December 5, 2012

Afraid to Fail

Posted in video games tagged at 10:41 pm by riulyn

I don’t want to give out too many personal details, but I have a friend who has recently gotten the video game bug and she likes a good story so she wants to play some JRPGs, but she doesn’t like the complication of menus and considers the stereotypical, turn-based game something that would be “hard”. But she is happily enjoying Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance and was doing okay with Kingdom Hearts at first when she borrowed it from me for a bit.

She’s become pretty interested in visual novels, which is something I just haven’t ventured much into. I guess my limited experience is with Phoenix Wright, which may or may not actually be a visual novel. I just had no idea what I should be doing. It wasn’t exactly a bad experience, but I got distracted by something else and moved on.

I do have to admit though that I would put tactical JRPGs, action JRPGs, and any shooters to the back of the list almost every time I was presented with the choice. My hand-eye coordination is pretty bad; I suck at driving and I think it’s reasonable to hate driving because it stresses me out to know that I could kill someone with my car. In comparison, I feel like a wimp when I shy away from games based on their genre.

However, when my friend first described turn-based game systems as “hard”, it took me by surprise. It didn’t make sense how something like a PS1 FF game or a Suikoden game could be hard. You got to control their actions directly! Many times you went through the first part of the game just spamming the attack command and your enemies would die before they could even hit you, and this didn’t require reflexes or quick timing (unless you played ATB). Reviving “dead” characters was easy. Sometimes you could mess up, but then you’d just fight random enemies to gain another level and try again. It just didn’t seem hard at all to me. It seemed like more of “pain in the ass to navigate menus” problem if something was a problem.

Then when she told me she worried about playing a game “wrong”, it actually made sense. With skill trees and customization, it can get pretty overwhelming. For someone like me who has played a bunch of games where you can customize your characters, I go with heal> elemental spells> buffs> debuffs> attack. I tend to play a bit defensive and I never worried about being “wrong”. I like to conserve my items too, so many times I won’t use my special attacks except on bosses. Then I realized, that’s the reason why I shied away from tactics games at first. Besides issues of perma-death (oh how many times I replay battles because of this), there is definitely an optimal way to customize your units. And not all games allow you to grind your way around it. It’s also the reason why I prefer “simpler” action games like Ys in comparison to Kingdom Hearts. I like when my button/button combo does one thing and not 20 things. I like having some idea where my character will be on screen 🙂

Of course, for me it’d be weird to play a game where you could take any action and the game would proceed the same way regardless. At the same time I can understand not wanting to see that “game over” screen and losing the progress you’ve made since the last save (thank god more games are adopting retry without huge penalties). In the end we play games for entertainment, to succeed and make progress. It’s just, being afraid to fail, both I and my friend are probably missing out on some great games. Years ago I would have never touched a game like NieR, and anyone who has followed the blog knows how much I love that game. I’m sure there are plenty of other wonderful games with wonderful stories (I’m thinking Mass Effect and Baldur’s Gate at least) that I have yet to experience as I am slowly getting over my hesitation to fail.



  1. Robert said,

    There are a lot of turn based games out there that don’t have really complicated character creation and upgrades. Like pretty much every Final Fantasy game is light on that sort of thing. There is FF10 or 12 with their board like upgrade systems but those are mostly easy to deal with because of how straight forward they are and eventually you just cover the whole board so it’s not really a matter of building a character wrong.

    Games like Baldur’s Gate though can be pretty tough. I would suspect needing to look up good builds online somewhere before taking to it, but that’s mostly because of the D&D system it’s based on. The Etrian Odyssey games are also tough little turn based games where building the character right could make all the difference in the end. Sometimes it’s fun to experiment that way though.

    The problem I have when it comes to games I’m unsure of is mostly the cost of games now days. If you wait for a game to hit the $20 mark, even if you’re not so sure about being able to beat it at least you don’t waste a large sum on it.

    • riulyn said,

      Yeah, price is definitely a tempter for both me and her. It still seems a lot for someone who doesn’t play games regularly, but once you start playing regularly, gaming ends up being one of the cheapest forms of entertainment.

      Right now she has a 3DS. She is interested but also scared of SMT Digital Devil Saga (I think that’s the one on 3DS). It’s not like she has a lot of money so I’m not trying to throw suggestions at her but rather advise her on games she is considering. If she does ask about FF, I was thinking of recommending FF4 DS though I have not played that version myself.

      • Robert said,

        There’s the SMT Devil Survivor games on (3)DS and you should be able to find at least the 3DS version of the first game for around $30 which isn’t bad. Both games are great turn based strategy RPGs with some demon catching/fusing and multiple endings. If you really want to break into turn based RPGs then consider Pokemon Black/White. They’re fun and they shouldn’t cause any frustration or worry about not raising the monster right. There’s also the Dragon Quest games too.

        The problem with FF4 is that some versions are actually really hard, so it may not be the ideal recommendation. I have about 60 DS games, most of which are RPGs, which all work on the 3DS so I could put out some more suggestions if you want.

      • riulyn said,

        You know what, I think she does play Pokemon sometimes. I should remind her that if she can play Pokemon she can do other turn-based games. And I think you are right about FF4. The DS version is supposedly hard, so I guess that recommendation shall be canned.

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