Playing Outside of Your Comfort Zone

dota 2013-05-11 04-19-21-92

This post was inspired by Shaun from At The Buzzer’s ‘Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You’ pledge, which you can check out here. I think it’s an awesome idea and probably one that’s not foreign to any of you. Although they might not do it every day, people step outside of their comfort zone all the time in real life or least think they should. It’s seen as character building and from my own experience, I’ve found that stepping out of your comfort zone regularly can open up many new opportunities for you. So why can’t we apply the same attitude to gaming? Most gamers probably have a favourite genre or type of game that they prefer to play over others and many of them (myself included) tend to just play what they’re used to or the kind of game they’ve had fun playing before. It’s a pretty normal attitude I think. There will naturally be certain games that attract you and there might be reasons you don’t play others. If don’t like socialising you probably don’t play a lot of MMOs, for instance. It might be that you know the controls in your genre (they tend to be fairly standardized these days) or maybe you don’t want to have to learn a new set of rules. However, for many of the same reasons you might want to do be a little more adventurous in real life, playing games outside of your comfort zone could lead to some surprising and beneficial results.

The most obvious result is that it could open you up to games that you might have never have thought of playing before, but discover are actually really fun. I used to be pretty picky about the type of games I played. I didn’t play horror, puzzle or strategy games much, for example. I preferred and still generally prefer a good RPG or FPS over most types of games. For me, gaming was always about not having to engage my brain too much. I liked good stories that I could escape into and I liked making split-second tactical decision, but I didn’t like having to make plans or strategise too much in advance. I did that way too much in my real life anyway. And most of the time, that way of thinking steered me towards games that I enjoyed – games with guns and shooting and worlds for me to explore. However, what that does is cuts off a huge chunk of games that you might very well enjoy, but you just don’t know it yet. Playing Slender: The Eight Pages and Amnesia: The Dark Descent has opened me up to the survival horror genre. Previously, I didn’t like the idea of not being able to just attack enemies full on. It didn’t seem like a particularly fun way to play – walking around being scared and powerless. It seemed kind of boring, to be honest. With those two games, I found out that I was wrong. I discovered the delicious feeling of scaring yourself. It was like watching a scary movie, but much scarier, because you’re actually involved, you actually have to do something. I began to see the appeal. Now I can’t get enough of it. I want more fear! More terror! And I want to see what other survival horror  games can do and find out how they can scare me in different ways. I’ve turned into even more of a masochist than I was before! I was pleasantly surprised and would never have realised how excellent some of these games are if I hadn’t tried it for myself and let a few of the not so interesting games put me off.

I also think trying games you don’t normally play makes you more adaptable and well-rounded as a gamer. Personally I’ve found that skills are often transferable across games, as well as across genres. You might think that RTS and FPS have little in common, but I don’t think that’s true. They both require quick reflexes and fast decision-making. Playing widely also hones your critical eye. It’ll help you figure out what’s good and what’s not by giving you a wider perspective and therefore make your reviews or what you have to say sound more convincing. At games magazines people might specialise, but they’re still expected to have a well-rounded knowledge of games and the industry in general. It’s the same with people who play for fun or blog. Obviously if you don’t really care about articulating your thoughts and just want to play for its escapist value that’s fine too, but I think a lot of us gamers like to congregate and discuss the latest games or game-related issues at least a bit. That’s one of the best things about being part of a gaming community, whether that means your group of friends or a forum or something else entirely. As a bonus I’ve found that thinking about games more deeply has give me greater enjoyment of them too.

Playing a variety of games also helps keep things fresh. Playing within a particular genre (or two) over and over, even you’re playing different games can get monotonous and boring. I’m certainly not thrilled by the idea of playing ten Amnesia-style games back-to-back, no matter how good they are. Sometimes people talk about burning out or just getting bored of games. Whenever I’ve felt like that I just try something totally new and that usually seems to cure it. If I’ve been playing a lot of AAA titles, I’ll try some indie games or flash games. I’ll try a different genre, so if I’ve been playing a long heavy RPG I’ll try a short platformer afterwards. Everyone needs a little variety in their lives and trying something new might be the breath of fresh air you need.

