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Tryhards

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How the hardcore help the casual

The post-arcade world has had a gentrifying effect on the tenacity of the majority of gamers. Once the hardcore players started leaving the battlefield of blinking screens and started bringing home the games that they enjoyed, suddenly people forgot their roots steeped in pursuit of the leaderboard.

You could argue that people got older and didn't want to spend their time practicing their trade for hours on end, even if that time was now much cheaper to achieve. Game developers got older and wanted to make games that they could enjoy on their limited free time. Along the way, games started to have a handholding feel to them. We started to expect a certain amount of leeway, and when that leeway isn't immediately apparent, we would pout, stamp our feet and grumble as we walked away from the console without that warm glow of victory.

In the few games that actually allowed for a skill gap, there were a few dedicated people, infused with that competitive spirit of the arcades, that enjoyed the game so much that they learned it inside out. They found out what made it tick, and made themselves tock. These kind of people had a blast with their games, but newcomers and casual fans would frown and sigh and wish that the tryhards would go away. They would beg developers for an easy way to close the skill gap that the tryhards had created, because they had a litany of excuses for why they weren't as good as the tryhards. In their minds, everybody should have fun, so everyone should win.

It's such a silly, stupid notion. It may be frustrating to hop into a match of 'Call of Duty' and have your noggin repeatedly shot off by that proverbial 11-year-old wizard that yells at his mom to delay his trash removal duties for a FEW MORE MINUTES, MA, but without that skill gap, the game would cease to be fun immediately.
So why do you need these tryhards? They're a necessary evil, someone that can tell the developers about their game in even greater detail than the ones that coded it. The longevity of a game is directly related to how much fans care about it. If you don't have enough depth, you won't have any hardcore fans that stick around to learn it, and if your base game isn't accessible enough to have a good time, then you won't keep the casual fans around long enough to endear themselves to continue playing in the lower end of the rankings.

A game needs to be balanced around the highest levels of play. If a game is balanced around casual levels of play with built-in ways to tilt the playing field towards randomness and not allowing good players to shine, then it's not going to be fun to play for a long time to come. A game that's rewarding to learn and grow with is a game that's going to be played for years. If you don't have tryhards learning what's unbalanced about the game, you're going to end up with a stale game that no one will be playing in a few months.

There are three rules for making a game that is fun for both veterans and casual audiences:

  1. 1. Easy to learn mechanics that are hard to master, paired with intuitive (but not necessarily incredibly easy) controls. Good examples would be 'Hearthstone,' 'Starcraft,' 'Counter-Strike,' and 'Halo.'
  2. 2. A good ranking system in place, not just for simple bragging rights, but to situate people with like-skilled players to lessen the frustration of learning the game and allow a natural learning curve.
  3. 3. Constant developer response to feedback, updating and balancing the game as necessary.

If you worry about tryhards, these three simple rules will help keep them from ruining your enjoyment of your favorite games but keep them happy and keep the developers in touch with how the metagame is evolving and what might need to be tweaked and touched up.

So next time you're tempted to call someone a tryhard, just remember, you might just be giving them a compliment!

Aaron Waite is a wicked, wicked tryhard, but he's happy to teach you before he stomps you into oblivion.

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 20:31

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