Mark of the Ninja, and the Pleasure Ladder of Flow

Posted: February 18, 2013 by kiryuzaki in Uncategorized
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I was recently debating whether or not to buy Dead Space 3. While I had enjoyed the past two games, and many critics were lauding the third installation, many of the fans were outraged. The game had included a system of micro-transactions through which one can upgrade their weapons, armor, and overall get a leg up on the game. In addition, many fans were frustrated the series had strayed from its survival-horror roots. After reading all the outrage, I began to doubt whether or not to purchase the game, a game I had been looking forward to. I find impossibly hard games fun and honestly had more fun playing Dead Space 2 then the first game, yet I faltered, unsure of what to do. To this day I still haven’t made up my mind.

Thus, as I write my final journal entry, I aim to look at what first drew me into the magic circle of Mark of the Ninja, and what has kept me playing. To do this, I am going to analyze the concept of play, and how it pertains to my gaming experience. Salen and Zimmerman break down play into several types, but the one I’m going to focus on is Pleasure. Some concepts (Social Play) don’t apply, as the game is single-player lone-wolf, and concepts of Meaning, Narrative, and Simulation are not what keeps me playing a game. I loved the story of Ninja Gaiden, I never finished it.

So then, onto pleasure. Pleasure is made up of varying components. The autotelic part of a game (something pursued for its own sake, such as a score), the flow of the game, the Entratainment, Challenge, and Goals. To be perfectly honest, what first drew me to the game was the Experience; the core mechanic of stealth and the visual/auditory interaction system I went on about at length in my first entry. So as to the first seduction, getting me to step into the game’s magic circle, it was predestined by the types of games I liked. However, what’s more interesting is what inspired me to keep playing the game.

One thing to be said about the game, it flows nicely. All areas are not only contained in a single space, but there are multiple ways to get to most areas. To this extent, not only does the game flow well, but it gives a system of Entratainment, or the concept of entertaining and trapping the player. This begins the complicated ladder, held in place with flow. The autotelic score is the Goal, the enemies getting in the way of that Goal present a Challenge, which lead to Entratainment. The rush one feels of success (usually complimented with entertaining Narrative), is a welcome relief after the tension of trying to overcome the challenge, and the occasional frustration of dying and having to go back. Yet what keeps you playing this is the flow, or the smooth ability to go forward, and back, and the various ways in which one can accomplish those things. Even the major objectives, one can decide to kill or steal from the target. The reason we swallow this ladder, and the reason we WANT to continue playing along with the game, is the concept of how smoothly the game interacts with us, and how we can use the environment, with the natural flow, to overcome the Challenges, to get to the Goals, to receive an autotelic reward, feeding into the system of Entratainment. From this, one could actually draw the most important part of Play, might be choice. However, that is a massive concept that I plan on writing about in a later post, look for it.


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