As a kid, I fondly remember the end of every chore-ridden day bringing with it anticipation and excitement. You see, when my room was cleaned and the toys picked up, I was allowed to escape into the world of fantasy. Unlike the life around me, I could be a warrior. I could be a mage. I could fight dragons and monsters. I could save the princess -- or even an entire kingdom! For me, I wasn't just playing the hero, I was the hero. There was no television set. There was no gaming console nor controller. There was only myself and the vast universes that enveloped me like a warm blanket.
Fast forward to now. I'm in my early 30's and I've seen my fair share of games. I'm what you would call a veteran gamer. With age, or more importantly, experience, you find yourself taking a much more critical look at things. I know what a first person shooter is. I know what an RPG is. I've seen and experienced just about every genre there is up to this point - and that's part of the problem. Immersion is a fickle thing based on parlor tricks and smoke and mirror techniques to keep you engaged. What happens when you truly see the game? I don't mean when you boot it up and hit play. What I'm referring to is the moment your eyes are opened to what lies just beyond the visual stimulus (not so different than Neo in "The Matrix").
Eventually all games get to that point. You've moved beyond the amazing artwork and scenery. You've absorbed all of the story and lore. You could recite the opening and closing lines without hesitation. None of that matters anymore, because now you know. You see the hitboxes instead of character sprites. You feel the spreadsheets and formulas instead of critical hits. You commit frame animation timings to muscle memory. You see the stats on a new weapon and not the creative hilt of the blade. You are no longer the warrior sent to save the kingdom, no, now you're the mathematician with a critic's eye.
The trouble with all of this is that once you know, you can't un-know. The longer you play games the faster this phase hits. It makes me feel like an addict at times.
With the new generation of games that are more qualified as "cinematic experiences" than they are as actual games, it puts veteran gamers like myself in a rough position. Younger me would be completely enraptured by these life-like stories on rails. 30's me, however, see them for what they are - parlor tricks.
So what's to be done? Can a game still be enjoyable once you know? Write your thoughts in the comment section below!