Over and over and over and over and over…
You know, it’s a strange realization to come across when you realize that that 9 out of 10 games on the market can be boiled down into a routine. Sure, you need to do some heavy simplification to justify it, but in the end, it all works out that way.
So let’s start with the obvious ones. The Sims. if ever there was a game that personified routine, it would be that. Sure, all the fun lies in the customization and making your sims live through wacky shenanigans, but in the end, you still have to get them up for work, cleaned, dressed, fed, driven, driven home, and then you have your sim’s “Free time” to mess around with. For all of five real life minutes, probably. Then you feed them, send them to bed, and do it again. In the grander scale, you go Create, build, play, build, play, build, play, then abandon and do it again.
This goes for a lot of sim games. SimCity? Just take out the play and replace it with build (And the occasional disaster). Spore manages to avoid the routine until the very end, but then still. You’re stuck on whatever level you’re stuck on. Then you make a new phallic-inspired monster and try again.
With that out of the way, let’s break down how your favorite games are boring.
Halo’s easy. It’s just kill, kill, kill, flag, kill, oddball, kill. You can’t make a routine out of repetition. I mean, sure, they give you a lot of varied and interesting ways to kill, but at the end of the day, you’re still just ticking health and lives away from other people while they do the same. This goes for a lot of shooters. TF2, Modern Warfare, Counter Strike, etc.
RPGs are guilty of this on a grand scale. First, you have the oh-so-ubiquitous random encounters. Move, fight, move, fight. Then you have the general routine of “Explore, dungeon, town/sell.” And then you mix it all up with the occasional minigame, akin to changing your routine by heading to that other restaurant for lunch.
Action games try to avoid this stuff like the plague, and for good reason. You can hardly call it Action if you keep repeating yourself (Doesn’t stop people from trying, I’m looking at you, million FPSclones.) Uncharted, from what I’ve seen, heard, and the miniscule amount I’ve played, likes to make you keep doing something else. Fighting, climbing, jumping on trains and generally making shit go bonkers for the bad guys.
Just Cause 2 likes to take away routine by not telling you to do ANYTHING and seeing what you do. Which caused me, and many others from what I’ve heard, to fall into a routine of “Wreck shit up, buy a plane and GTFO” for all of the sandbox times. Sure, the missions are repetitive (Save for a few select story missions *Cough* Ninjas *Cough*), but you don’t ACTUALLY have to do them. Think of them like going through your files and organizing them. It has to be done sometime, but you just keep putting it off.
An example of a bad action game would be GTAIV. Now, I didn’t say it wasn’t fun. It just falls into way to many routines. You’re basically a goddamned errandboy. Go here, shoot this. Go there, follow her. Come back, escort him. If the game made these missions a mite more varied it could avoid the routineness. But I, at least, would fall into a routine of “Fuck around in sandbox for an hour, do missions for an hour.”
It’s worth noting the the multiplayer is thankfully free from this by giving you only one option. “Here’s a city: Mission- Go apeshit.”
Really, you can justify a lot of games as falling into routines, but the good ones will stop you from noticing. I mean, I barely noticed that I was doing the same thing over and over in Red Faction: Guerilla because they made it FUN to do it over and over. Same goes for good racing games, like Burnout: Paradise, which puts control into your hand. While all you’ll be doing is going from point A to B, you’re going to have a hell of a lot of fun doing it your way.
Littlebigplanet? A-to-b routine. Do you notice? No, because on the way from A to B you’re always doing different things.
I suppose to summarize, Routine can be a good thing or a bad thing, same as habit, speed, and trust. It just comes down to what you like, and how much you’re willing to do it. And that applies just as much to real life as it does to virtual life.