What Gives a Game "Replay" Value?
Article posted on 8/12/2021
If you play games as a hobby, chances are you have at least a little bit of a games backlog that you haven’t had a chance to get around to playing. Maybe it’s because you lead a busy life that keeps you away from the computer and your consoles most of the time - or maybe, if you’re like me, it’s because you keep going back to the same 5 or 6 games over and over again instead of trying something new.
Why do we do that? Well, there are tons of reasons, and most of them have to do with a game’s replay value. The replay value could stem from numerous different factors - from nostalgia to sandbox - but there is definitely a method to what makes some games more replayable than others. Let’s take a look at that idea!
This is usually the one that gets me, personally. I have a lot of very fond memories and very formative times in my life that are tied into specific games. Monkey Island takes me back to my time as a grade schooler hanging out with my Grandpa in his office. Banjo Kazooie takes me back to fun times in the living room with my family. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess takes me back to my living room in college, surrounded by friends as we explored together.
All of these memories make me feel good and serve to lift me up if I ever am feeling down or stressed out, so sometimes I make my way back to these games - even though they’re linear and I’ve beaten them time and time again. The experience doesn’t change, but that’s not what pulls me back to it - it’s the memories. Do you have any games like that?
Player Versus Player
A game that goes rounds against another player (things like StarCraft, Ashes of the Singularity, League of Legends, etc.) will always be different every time you play because of the multiplayer element. You never know what your opponent is going to do - and even if they play the same faction or character, their choices and reactions will never be the same as before.
I sink a lot of time into games like this. I enjoy playing on a team with friends and I enjoy the large variables of going up against different teams and meeting new challenges in each different round.
The thrill of winning often drives more games in an evening, while the demoralization of repeated defeats can end an evening early and drive us to play other things. Either way, the allure of spending time with friends - even if it’s only virtually! - tends to bring me back to games like this frequently.
Ah, sandbox games - there are all kinds, and I love them. From RPG exploration sandboxes like Star Control: Origins, Skyrim, and Breath of the Wild, all the way to 4X Sandbox games like Galactic Civilizations III or Stellaris, there’s always something for everyone that keeps pulling us back to the genre.
In the case of 4X sandboxes like GalCiv, there are so many elements that you can randomize. You can change the races you play against, number of opponents, frequency of planets, resources, and so on and so forth. With such a large amount of variability, and an unknown factor of whether or not you will win or lose in order to end the game, it’s easy to keep going back to games like this again and again, and have a unique experience every time.
For things like Skyrim and Breath of the Wild, yes, the storyline is slightly linear, and the end result in order to finish the game is the same (aka, victory), but the path to the conclusion is always different. Games like these have a main storyline, but also tons of side quests that take you on an exploratory trek across sprawling landscapes. The appeal here lies in that variable, which is cushioned by a compelling and interesting overarching story or theme.
I love trying new games, but I’ll be honest - some days, I love going back to old familiar favorites even more. What are some of your go-to games? What makes a game replayable for you? Share with me!