Games making you jump through hoops to feel rewarded? Do you work harder at getting an achievement in a game than working a full time job? When you get the reward, do you feel like you must have missed something? These are all what I have coined as Artificial Game Extenders, or AGE. If you manage to do what these games ask of you, you do feel like you have aged when it is over.
At first AGE’s can be difficult to spot in a game until you’ve got the hang of what to look for. Artificial Game Extenders are anything that artificially extends the life of your game. Many games today have very little real content. If they did not use these tactics your game would be over in less than half the claimed play time. The bright side is once you know how to spot AGE’s you can save years of your life, and even save a few dollars too.
Console games are laden with AGE’s. I don’t keep up with console games because of their enormous drain on the pocket book, so I can’t profess to know the latest titles. But I can tell you how to spot the AGE’s in them. If your game has unlockable content, that is the first sign. This is content supposedly added as a bonus to the main theme content. However when you unlock it, it is stuff you know they included in there to begin with, but refused to give you access unless you ‘earn’ it. Things like colors, extra skins, bonus levels or areas, new clothes, special power-ups, unique bosses, hidden items, and etc. They always make this content the stuff you’d want to start with anyway, to make you think you have to work for it.
The second thing to look for in consoles is the achievement page. Basically everything in this page will be an AGE. They go something as follows: kill 250 dragon eggs in 5 seconds, get 10 headshots using only your knife, collect $1million gold, unlock all the unlockable content, etc. Sometimes these achievements are virtually impossible to get, and sometimes they are rather lame and a 3 year old could accidently get them. The game makers don’t really care what they are, as long as you believe they are a real achievement and keep playing. Trying to get all these crazy achievements can easily extend the life of your game by months.
Once was a time in MMOrpg’s that you couldn’t find an achievements page. Now that WoW has so called revolutionized the industry, it is becoming popular. If you try to do all these achievements you could easily extend WoW’s life by years. Although some of the achievements are really not achievements at all, they are just put there to get you hooked on making achievements. There will be silly stuff like, reach level 10, equip one of every weapon type, catch a fish, send an email, things you would do naturally just playing the game. Just think in real life, do you wake up in the morning and win a prize for getting out of bed, brushing your teeth for the first time, or drinking 10 cups of coffee?
Then there’s questing, which used to seem important, but has now turned into an AGE. How can quests be AGE’s you ask? This is a hidden one, hard to see at first. A quest should really do something important for you, like further a story, give you a special item, immerse you in the world, or give you an adventure. Most quests now just direct you on where to level, but if you decided you wanted to do all the quests available, that would really extend things for you. Sometimes they take you way out of the way, for a crappy reward. Do you think game designers didn’t think about that? If you are running really far from A to B, then you are not exhausting their ‘content’ and you will keep playing longer to get to the more content. In fact when people try to reach world first max levels, they don’t do it by questing, they do it grinding. Of course not all questing is an AGE, but just look at the quest, and think about it. Does it enlighten you on a story? Enrich your experience? Or does it take you miles out of the way for a regular ass sword you could just buy from a vendor?
Here’s one that’s getting really lame. Starting you out like a pauper. “Please sir, may I have some more?”
You’re thrust naked into a cold hard world of monsters just waiting for their loot to be picked up by you, but you got no room to carry shit. WTF. No bags, no clothes, and no last name, you are a bastard of the MMO world, and now you have to earn your way to the top. Sounds kind of like real life. Like your $15 a month is not enough to just reward you with some decent starting out things. This progresses to keeping up with the Joneses, and puts you on the fast track of AGE. Soon your epic gear is not good enough to fight the really really epic stuff in the game, and you now need MEGA EPIC gear. I’m sorry but this is not content, and it shouldn’t make you feel special when every other goofball player can get these things too. This is just a way to keep you paying for the subscription, and artificially extending their game.
Hopefully now you are getting the idea about what I term as an AGE. That’s not to say that all useless content is an AGE, but if you find yourself doing things the game asked you or forced you too, only to ask yourself, “why would they make me do this, and why am I doing it?” chances are you have encountered an AGE. Above all, games should be fun, not like a second job. We don’t want to escape reality only to be inundated by an alternate yet equally horrible reality.