Friday 17 February 2017

My Hourly Stages When Playing JRPGs

In the last few JRPGs I’ve played, I noticed something interesting: my general feelings during JRPGs remain almost the same throughout my hour count. If a game is good, I’ll usually know around the same hour count I realised other games were good. If a game isn't great and I decide to keep going with it, I can also see similar thought patterns based on how long I've been playing. I'm genuinely curious if other people have these, so here are mine and feel free to leave yours in the comments!

The first 10 hours: Learning the game
No matter whether a game is good or bad, I feel I never truly understand what the story or mechanics are until I'm coming up to the 10 hour mark. Personally, I'm not someone to get good at mechanics straight away, especially with JRPGs having different systems to learn among other things. While I can of course play the game before this, it takes me around 10 hours to feel like I’ve truly got the hang of the system (unless it’s really simple). There is something magical about the first 10 hours of learning a game though, such as learning about the characters and watching the game’s system slowly open up. I love the curiosity I feel in those first 10 hours and when I think back to my favourite games, often it’s these moments that spark my interest and love in a game.

10-30 hours: The honeymoon period
Now that all the systems are learned and the story has been established, it's time to enjoy them to their full potential. Since it’s still early days, this is the point I really feel like I'm in a game. I can understand everything going on, but it's still fresh enough to be exciting.

I call this the honeymoon period because it's the part of the game where my excitement is at its peak. Everything is unfolding, and mechanics and stories haven't had a chance to become tired. It's just fun, especially if the game is particularly good. This is also the stage where I get a clear feeling of my general feelings on a game. If I'm going to really love a game, I usually know at this point. If I'm not crazy about it, this is usually where it starts to annoy me.

30-50 hours: The “Forever or Please Finish” stage
This is probably the most general thing I'll say, but this is usually where something really important happens in the story and it either motivates me to keep playing or is the peak of my frustration in a bad game. I feel like this stage is the climax because the story should be at its most exciting, I should be good at the mechanics and the game should be showcasing its best moments at this point.

If a game isn't so good at this point, this is probably where I start considering bouncing out. Note that I say considering, because my completionist heart usually pushes me on as I pray the game will eventually get better, with varying results.

50+ hours: Point of No Return
There's no bouncing out at this point. Major things have happened in the story by now and I'm invested in seeing where they go, no matter how much I’m actually enjoying myself. By this point I usually have some grinding routines in place for leveling if needed and I can feel the end of the game on the horizon. If a game is really good at this point, this is probably where I feel like I don’t want it to end. I specifically remember this feeling from when I played World of Final Fantasy and Persona 4 Golden (and it usually guarantees I'll cry when it ends).

If a game has begun to either bore me or really annoy me at this point, I am powering through it as fast as I can so I can be done with it as soon as possible. The most significant time I can think of where I had this feeling last JRPG with was Conception II as I was so over the tropes in the story and dating portions of the game but had committed so much time into it that I had to keep going.

80+ hours: Either this is my life or I’m stuck

If I'm playing past the 80 hour mark, it usually means I've digressed from the main story multiple times, usually with end game quests. Doing that probably means it's because I like the game and its setting and characters enough to immerse myself in its little tasks and it probably means I'm a pretty big fan. I’m currently at this stage with Final Fantasy XV, tying up loose ends in quests and considering what things I want to do 100% (such as quests and leveling).

Alternatively, being at the 80+ hour mark can just mean I'm playing a big game or I was bad at the mechanics. If I'm still playing a game that's grating on me at this point, it's probably because of a tough boss battle. This may not necessarily be a game I hate (I'm usually done by this point because I rushed to the end), but at this point I will be itching for it to be over.

Finished the Game: Relief or True Emptiness
Many people talk about the feeling of emptiness after finishing a book series and I get this frequently with JRPGs. If I love a JRPG and I finish it, I usually have maybe an hour where I’m in a happy state before the emptiness sets in. Then I realise I can play something else and if I thought a game was just okay, this probably is fine. But if I was in love with a game, such as my recent love of Final Fantasy XV, this will not seem possible. I’ll consider platinum trophies, true endings, anything to keep me within the game. This is one of the many reasons games are my preferred form of media - there’s almost always a reason to come back.

I’m sure most people have had the experience of finishing a game (or anything) you dislike and feeling glad that it’s finally over. Thankfully, this isn’t a feeling I’ve felt for some time (let's not tempt fate) and I don't like feeling happy to be done with a game to be honest. The short term empty feeling is much more worth it for looking back on a good game experience in the long term. For good and bad games though, there's at least the satisfying feeling of having finished something to look forward to!

How do you feel at different hours of a JRPG?
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