Does it Have Replay Value?

Replay Value. It’s the last thing we think about when deciding whether or not we’re interested in a game, but it’s among the first when time comes to actually buy it. Having a reason to come back after the credits roll has always been important; it’s what the old arcade game literally banked on after all. However, in a modern game industry where the choices are too many to count, having more replay value could very well make the difference between a purchase and a pass. What is that makes a game re-playable though? One would think that a modern game would need a wealth of content in order to stay on the shelf, but I don’t that’s quite it. Content certainly helps, but it can’t do anything if the game doesn’t do something to win its players over first.

I’ve been thinking about this off and on over the years and I’ve never really come up with a satisfactory answer before. There’s just no one thing that grants replay value to a game.  For a game like Destiny, it’s the desire to try out the new content and see how you stack up against your fellow players. What about a game like Mass Effect though? Or Metroid Prime? Neither of those games get content updates, nor do they ever sport new challenges/opponents to tackle. They offer the same experience every single time, yet not only manage to bring their players back time and again, but also remain each and every time. Different games, very different means of keeping their players coming back.

Destiny derives its replay value from its community and moment-to-moment gameplay. From the very beginning, Destiny has always felt really good to play. The weapons just feel right. They flinch just enough when fired. The projectiles actually look like they make an impact on the enemies, and each type feels different. Running feels fast. Jumping makes one feel like they’re executing an incredibly athletic and stylish maneuver. It all just feels right. “Feel” is not enough to win people over though. They need something more, and for Destiny that something is its players themselves. It, like many of its peers, lives and dies based on the size of its community. If the community were to shrivel up, then the global competition that is Destiny would quickly follow it. After all, what’s the point of acquiring rare/top-tier gear if there’s no one to show it off to? In short, Desitiny is a game that is only re-playable so long as there are other players to measure up against. It feels good to play, but feeling fun moment-to-moment is enough to bring a player back, especially when the point of the game is gathering gear in order to show off and be competitive. What about older, single player games then?

Being simply fun isn’t enough for a single-player experience either. Instead of encouraging players to compete with one another, single-player games have to something else; they need to bring you into their world.Metroid Prime does this by creating an atmosphere. It brings its players into a world of isolation; giving them the (mostly) unique experience of navigating an alien environment all by there lonesome. It makes sure to fill that world with secrets and scattered pieces of information meant to reward your exploration. Exploring the world leads to a greater ability to understand it, and that feels great no matter how many times one experiences it!

Mass Effect creates its hook through its characters. Even us fans will admit that the actual moment-to-moment gameplay in Mass Effect is kinda basic, if not downright clunky. However, we’ll almost always overlook it because we’re here to watch the adventures of our favorite characters unfold! Mass Effect asks its players to latch onto its characters rather than its gameplay, and it mostly succeeds. Depending on how much time one has, they could gladly get engrossed in the exploits of Commander Shepard and Co. time and time again. No competition, community, or add-ons needed (though those are always really nice to have).

Games with replay value do something that games lacking it do not. They offer something unique; something only they can offer. Sometimes it’s a strong community. Other times its an enveloping atmosphere, and still other times its an utterly charming cast of characters. They show you why you’d want to spend time with them, and that, I think, is what makes all the difference.

What is it that makes a game re-playable for you? Is simple fun enough, or does it take a little something else?

Image from Flickr user Ryan Somma (cc)

11 Comments Add yours

  1. I think video games, like movies and books, need to have something meaningful for the consumer to want to experience again and again. For me, it’s the story and the characters. I know every inch of Dragon Age: Origins by heart, but I still love playing it. Likewise, I’m not surprised by the events of Lord of the Rings, but I’ve read those books a number of times, as well. The stories are deep, meaningful, and have themes that people readily relate to.

    Of course, some games offer community, like you said, or simple hedonistic pleasure. I’m thinking of inFamous or The Force Unleashed, which are just fun worlds to much around in with the superpowers the game gives you. But for me, a good story will always bring me back, like seeing an old friend who you know deeply, but still enjoy spending time with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Strong stories certainly have a strong pull of their own. There’s no denying that. I’m kind of that way with movies and TV shows. The story is fun, so they stay fun. I think with games it might be more about the characters than the actual story beats though.

      Seeing them react to developments in the plot feels so much more…powerful (engaging) after you’ve gotten to interact with them rather than just watching their live play out as you would in a movie or show.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely! Directly interacting with a story pulls you in in ways that watching just doesn’t. And they say games aren’t a storytelling medium! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

    Tough one to answer, at the stage I am in life, it’s hard enough for me to find time to do a first play through of some games, replaying a game is a whole other store.

    That being said, replaying things like Mass Effect definately appeal as you have the evil vs good side of things going on, different characters to romance, different character sacrifices to be made etc. It’s definately on my bucket list to do one day

    Outside of that, Metroid games in general have always been games I love replaying. Metroid prime and the GBA versions more for their hard modes, it’s nice playing the epic bosses in Prime on a much higher difficulty, really transforms the game. But a game like Super Metroid is my favourite to replay, there’s just a lot of memories for me, the games music always pulls me in. I especially love the story telling as it’s so subtle yet effective. I mean come on, who wasn’t blown away when you thought Mother Brain was about to annihalate Samus and the Metroid comes out of nowhere and saves you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Yeah, that moment when the metroid saves you at the last moment was definitely something special. They actually made you want vengeance for it too! Who would have thought Nintendo would manage to make players feel for a pixelated monster? was

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

        the side scrollers of this time did some amazing things. Even Megaman X pulled off some crazy stuff early in the game setting up your feud with Vile

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mr. Panda says:

    What an incredibly insightful article! I sometimes think about replay value and not really know why I replay games. When I think about the games I’ve put the most time into, it’s usually because there is constant progression and heights to reach with your character. So generally, I continue coming back to games that focus on well-developed RPG systems. The game itself could be an action or strategy game, but if it allows you to build up some kind of player database, I’m into it.

    My second requirement would then be that the game is fun, specifically because I’ll likely be grinding in those RPGs. If the game has plenty of interesting content that is enjoyable to do and redo, then I will replay those games!

    The last criteria is separate from those, but I generally go back to games that I have nostalgia for and know well. I’ll replay Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time simply because I want to. They’re not technically that replayable, but I suppose any game that you want to play over and over has replay value.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      What would be a game that hits all 3 requirements for you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mr. Panda says:

        Any Pokemon game

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hatm0nster says:

        very solid choice! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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