On “Too Many Games”

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EC recently made a video about the barrage of video games players find themselves buried under these days and he made the point that having this number of overwhelming choices is always better. I don’t think more is always better. In fact, having fewer games is probably a good thing.

A while ago I saw a TED talk by Barry Schwartz where he talked about the paradox of choice. In fact, he has a book by that title where he proposes that having a lot choices isn’t better. He doesn’t really doubt that in a general sense, it’s good to have options. However, having too many can cause paralysis and in the long run make us unhappy about the choices we make (because we’ll always think there were better choices).

I had a sense of this before I heard his talk but hearing him explain it really confirmed it for me. I don’t know if having more is always better, but that seems doubtful. The analogy he used during the talk was going to the store for a pair of jeans. We all know the dozens of different kinds of jeans one can buy in a store and Barry compared this experience to how it was in the past. He’d go to a store and they only had one or two kinds of jeans. H’ed pick his size and go home. Today, he has to know so much more about jeans to even know what he needs.

It feels like we miss something important when we’re bombarded with too many choices. How many things can a human reasonably consider? Surely there’s a limit to this and if there is, then that means that there’s a point at which having more choice is bad for us.

We can have too many games. I already think I do. And what its done is ensure I spend less time on any one of them as I spread what time I have across the lot of them. Consequently it’s difficult to know every development studio behind each game and therefore difficult to know as much about my games as I want to. There’s a trade of for having too many choices it seems.

Do you believe there’s such a thing as having too many games available on the market?

4 thoughts on “On “Too Many Games”

  1. Completely agree. The problem with the EC argument is that the only answer to a flooded market is better ability to sift through the games on offer to find what you want (i.e. the quality). This means search functions, and as we’ve seen through e-commerce, companies can devote whole teams to figuring out how to get their product or service to the top of search results, regardless of how relevant the search was. The more games in the Steam catalogue, the more often games will try to optimise their marketing to become visible in searches.

    You can obviously design your search functionality around the current ways to optimise marketing, but sooner or later they will find other ways. It just seems to me that relying on search engines to provide you with the sole way of sifting through the dross means that success will be defined by quality of marketing far more (even more than it is now) rather than quality of game.

    • Yeah, I’m with you on this. That’s why I love blogging communities since I get to know people’s individual opinions and leanings more intimately and can use that to cut through a lot of marketing-speak.

    • Agree. Your last paragraph is the current state of app shops for mobile devices. It’s nearly impossible to find any kind of game except what’s on the front pages. Success is definitely being defined by the marketing. Even crappy games which manage to get front page press are more successful than great games which struggle to get face time with players.

  2. I think this is a case of “what’s good for the market isn’t necessarily good for the player.” I think it’s great that there is such a huge gaming market. Variety is awesome, and there are many different niches for many different types of players. Unfortunately anyone who has been playing games for any length of time will have varied interests, which means buying more games and trying to split their time up between them.

    It makes me miss the days when I said “wow, I can spend $15 a month and just play this one game, and forget about all the rest of them,” but I can see the fallacy in that as well. I probably missed a ton of great gaming experiences during that period of my life. Not to say I wasn’t enjoying myself, but I see myself enjoying the variety more these days.

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