Let’s Talk Small

In what feels like a lifetime ago I read an article on The Escapist or in Kill Screen that detailed an intriguing bit of video game history. It regaled how the dominant form of video games slowly eroded itself by simultaneously chasing the casual and hardcore player and catering to the whims of humanity’s monkey brain.

As this happened, the hardcore players got better and better. Players would play their deck of choice for ages. Those unfamiliar with the deck or new to the medium altogether saw skills in those deck hogs, but not really how to attain it. To give the new comers a longer chance to “practice” designers came up with a scheme to award free games if the round was too short. I’m of course discussing one of the many declines in the arcade seen. As the hardcore stayed on longer, free games were given out to the random newcomers. The overall amount of quarters declined. This was the fall of pinball.

As the war for increasing the take of shiny Washingtons continued, designers attempted to make the highly skilled activity more intriguing by tickling our amygdala. Actually, I’ve no idea what part of the brain cares about big numbers but that’s what they were going for. So the amygdala tells us why play a game ringing up hundreds when you can get thousands? Why play a game where 10,000 was unfathomable when the one next to it had a leaderboard with people in the millions? Thus, number inflation. And again, bad things happened. The numbers lost all meaning. Sound familiar?

We’re nearly two months out from the launch of Battle for Azeroth and a few more weeks since Blizzard Entertainment did a much needed, albeit controversial stat squish. Instead of hitting for millions or contributing billions of artifact power, we’re now rolling with reasonable amounts of health and hitting for five digits. Solidsamm and his ilvl 328 gear easily gives me a visual pop of when I’m doing well. If the lead number flips to a two, I just dropped 20,000+ of damage. Not too shabby.

That is to say, I’m a big fan of the overall number squish. Where do you stand? I didn’t delve into the casual and hardcore predicament, I feel that World of Warcraft now balances it well, unlike WildStar. What about you?

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