Plants vs. Zombies: As you can see, it’s mostly clicking. But like in a fun way.

Posted: February 18, 2013 by bisquickbismarck in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

In my first play journal entry, I made the assertion that Plants vs. Zombies is “definitely a game and it’s actually really fun.” I think maybe I gave off a mistaken impression in that post that I was super surprised that the game could be fun or that I usually avoid games like Plants vs. Zombies, which isn’t really true. What I meant in that post was that I’d never really thought at length about this type of game despite playing them. Animation and webcomics are my primary creative interests so half my playing games consists of playing games that prioritize qualities  like art direction, narrative, and worldbuilding. That half of my gaming history I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about because it shares a lot in common with cartoons and comics. The other half of my game-playing time is spent procrastinating/unwinding/blowing off steam in “casual” games like Bejeweled, Tetris Friends, or Sushi-Go-Round or a lot of really basic flash games. (I get especially into tetris friends because you can send lines that you clear to your opponent and basically annihilate them; I can be kind of a jerk in this. Tetris Friends, more like Tetris Mortal Enemies.)  I didn’t spend much time thinking about these games because I guess you typically don’t want to expend too much thought on something you use to take a really quick break from obligations and then move on. Actually I don’t know, I might play these kinds of games more often than larger games currently because I never feel like I have the time to play a lot of stuff anymore. But yeah, I guess “actually really fun” was more like an assertion that these games are fun and worthwhile and I like them, directed towards a hypothetical audience that perhaps buys into the whole casual vs. hardcore gamer/fake geek vs. real geek mentality. Not that I thought anybody like that would actually see these posts but honestly I couldn’t think of a title so I was like uh, “sup y’all, playin’ some PvsZ and having a blast, if you think that’s weak you can come fight me.”

Anyway, having clarified that, I’m glad I finally have spent some more time thinking about Plants vs. Zombies type games! Like I said, I like Plants vs. Zombies a lot and I think it’s a worthwhile game. I think I’ve already covered some reasons why I find it really fun to play, particularly the way it structures game challenges around playing with its own established rules and premises. I think that’s definitely a main component of the second part of Plants vs. Zombies’ double seduction, the part that gets you to keep playing the game. I’m not sure what the first part of the seduction is since I feel like that could be different for everyone. Maybe the first seduction includes stuff like the game being really whimsical and cute as well as accessible for pretty much anyone to play with little difficulty. Like I said about its voluntary play aspect, it also makes for a really good casual time waster/relaxing activity since you can pause and leave whenever you want with little consequence. I thought maybe I’d try to further characterize the enjoyment you get from Plants vs. Zombies by breaking the play experience down into LeBlanc’s eight kinds of experiential pleasure: sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression, and submission.

You can ignore my talking, it’s not actual commentary. I thought this was going to be a test-run so I just talked to myself a bit to test the mic but my computer’s being uncooperative so I’m just gonna…go with this.

As far as sensation and fantasy, I’d say you don’t really get extremely invested in these aspects of enjoying the game. The fantasy aspect of the game is pretty apparent in the fact that the game is nothing like real life. The fact that your life is probably never really involves defending your home from a bunch of zombies by planting weird (sentient??) plants everywhere is, in my opinion, a big part of the game’s appeal.  You don’t really become incredibly engrossed in this illusion and you’re not immersed in some kind of expansive universe but still, that make-believe aspect is present and it’s fun.  The sense-pleasure is mostly just kind of enjoying things like the familiar little sounds of collecting suns, planting plants in dirt, and zombie limbs popping off. The actual actions your taking just involve moving your mouse around and clicking a lot. The more you play the more you fall easily into a kind of rhythm that helps a lot in playing. As you can see in the video, the game tends to require you to pay attention to a lot of things happening at once. You need to keep an eye on  approaching zombies, collect suns and coins before they disappear, make sure your plants aren’t being devoured, and keep track of your different plants’ regeneration rates in a timely manner.  When you get used to the game, you become better at managing and multitasking so that you can probably even monitor stuff like zombie progress just by listening to the sound cues and meanwhile you can be planning all the stuff you have to do.

Narrative isn’t as prominent a part of the game as challenge. The narrative of the game is basically just that you are a person defending against zombies and when you reach new levels you have to deal with new obstacles. It’s not a very plot driven game and instead what moves you along is that constant introduction of new challenges. Again, challenge is a major part of experiential pleasure in Plants vs. Zombies because without a particularly interesting plot, the excitement of new challenges is what pushes you to keep playing. The challenge aspect is really combined with the discovery aspect, since the nature of increasing challenge in the game is tied to presenting the reader with new environments, tools, obstacles, and rules they have to figure out.  It isn’t quite the same as something like Tetris where the increasing difficulty is pretty much an intensification of game elements already present when you start the game (faster tetromino rate essentially).  That’s why I’m not really sure how to quantify the submission aspect of Plants vs. Zombies. It’s not really…a particularly masochistic game experience?

Expression and fellowship, meanwhile don’t really play a role in Plants vs. Zombies. It’s not an outlet for expression or self-discovery unless you feel like you’ve discovered a previously untested talent for multitasking maybe. As a single player game, it’s not a source of fellowship either unless it’s fellowship with your sentient plants (I dunno, they’re pretty cute.)

So yeah, I suppose this has been Plants vs. Zombies and some of my opinions and experience of it. I feel like these play journals have been a pretty fruitful exercise in thinking about games so that’s cool. I like Plants vs. Zombies a lot. I’m sorry this post turned out really long.

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