If you have company watching you game that is.
I don’t usually like people watching me play a game, it makes me a little uncomfortable because I feel like I should always be offering them a turn while not really wanting to at the same time… Usually I play games alone but there’s been a few times in the past where I have had people watch me play and it’s not bothered me, mainly because they’ve made it clear they’re OK with it and they have usually been living with me so I’m not going to tell them to bugger off when they live there too.
Recently I started playing a game that I once considered pretty terrible, this time around though I’ve found my experience of it to be very different. The difference? I’d played it in the company of someone before who didn’t like it and until now I hadn’t realised quite how much that had effected my experience of the game. This got me thinking about how other people can impact our enjoyment of something, specifically people sat watching us play, so I’ve written a comparison with a game with a good reputation that was being negatively reinforced by a viewer, and a game with a bad reputation that was positively reinforced.
Back in 2017 I published a post about Batman: Arkham Asylum, basically absolutely slating it (though the post is one of my favourites if you fancy giving it a read) and I stopped playing halfway through due to boredom. I was disappointed at the time because people had been raving about it and I’d heard how amazing it was so I was always a little bemused about why I hadn’t enjoyed it so much.
I decided to pick it up again, mainly because I had just finished watching Gotham and I wasn’t quite done with Batman yet, but also I honestly had momentarily forgotten I’d played it before and had a moment of “oh… This is very familiar” when it started up.
In 2017 my main grievances were with repetitive boss battles, not getting to actually fight Harley Quinn (and Harley’s role in general in the games), basic logic failing to be a thing, convenient but absolutely useless for their original purpose ventilation systems, and the Batmobiles’ premature demise. That is still very much the case, I stand by what I said about those things 100%, but despite those things I am enjoying it this time around.
What’s changed then? Well, last time I played it I was accompanied by my then-boyfriend and as soon as I booted up the game one of the first things he said about it was “Eurgh, this was my ex-girlfriend’s favourite game”, not a wonderful start. As I progressed throughout the game his incessant complaining and pointing out every flaw got in my head and amplified them. Playing it through now, alone, all those flaws are still there but they really don’t bother me anywhere near as much as they did before, or at all even. I enjoy the fight scenes (repetitive as they may be), I love the Scarecrow levels (even though the way they happen should be incredibly avoidable), I like collecting character trivia and reading about all the wonderful, sometimes just plain weird batman characters, and I am invested in the story. I’ll definitely see it through to the end this time.
It’s incredible how differently you can experience something when someone isn’t being incredibly negative and putting a damper on everything, I hope Batman accepts my humble apology.
The only thing that still makes me want to throw the controller through the screen is trying to capture the answers to some of the Riddler’s riddles. I took a video for your viewing pleasure. You can’t hear me but I think you can clearly imagine me screaming in frustration:
Let’s reverse the situation here and have a game with a bad reputation turned better because of someone else. Way back in 2012 my best friend (and flat mate at the time) and I somehow ended up with a copy of Final Fantasy XIII on PS3. She’s the sort of person that actually enjoys watching other people play games, that used to freak me out a little as I am usually either bored out of my mind or incredibly frustrated watching other people (“but I want to play”), once I realised she was genuinely happy though I settled into it. The only FF game I’d played before that was FF III on my Nintendo DS so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We knew there were flaws, so many flaws. We laughed at them and yelled SARAAAAAAH at each other randomnly throughout the day, when something dumb happened we would share a glance before bursting out laughing. Not to say the game was bad, but I was acutely aware that if I had been playing it alone there was no way I would still be playing. It’s just not my usual sort of game.
Eventually we ended up fully invested in the story and the characters (even wet blanket Hope), though I would never be able to tell you what the hell was going on. Luckily the pathways through the levels are pretty linear so while the plot may be lost your character is generally where they need to be.
I may easily be able to pick flaws in this game but they are flaws that I see as mostly endearing and funny, and this is all down to playing it through with my bestie. XIII has a bad rep but I’ve played a few more Final Fantasy games since then, all of which were meant to be better than XIII and I really don’t get it to be honest… They all have overly-complicated plots, similar characters, weird monsters dreamed up on an LSD trip… I don’t understand why XIII gets all the hate. I’m probably just looking at it with rose tinted glasses but I can honestly say that not one of them have come close to matching the fun I had with XIII.
What’s the moral of the story then? I guess if someone is being negative from the get-go about something you’re trying to play then chances are you’re probably not going to enjoy it. Take their negative attitude and drop kick it out the window. Play it when they’re not around, or make it clear that until you decide you don’t like it they can’t say anything bad, or even watch at all. At the end of the day we all have different tastes and skill-levels and you’re not going to like everything that I like and vice versa so don’t be a Negative Nancy and ruin it for the player.
How do you feel about people watching you play video games? Have you had your experience of a game altered through someone watching you play? Do you enjoy watching others play games? What do you call people that watch others play games? There should be a name for it.