Monday, March 31, 2008

Time versus Skill, Does it Actually Matter?

My recent drubbings at the hands of more experienced COD4 players got me thinking about the age old time versus skill debate. MMORPGs tend to fall into the "time" camp with progression dependent on hours (days!) played while shooters tend to be more "skill" dependent with keen reflexes and sharp tactics required to win. Call of Duty 4 is bit of a hybrid. Players level up over time unlocking new guns and perks. However the game is well balanced and an upgrade in one area will incur a penalty somewhere else. Experienced players don't really get more powerful kit they just have a greater choice of ways to play.

Better commentators than I have mulled over this issue so I won't attempt to rehash all the usual arguments. Michael Sng offers a good analysis in his Arson and Arsenic blog.

All I will say is that for me the distinction doesn't make much difference. Ultimately time based or skill based both boil down to commitment. How committed am I to putting in the hours to grind out a full set of RAID armour? How committed am I to practising my shooter skills until I am a finely honed fps killing machine?

Honest answer to both these questions: Not very committed. Despite the fact that gaming is a major hobby of mine regularly consuming 20 or more hours every week it still comes fairly low down on my list of life's priorities.

Gaming is very important to me and I have been known to get irritable if I am away from my computer for long. However it is definitely a question of fitting gaming around the other parts of my life rather than fitting life around my gaming. Maybe this is just part and parcel of being a grown up gamer. Maybe it is the sobering influence of my non gamer wife.

Anyway it is this lack of commitment more than anything else which makes me a casual gamer. When I think about it it actually seems quite strange. I spend more than 20 hours every week on a hobby that I am not particularly good at. I imagine that if I tried to explain it to my non-gaming friends they would be surprised.

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