I think I’ve written about this before, related to MMOs and really ‘buying in’ when playing, but playing Avernum right now and recently having beaten Farcry has reminded me that sometimes, a key to really enjoying a game is “playing it the right way”, rather than playing it as you would play any other game.
For Avernum, I enjoy the game a hell of a lot more if I put my normal gaming tendencies to the side and set my frame of mind to “group of people exploring the underworld, trying to figure things out”. If I play it as a loot or level gain-focused RPG, it’s a lot less fun. If I let my min/max side creep in, it’s a lot less fun. If I keep my focus around what my characters would more naturally do, and not focus on the ‘gamey’ aspects, my enjoyment goes way up, because the world in that game is fantastic and it all has a purpose in terms of story/setting, so getting pulled into it all isn’t that hard and is very rewarding.
For Farcry, it was almost the opposite. If I focused too heavily on the story, I wasn’t having as much fun, because the story around the stuff you do is, at best, nice setup for the action. But the action is the point, so deciding which gun to use, if I’m going stealth, and then just enjoying shooting bullets makes the game great. Yea, the ending was just ok, and some of the stories make zero sense, but whatever, a grenade launcher drive-by is awesomely cool, as is taking out an entire outpost by going Rambo with a machine gun, or taking down every single guard with a headshot from a silenced sniper rifle. There is a lot of joy in sniping someone, watching the body fall off a roof, and then waiting for his buddy to wander over to check the situation out only to drop him from long range as well. Does it make a lot of sense? Nope, but whatever, that part of my brain is off when playing a game like Farcry.
Another example is Prison Architect. Played strictly with a Sim City “build as big a prison/city as you can” mentality, the game is fun the first time around, and then you are basically done. But get a bit goofy with it, like seeing how far you can push having all your prisoners be the worst of the worst, while your prison itself looks like a local jail, leads to some hilarious stuff. Yea, you won’t ‘win’ the game that way, but winning in Prison Architect doesn’t really matter all that much.
“How’ you play a game can sometimes be just as important as picking ‘what’ game you play. Do it right, and you can greatly increase the enjoyment you get out of a game.