Video Game Mastery-Skill or Memorization?

Earlier today I was discussing with my fellow Talking Tyrant, Andy,
about people who master video games. You know, those people who post
up YouTube videos of them beating 2 hour Sega Genesis games in about
ten minutes or so. I just called them skilled, but Andy corrected me
that these peoples only skill is memorizing the perfect patterns in
these games. So that they can quickly run through stages and hit menu
options with little effort on their part.

However, the ability to memorize so well is quite a task in
itself. An example of this is Thunder Force IV, which I have been
playing lately. I can make it past about one screen for about three
seconds before I explode in Thunder Force IV. How anyone can get
through all the hundreds of enemy traps in the levels is beyond me.
Today, games are tailored more with an average difficulty, so that
even people who can’t memorize stuff well like myself can complete a
game in about twenty hours or so without having to understand a
complex system.

When I first played RPGs I was faced with the issue of learning
basic RPG elements, such as what MP is, how to conserve HP, how to
heal, how to figure out enemy weak points, how to level up, and how to
pick out the right equipment for my characters. Then I played games
that required me to learn different battle systems such as turn based
and Active Time Battle modes, and then things got really complex when
I encountered games such as Final Fantasy XII, that required me to
really step out of my comfort zone with a steep learning curve.
Honestly, I’m somewhat of a lazy gamer, even if I’m at first excited
to see something new an innovative, if it takes awhile for me to get
the hang of it, I’ll usually lose interest in the game.

One game I feel brought innovation to RPGs well was Kingdom Hearts.
They redesigned the system, but made it easy to learn and made it
something you can learn without messy tutorials, just by exploring the
buttons you can quickly and easily learn how to cast spells, bring out
a summon, and use items, all while fighting at the same time. I feel
this is the best type of innovation, though its difficult for
developers to do this at times.

At the same time, archaic systems are exhaustive and I get tired
of turn based battle after turn based battle. Kingdom Hearts was cool
in Kingdom Hearts, but if every game copied off of it, I’d quickly
lose interest as well. The thing I liked most about Kingdom Hearts
though, is you don’t have to memorize the system to succeed, it will
just grow on you. There are the basic RPG elements, but once you have
that you’re good to go.

One other thing that is an issue when it comes to memorization in
games and the skills that come with it, are instant death systems.
Games, such as Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider, Thunder Force, and games
that have bottomless pits that instantly kill you are too punishing
and force you to learn traps in order to progress or hope that you get
lucky in the process. Metal Gear Solid could have easily joined these
games if Hideo Kojima did not incorporate the ability to approach
conflicts in different ways, people will be split on what way they
want to get past security guards, and they can still make it past the
guard without perfectly knowing what route he is going to take.

Lightning fast comprehension. This dude knows whats happening
before the text even hits the screen.

Sorry if I sound like I’m rambling, the point I’m trying to find my
way to is, some games rely too much on memorization and many gamers
exploit this and become so called masters of games by playing the same
parts over and over until they’re success or pass rate of a level
reaches 100% and their time spent reaching shockingly low numbers. I
don’t particular feel that gamers should be considered masters or even
good at these games just because they learned the games mechanics and
can get through a game a lightning speed.


~ by Carlos on October 2, 2008.

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