Nowadays with the blurring of lines between genres I’m not even sure talking about ‘genres’ is particularly helpful in describing a lot of the games that are out there at the moment. The RPG genre (with classics like Baldur’s Gate spearheading it) used to be strictly defined – they had quests, sometimes a party or just an individual character to control, some kind of leveling system or a way for the character to become more powerful, character customization and more. Now there seem to be hybrids everywhere you look. What genre does the Mass Effect series fit into? Is it a shooter, an RPG or is it something entirely different? It doesn’t have many of the typical characteristics that would make it an RPG or an action game, but at the same time it has a lot of both. I’d probably call it an action RPG third-person shooter, but I’ve heard other terms attached to the series. Even terms like ‘open world’ or ‘sandbox’ don’t have much meaning anymore. Tons of games are open world in some manner now, it’s all about HOW open world it is. My point is that trying to fit games into specific genres doesn’t even work anymore so why even try? You might instinctively not pick up a game because it’s not described as an action game for instance, but it might actually have a lot of elements you like in a game.

Also, games are constantly trying to innovate, whether in small or large ways. Even games within a specific genre are now often vastly different, especially with the constant influx of new tech. Like I said before, no one wants to play the same thing over and over again. Dota 2 wasn’t what I expected it all. It’s most commonly called an action RTS or a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). When I think RTS, I think base-building, resource gathering and a bunch of other things that I don’t have the patience for. I liked Age of Empires and Warcraft III, but even those didn’t hold my attention for very long and they aren’t games I’d think of playing  whenever I have else to nothing to do. ExceptDota 2’s nothing like that. It’s a fast-paced lane pusher with no base-building and where you control one hero rather than having to manage tons of units. True it’s still not exactly ‘my thing’ as much as say Borderlands 2 was, but I enjoy playing it and it’s got me thinking what other strategy games I might be missing out on.

It might seem easier to stick to what you know sometimes, especially you know the ins and outs of the genre of games you tend to play and you have no idea what some of the other are about, but you’d be missing out. Especially now with that games don’t tend to adhere as strongly to genres as they used to and new genres are being created all the time. That’s why I encourage all of you to pick up a game that you wouldn’t normally play and try it out. It might just surprise you.

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9 responses to “Playing Outside of Your Comfort Zone

  1. Great post CheeeseToastie! I myself have practiced what you are here preaching ma’am and I totally agree with you. I used to be a huge fan of FPS and shooters, along with strategic shooters (especially Hexen, et al) and had no lust for RPG’s of any kind. Of course, my father whose tastes are not much different than my own purchased himself Morrowind and I decided to give that a crack, and next thing I knew, I was playing Gothic, Oblivion, Mass Effect, Fall Out and having quite a blast.
    However, I am also going to kind of disagree with you when you say that playing several games of the same genre one after another may become tedious. If, like you suggest, it is a game like Amnesia, then I will agree, but if it were a shooter or an RPG, and one was played after another, because of the different weapons, HUD, storyline and characters, I do not for a second believe that a person could become bored with potential similarities. Adjunctively, although I do go back and play games I have completed formerly, due to the way games are released, at times I believe it almost impossible to play games that are similar one after another. Take this year for example; for me I have acquired and played Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Bioshock Infinite, GOW Judgement, Fuse and Remember Me, (please excuse the humble brag) almost all of which are vastly different genres than the others.
    Again ma’am, great post! 😀

