Recently Dante has ventured back into the alternative megaverse that is Eve Online, and by all accounts is enjoying placidly mining rare minerals from asteroid fields and gaining new skills. But it’s in Dante’s nature to always be doing more than one thing at the same time. So, as he sets his ship to harvest he hops over to the 360 and throws cars at helicopters in Prototype.
If I was inclined to be cruel, and I am, then I’d say this makes Eve a boring game, as a game that fails to hold your attention is probably failing in some way. But Dante doesn’t find Eve dull unless he is forced to sit in front of it. In reality Eve and Prototype offer different pleasures. Prototype is the short violent hit, and Eve is the lingering satisfaction of slow inexolerable progress. Prototype is laugh out loud maniachal madness, and Eve is a slow journey to something potentially much greater: bigger spaceships, Guild membership and galactic war.
Playing two or more games at the same time isn’t really that unusual. I’m not talking about multiboxing in World of Warcraft, I’m talking about the recent proliferation of games within games. In the equivalent of taking a few grams of crack and some nicotine patches and then blending them all into a sordid brown cocktail of addiction, World of Warcraft now has it’s own internal version of Peggle. Bioshock integrated Pipemania into its hacking systems. Fable 2’s mobile minigames allow players alternative ways to gain ingame currency. Plants vs. Zombies has a survival mode which begs to be set up and left alone while you go off and game elsewhere.
In today’s world the tech-savvy are acute multitaskers. The modern technofile’s desktop boasts a myriad of parallel applications. RSS, Twitter, Email, Spotify, Last FM scrobbler, Steam, Firefox. As we become more and more used to handling so much information, we grow bored faster and more easily, and games seem to be adapting to cope. Long periods of waiting and grinding in a game will seem more and more infuriating, and demand for instant gratification will increase.
The thing is, it’d be a shame if this meant that all games had to be fast and explosive. The slowburn gaming experience can be incredibly rewarding. The trick is to make sure the game is detailed and deep enough to be singularly absorbing. Take Civilisation, or Total War, the thought of playing something else while waging global war seems ridiculous, these are games that will stretch your intellect and demand all of your attention. Sometimes, the rewards you wait for are the greatest to win.