Replay Value

I recently had a short conversation with a friend regarding the minimum acceptable length of videogames. She had just crawled out from under her rock and completed the single player campaign of Modern Warfare….2.

Despite having played the game’s multiplayer portion almost obsessively for years, she seemed to believe that, due to the game’s supposedly too short campaign and lackluster Spec Ops, it had no replay value.

Gamer girls are silly, amirite?

She confidently explained to me that in the interest of objectivity, a game’s replay value must stand separate from any of its online components.
I swiftly abandoned the discussion out of frustration.

Now, the other day I acquired the game known as ModNation Racers.

I have owned it once before but it was free this time so I figured; “why not?” As I played it I began wondering why I ever sold it in the first place; the game is amazing. I once again mastered all the subtle mechanics involved in maneuvering your kart towards victory regardless of terrain. Even as I played with my knowledge from before, it felt that I continued to learn more and more; re-racing some tracks for several days until getting it right.

I invited a few friends over, hoping to show off my rekindled skillz. For several hours, a bunch of grown people (the youngest being twenty and the oldest thirty-one) wasted their day away playing a racing game that was over two years old; cursing and screaming whenever they failed to accomplish a mission in Career mode.

That’s greatness.

My friend shouts to me from over her shoulder as I sit on my couch, watching her play.

“See?” she asks. “This is replay value. Online gaming holds no weight.”

Perhaps she was right.

I had a save file in my system when I got the game a second time and there were still things I was discovering and experiencing two years later. The endless customizations to your character, kart and track only adds to the endless list of things that keep gamers coming back for more and more.

Our “lazy day session” was recorded and uploaded so I assure you the following are her exact words.

“People get confused between game length and replay value.” she explains as she passes the controller, her nose scratching my ceiling. “A game’s length can contribute to replay value but it is not the sole factor. A game like Mario doesn’t really strike me as a game with high replay value; it’s just long as shit. If you like platforming games then you will instinctively say Mario has a high replay value.”

She continues her speech despite being told by several people that everyone has lost interest.

“You see the same stuff within games that are online; if you like the genre, you will say it has high replay value. Sure, I re-play Modern Warfare over and over but that’s because I like the genre itself not because it has an inherent high replay value. I’m not a fan of racing games but I can tell this has high replay value; there’s too much shit to do. It exists separate from the experiences we gain from fellow players.”

The idea of objectivity when rating games is brought up by someone looking to derail the conversation and get back to playing; his point being, do we judge games as though talking to someone who has no experience with the genre but is interested in playing or do we judge games as if talking to an established fan of the genre?

If it is the former, then the idea of replay value, that is, a title’s inherent value within playing it more than once, will immediately be limited to single player games or a game’s single player component. Most often, a gamer’s online experience with a game has little to do with the component’s of said game and more to do with how fellow gamers interact with its components.

As has been said before, Commando and Lightweight on their own are not crimes against humanity that should be held against the developer’s (maybe), but if you have a griefer who combines these two things, it becomes a crime. The same thing applies for campers and fireball spammers; the game wasn’t necessarily intended to be played like this but the community makes it so. It’s the community that has the final sway in a gamer’s perception of an online experience, not the developer (unless the online component is true shit).

It’s my opinion that when games are rated we are judging the developer based on their own merits. For example: In my opinion, Black Ops is far superior to Modern Warfare 2. However, if I was to write a review on the games the scores would be fairly equal with Black Ops edging out due to Zombies and its replay value, something I don’t get from the linear and predictable Spec Ops. Though I borderline hate Modern Warfare 2, it will get a similar score to a game I mostly enjoy. Why?

Because of the online component.

Some people may agree or disagree, but though they are of the same series, the community of Modern Warfare and Black Ops are not the same. The kind of people that generally populate the Modern Warfare lobby are special kinds of monsters; ones that cannot be found anywhere else. This is why I despise the game and since it has nothing to do with the developers, it’s irrelevant.

I feel this logic must also carry into the way we interpret replay values; existing separate from online play. It may seem strange to judge what is deemed as qualifying as high replay value when speaking of single players games in this day and age but the earliest example I can think of is TimeSplitters 2.

Rather than merely having less health and more enemies with an increased difficulty as most games do, TimeSplitters also made it so that the entire length of levels is increased corresponding to the difficulty. After beating the game on normal and upping the difficulty to hard, I was entering portions of previously completed levels that I had never entered, fighting boss battles with enemies I never encountered; all this after already having beaten the game once. The game also had a shit-ton of mini games and side quests that were considered, by some, to perhaps add too much content. I feel like these are the kinds of things that should be considered when talking replay value (and perhaps web-based content like more levels, new characters, etc.), not online gaming.

This may all go without saying for some of you but I think this is what my friend was trying to get at. Despite me dismissing her with ease initially, I think she may be right.

What do you think?