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I’ve Always Done Best With a Mixture of Familiar and Novel

·674 words·4 mins

As long-time readers of the blog might know, I play a fair amount of video games. I have for most of my life. Some people say this makes me a gamer. I’m never sure quite what to do with that label — since I feel like it implies that I’m good at games or that I play them all the time.

I mean… I play video games regularly. Fairly often.

But I’m certainly not good at them. Not generally. In fact, there are lots of video games that I can’t even play. For example, I generally can’t play 3D games that have a 360-degree environment. I get too motion sick. This is annoying since a lot of modern games aren’t 2D.

So it definitely limits what I can play. (Thankfully, my partner will sometimes play 3D games for me that I wish I could play and let me watch and help them make decisions. It’s not quite the same as being able to play it myself. But it’s close.

There are a lot of 2D games that don’t work for me either. The super hard platformers spring quickly to mind. I don’t visualize well in my head (I have aphantasia), so unless I practice a lot and memorize the timing/muscle memory, I’m doomed. I can’t look at the screen and anticipate jumps as well as other people.

Disappointing but I work around that, too.

I’ve had a lot of fun playing turn-based games: Simulators, puzzle games, RPGs, etc. And I found a niche genre that I’m actually kind of good at — randomizers.

What Are Randomizers?

Randomizers are interesting. Basically, folks take an older game and they write programs that will scramble the information and make a randomly generated new instance based on the assets and elements of the original. Here’s a master list of current video game randomizers if you’re curious and want to check it out.

I’ve had fun messing around with old RPGs. My favorite randomizers so far have probably been Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy 1, Final Fantasy VI Worlds Collide, and Final Fantasy IV Free Enterprise.

But I’ve messed around with many, many more. There are surprisingly large communities for a lot of these games — with special websites, devoted Discord channels, and tournament channels for folks speedrunning against each other on them (with matches broadcast on Twitch and YouTube).

And weirdly, during the pandemic, I’ve made my first foray into esports with randomizers. I’ve run in some asynch league matches. Nothing high profile — it’s a lot of time commitment. But I’ve placed very well in the small potatoes competitions I’ve participated in.

Which to me is quite curious. Again, don’t consider myself a true gamer (whatever that means, right?). Not a particularly competitive person.

And yet… I’ve found it so relaxing and interesting to find this niche genre of game and dive in headfirst.

I’ve Always Done Best With a Mixture of Familiar and Novel

It does raise the question: Why randomizers? Why have they called to me so much?

Well, my favorite ones are all based on games I’ve loved and played for years. So they’re very familiar to me. And that’s comforting.

But they’re also really exciting? Because it’s a different experience every time I play a different seed. No two matches or game-playing experiences are quite the same. So randomizers are the very definition of novel.

And thinking about my life, I’ve always done best with a mixture of familiar and novel. I don’t necessarily need a TON of variety. In fact, I can get really stressed or anxious if too much changes at once and for too long.

But at the same time, I do need novelty, or I get unhappy.

And I think a video game randomizers hit that sweet spot.

So does always trying new things and having novel experiences with people I’ve known for a very long time. As does always meeting new people while keeping a lot of other people in my life that I’ve known forever.


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