Recently two interesting events have made me think about this idea of lasting happiness specifically in relation to video games. First, Liam Edwards asked me to take part in his podcast series, Final Games, in which he asks his guests to name eight games they'd take to a figurative desert island. A few of the interviewees have taken this as an opportunity to just talk about their favourite titles of all time, which is fine, but I really considered the prospect of being alone with these things for the rest of my life. What sort of game can bear that level of responsibility? In the end, I went for a lot of simulations - The Sims, Civilization, Minecraft - because I felt the way these titles combine systemic depth with user creativity meant that I wouldn't get bored with them.
Then, at the recent GDC event in San Francisco, the designer and author Eric Zimmerman set an interesting theme for his annual Game Design Challenge, where a group of developers are tasked with envisioning a game based around a set theme. This time, they had to design an interactive experience that could be played daily for 30 years. The results were pretty varied. Nina Freeman created a sort of interactive soap opera where authors - or drama managers - created new story content every day, and players simply had to apply emojis to plot strands to signify their interest. If they were intrigued, they may add a smiley face; if they hated a character or scene, it may get a poop. It was kind of The Only Way is Essex meets X-Factor on Twitter. Chris Crawford, meanwhile, toyed with games based around religion and marriage, while Double Fine's Anna Kipnis created a version of the paper and pencil game Consequences, which gets players to complete each other's drawings and then psychologically analyse the other participant's additions.
These were interesting and fun experiments but they weren't hugely applicable to the way we understand games right now. Are there any current well-known titles that conceivably could entertain us constantly for 30 years? If so, what are they? And because I have a tendency to overthink and systemise absolutely everything, I started to wonder if we could effectively categorise the sorts of games that have truly life-spanning entertainment potential. After all, as video game players we're very interested in the concept of longevity - if only from an economical standpoint: games are expensive and we want to get value for money. In the olden days, game magazines used to split their review scores into separate categories - graphics, sound, etc, - but one was always longevity, or 'lastability'. The classic late 'eighties publication ACE even went as far as to produce a 'predicted interest curve' an actual graph that prophesised the lifespan of every game over a year. But even in that highly scientific era of games criticism, the understanding of longevity was limited to, say, hundreds of hours, rather than a whole lifetime.
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