you endlessley until you quit, for instance.
These are games in which you can learn and understand the physics and the mechanics, and then everything else more luck than judgement. It goes against everything I find some personal joy, in, but it delivers a similar sense of satisfaction. Perhaps because overcoming odds that you can’t control, is rewarding in itself?
All about feeling good
If we’re not playing games for enjoyment, then I wonder why we would do it? Sure, a grind to improve and learn isn’t very appealing, but the pursuit of knowledge and overcoming something through effort and work, isn’t something to be sniffed at.
Sad as it is, I like to have this subconscious “Plan, Do, Review” cycle. It gives me focus, it helps keep me engaged, and sometimes it’s all that keeps me going when I’m stuck with a rough boss encounter.
Sometimes, I suppose I take a game to be more than just a game.
Of course, chaos mastered in a battle royale is equally satisfying. And I’m sure there are a billion and one ways in which people approach games.
I just happened to notice a pattern I use across every avenue in my life, and realised that I use it when playing games, too.
Good or bad, it isn’t important. It works for me, and is a source of personal joy when I go through things often enough.
Fact is, I love Hitman, I’m learning the ropes in Sekiro, and sometimes letting myself drop onto an island full of 99 other people looking to be the remaining survivor, is a catharsis to the cycle when I need it.
How do you approach games? Is it a conscious application of some framework, or just jump in and see how it goes?
I wonder how many of us apply other parts of our life to how we approach games?