Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Phone Call, and an Impromptu Survey  

Family: I don't talk about my kids all that much here at Drinking Coffeecola, not because I'm some sort of neglectful dude, but because I feel like they’re entitled to as much privacy as possible until they’re old enough to make a choice about whether they want to be "on the Internet" or not. That said, I do love them like crazy and every once in a while I'll mention a little something...

Regular readers here will know that I have two boys, only one of which lives with me full-time. The other is my oldest, and he lives pretty far away for most of the year, so our usual method of contact has been via his ‘other-home’ phone. This year the wife and I felt like he was old enough to give having his own cell phone a try, so we went out and got him one of those pay-as-you-go jobbies. I figured if he didn't actually use it, or if he couldn't take care of it, then we weren’t going to be locked into any kind of monthly fee.

Anyway, he took to it like a fish to water and showed us that he was extremely capable of using it responsibly. As a result, we've been keeping him stocked up on minutes, and he's practically a cell phone pro now. He's been sending me texts pretty regularly, which is really cool, but even better is that every once in a while he'll just randomly call me out of the blue.

It may not sound like a big deal to a lot of people, but if you ever find yourself ending up on the non-custodial side of a separation or divorce proceeding, little things like this become infinitely valuable. Going from having a child in the house every day to only seeing them three times a year is a fundamentally life-altering experience, and the kind of simple phone call that most people take for granted everyday is incredibly precious to me.

I actually didn't intend to talk about this topic tonight, but just as I was about to begin writing today's blog, the son called me up just to chat. No reason. He didn't need anything, wasn’t asking for anything. He just called because he wanted to talk to his dear old dad. I can't even put into words what a great feeling that was, so I guess I just spent about 400 of them in a vain attempt.


Games: I was putting some time into a game I’m going to be reviewing soon, and I got to a point (about halfway) when I just felt no desire at all to keep going. So, instead of suffering through hours of boredom and apathy, I just stopped.

As a reviewer, I used to think that I needed to roll credits on every game that I wrote about, but I let go of that notion some time ago. There were just too many games that ran for too many hours without any good reason to do so, and there were also too many games that just weren't interesting or enjoyable. They just were. I eventually came to the conclusion that if a game wasn't able to keep my attention, then that was a statement worth making about the game overall.

I feel pretty good about this philosophy and it works well for me, but every once in a while I like to do a little reality check on myself to make sure I'm not coloring too far outside the lines. If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably saw me asking a question like this:

Would you characterize a game as “average quality” if it wasn't fun/engaging/interesting enough to keep your attention and motivate you to finish it?

It's granted that Twitter is not exactly the best place to have in-depth discussions and I probably could have phrased the question a little more clearly, but this wasn't any kind of scientific experiment and I was in search of some quick feedback.


So here's what I was getting at: In a nutshell, GameCritics uses the full 10-point scale. A score of 1 would be something that was atrociously bad, a score of 5 would be right in the middle, neither terrible nor commendable, and (of course) a 10 would be something you'd try to convince your grandma to play because it would just make her life that much better. We use *all* the numbers.


As I was playing this review game, I started to try and mentally place it on that scale. It wasn't broken and it wasn't terrible, but I did find it tedious enough that I did not want to finish -- that's a pretty big negative in my book, but then I started to wonder what other people's perceptions might be. Was I out of line in thinking that an ‘average quality’ game should at least be good enough to keep someone's attention until the end? If I gave this particular game a 5, would that be too high, since I was absolutely not going to put in the time to complete it?

Like I said, I put the question to Twitter and here's what I found:

14 people said an ‘average’ game should keep a player's attention until the end.

5 people said an ‘average’ game should not be expected to keep a player's attention until the end.

3 people mentioned suffering from ‘game ADD’ as the reason for stopping a game, although they might return to it later. (I would actually challenge this by saying that if the game was interesting enough in the first place, then you wouldn't be distracted by something else, but that's a debate for another time.)

1 person was undecided.

Richard Naik did not answer the question.

According to my totally empirical and unimpeachable results, it seems like most of the smart, attractive and charming people who follow me share my view that a totally average game should at least be good enough to make you want to roll credits on it.

However, this begs the question about the other side. I'm actually quite fascinated as to why some people didn't feel that it should be expected for an average title to be good/interesting/fresh enough to keep someone playing from start to finish.

I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head, but rather than feed myself an answer that may or may not be correct, I would very much like to hear from anyone who takes the view opposite to my own. If you are a person who thinks an average game doesn't need to be good enough to motivate you until the end, please leave a comment and let me know why!

(Although if you just want to comment and agree with me, that's alright too.)

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2 comments: to “ A Phone Call, and an Impromptu Survey


    Aww that's lovely about your son :)

    Remind me to come back to the average debate later. Just about to go enjoy some much needed game time! But it's an interesting point.


    I think you could justify the argument simply by saying that it's a saturated market and just "average" isn't enough in an industry overflowing with quality titles. I know I certainly don't have time to keep up with them all, let alone a father of two such as yourself. As such I think it's fine to tell people that the game was perfectly passable, but just too uninteresting to continue (unless it was a different reason, in which case you just need to properly explain why you quit).

    That's great about your son, btw. I grew up without a cell phone (not getting one until midway through college), but that already seems a lifetime ago. Technology ftw!