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s great when you find a gem in a genre you didn’t think you were that into! As I said above, that’s how I stumbled into the horror game genre and I’m really glad I did. 🙂
      Hmm, as for what I was saying about it getting tedious if you play games of the same genre over and over, I didn’t really mean it as a blanket statement, although it could just be a personal thing. There are definitely those breakout games, those games that truly innovate, but I feel that on the whole a lot of games that come out these days, especially AAA titles tend to be fairly similar in many ways – at least in terms of game mechanics and controls. This ties into my posts about realism and open world games, but I do feel there are certain game features that are over-used these days that big developers don’t want to move away from because it sells. Sure the storyline and characters will be different (although most of the main characters will be white and male) and there might be a range of weapons, but generally even there they tend to just be variations of shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and so on. Even BioShock Infinite kept that same range of weapons, although they were Steampunk-ified. I haven’t seen a big game of recent years, especially shooters, do anything new with the HUD or controls or weapons in a long time. Given that, I do think playing similar types of games can get a bit old after a while, at least that’s what I’ve found for me. Even when playing RPGs that have vastly different stories, I find I do want a break after playing a few back-to-back. RPGs usually have deep intricate stories and if I’ve just played the whole Mass Effect trilogy and then BioShock Infinite, I might not feel like another big long intricate RPG directly after that just because I might feel like I need a break from all that emotional fluff, but that’s not something that happens every time and who knows, that might just be me.
      Also, in terms of not being able to play the same genre over and over, I do disagree. It seems that you tend to play new AAA games as they come out and if you do that, then sure, you probably won’t be hitting the same genre of game over and over – although most of the ones you mentioned did seem to be shooters, which I think there’s an over-abundance of these days. I think some of us at least, don’t necessarily do that. There are just so many amazing games, both old and new and I tend to just play whatever I feel like at the time, so last year I ended playing the old Deus Ex, for instance. I know a lot of people like to replay their favourites as well. So I think that for some of us at least, there’s a very real possibility of playing games of the same genre over and over, since there’s no shortage of old or new games (especially if you like playing indie or flash games as well like I do).
      Anyways, thanks for your thoughts as usual! It’s always nice to hear from you. 🙂

  2. I never thought of it like that before. Trying something you wouldn’t normally try when it comes to video games is a good principle to apply. I think in a way I’m doing this already, mainly because I came into gaming a clean slate. Everyone who has gamed since they were kids were much knowledgeable than me about what games were good. I came to them for recommendations or they gave me games they thought I should try and think I would like. It’s better to keep an open mind in a lot of things, whether it’s games or bettering yourself as a person. 🙂

    • I definitely think it’s a good principle to apply to both life and games! That’s an interesting point that a newer gamer might be prone to trying new types of games and it also makes complete sense. I think a lot of us who have been in it for longer, especially those of us who played since we were kids can often have pretty set ideas about what we like in a game. In reality, tastes change and games change too, so I think keeping an open mind about it is the way to go! 🙂

  3. I am pushing myself these days to explore different genres of video games beyond casual games. So far, I have discovered that I love FPSs and lose interest quickly in games like the Sims or WarioWare DIY (y’know, where you “create your own” game or “play God”). It helps living with someone who pushes me to try new games. 🙂

    • That’s great! I’m glad you’re enjoying expanding into new gaming territory. I think it is very much a trial and error thing, finding out what you enjoy about games and it’s a process that never really ends. I love picking up new games that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of playing, because it’s great when you’re surprised. That’s how I found out Fire Emblem: Awakening was an awesome game. 😀

  4. Good on you for stepping out and trying something like Dota 2. I think games like that are some of the scariest to push yourself to try, if you don’t already have a group of friends playing it, because you are not only trying to learn a new game (which can be very complicated in itself) but with a game like Dota 2 you are also constantly at the mercy of the community while you are trying to learn said game. It’s a vulnerable time and the community can be pretty ruthless.

    Being a LoL guy you’d think i’d be a bit more receptive to learning something like Dota, but honestly, while I love LoL it has taught me that I would never want to go through that learning process again and would not have survived without the help of good friends.

    If I am going to step out and learn a new game type it has to be offline or I need to have a group of friends or something else to insulate me from other players until I am good and ready to face them.

    • It’s definitely an intimidating game to get into, especially since it’s a game with such an established community. Luckily I do have a few friends and friendly strangers to play with, who can teach me and support me while I suck, otherwise I’m not sure how motivated I would be to try and learn if people were yelling at me while I do it. It’s not really that I care what other people think, but it’s not the easiest environment to learn in.
      Well, you have the advantage of playing LoL, so the switch to Dota 2 would be fairly painless I think (considering their similarities), although I’m sure there are also many differences. Also, if you’re ever interested in playing, you know me! I know a few cool people who play it and we’d only need 5 for a bot game. 🙂
      I totally agree, I definitely have to get the hang of a new game offline or with people I know, at least for the first couple of tries. I’ve never really understood the people who just jump in head first and play online with no prior experience with something like Dota, which isn’t exactly intuitive.

      • If I ever decided to try Dota I will definitely take you up on that offer 😀 Though right now I think having one MOBA ruining my life is probably enough hehe

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