One and Done

One and Done

An argument against replay value.

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Deus Ex: HR is a game I went through once, and despite how I liked it, I haven't touched it since, because I haven't, for lack of a better term, worked up the emotional energy to play it again. I was quite satisfied with how Jensen ended up, failures and faults all.

Meanwhile, Mass Effect I've played through over a dozen times, because I can craft an entirely different character each time and it's fresh each time.

On the other hand, I've played through the Uncharted games quite a number times each, because while it may not have the sheer fresh impact of a first time, going through a familiar story has emotional impact all the same.

"emotional energy" is the perfect term, at least as far as I understand it.

I really enjoyed the retro FF re-releases for PSX but I could never bring myself to play any of them again. Too much emotional investment in those old characters, I'd have to make myself care that much about each one again.


I don't see any problem with a game utilizing a multiple playthrough philosophy, but I don't think they should use it as a crutch. You should get the full experience of a game from one playthrough and play it again only if you want to. There are great games I have played literally dozens of times and others I have yet to give a second playthrough. I played ME1 like 13 or 14 times but only beat Wither 2 and Deus Ex: HR once each knowing full-well that there was plenty of stuff I had yet to see. I can see the appeal of both approaches to gameplay, but if I truly adore a game it is not possible for me to play it only once.

It's important that some games provide a relatively unique experience each time, or at least a customized one. Many games that focus on multiplayer such as Unreal or Quake could be played over and over again with no real incentive to reach THE END. MineCraft is another example.

I completely agree about story driven games. Once I've seen it, I rarely care to go through it again. That's why I wait to buy them on sale and take my time. Leaves lots of room for options.

I've just finished Dragon Age: Origins for the 20th time, and the character (Syn, female, warrior, noble, romanced Alistair, hardened him and made him king with me at his side) is 99% the same as my last playthrough (only difference? Last character was called Zorah)

Why do some of us not only play games through countless time, but play them nearly identically?

For the sheer enjoyment of the story, it's characters and the journey.

I'm in pretty much complete agreement with this article. There are very few examples of any type of media that I find compelling enough to experience more than once, and that doesn't really bother me either. Replay value is nice and all, and I admit to valuating a game lower if it's short and doesn't have replay to make up the missing play time, but I really do judge my experience based on that first play.

One and Done

An argument against replay value.

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Really great article.

I've really soured to the idea of games being marketed based on their "replay value." That can either mean you're able to "go on past the ending" (Skyrim, Just Cause 2, etc.) or that you have reason to literally replay with a different character or path (Skyrim again, or Mass Effect).

The first type, you're usually hunting collectibles of some sort, and it becomes mind-numbingly repetitive. As much as I enjoyed getting around in Just Cause 2, I would never have the sheer force of will to trudge through to 100% (which is why I appreciated that they awarded the achievement at 75%).

The second type, particularly when it's "different path through the same story," feels a bit trudgy as well -- so many sections are repeated as you just try to shove your way through to the various crossroads to make the other choice.

But in both cases, I've begun to notice that the more a game depends on this replay value, the less satisfied I've been with my first playthrough. I don't want to have to play through three times to feel I got my $60 worth. If I pay $60, I want to feel I got my money's worth on the first play... or I'd like the game to be less than that.

I guess for me it's less about feeling that I've cheated the narrative, though I feel some sense of that, too. It's more that I'm beginning to feel the depth drained from my first playthrough because the game is saving that extra room for a second (usually less fun) playthrough.

I tend not to do this for gameplay-driven FPSes, but for story-focussed RPGs I thoroughly agree. Not to say categorically that I don't play them again, but that the first playthrough is my playthrough, my story.

I'll still go back and replay old favourites like Baldur's Gate II, naturally, but it's my first run that sticks with me. To me, my BGII party will always be Minsc, Jaheira, Imoen, Mazzy and Aerie, and those will always be the characters I remember the most fondly.

only beat Wither 2 and Deus Ex: HR once each knowing full-well that there was plenty of stuff I had yet to see.

You just reminded me that I do want to play the Witcher 2 again. Played it at release and finished it and was left curious as to what that different 3rd act included. I figured I'd wait a while to let the first play through sink in and here we are a full year later and I'd forgotten all about it...

I appreciate the reminder.

I prefer games I can play over and over and over, and triple a big titles, don't usually deliver that.

I've long been playing the total war games, for the chance to make a new story each time. Likewise I am in Dark Souls at the moment on ng+, and really have got the feel of the game. Now the mp has opened up for me, whereas I avoided it the first time round. Even deleted my first char because I didn't like the choices I had made. Onwards I go, still dragged into the game.

I tend not to do this for gameplay-driven FPSes, but for story-focussed RPGs I thoroughly agree. Not to say categorically that I don't play them again, but that the first playthrough is my playthrough, my story.

I'll still go back and replay old favourites like Baldur's Gate II, naturally, but it's my first run that sticks with me. To me, my BGII party will always be Minsc, Jaheira, Imoen, Mazzy and Aerie, and those will always be the characters I remember the most fondly.

Edwin, Korgan, Viconia, Yoshimo/Anomen.

I used to replay games all the time but now, with a shortage of time and no real shortage of games to play, I find I rarely come back to a game once I've finished it. Nonetheless, replay value is still pretty important to me and I don't have a problem with it being a selling point for games.

The most recent game I replayed was Red Dead Redemption and I loved it just as much as the first time, if not more. Also, since I plan on finally picking up Mass Effect 3 soon, I'll be playing the first two games again and can't wait.

The problem is when a game paraphrases for you, or otherwise gives you an inadequate prompt which then misinterprets your intent.
Damn you LA Noire.

Even Mass Effect.
Wait, I wanted to say what the choice I picked actually was, rather than give a speech that means something completely different.
This inability to assess actual possible outcomes is, IMO, one of the reasons most players auto-pick paragon or renegade options.

The only games I haven't been motivated to replay are Borderlands and Kingdoms of Amalur.

On the other hand I'm fanatically in love with Dragon Age: Origins and I've played through the entire game, it's expansion pack and all its DLCs nearly five times already. ME2 and The Witcher 2 are the only games that come close.

I still say the most riveting decision in heavy rain was:EAT THE DONUT, DON'T EAT THE DONUT

Replay value is fine so long as the narrative in the story or the core game play is enthralling enough to bring you back for a second play through. For example I've played through the Mass Effect series multiple times in order to see how different decisions effected the outcome, the game play to me felt more like a hindrance the second time around but i trudged through for the story. On the other hand I've played through Dark Souls 4 times because the game play and variety is so damn solid, but I didn't give a piss about the story.

I enjoy replaying a good game however I dont think games should ever be designed with that replay in mind. When i think of games i have replayed its because i enjoyed them so much i wanted to experience it again or explore choices i didnt make. Without execption all of these games were excellent single playthrough experiences and when i finsihed them I didnt feel like i had missed anything. If the game was designed specifically to be played more than once then after a single playthough i wouldnt feel like i had really finished it which would significantly deminish my satisfaction which in turn would make me far less likely to go for a second playthrough.

I find this with the Half Life series. The first play through is a tense affair as you never know what's going to come at you around the next corner and you have to be ready to adapt tactics on the fly.

But the second playthough, that's to get through it as swiftly and easily as possible because you know what's around the next corner. That's the time to really think stuff out and plan the best way/route through sections.

Loved this article, I am exactly like that. My Mass Effect playthrough is Mass Effect to me, anything else wouldn't be *real*.

Great article, Andrew. I think it's kind of funny that you mentioned Smash Bros. 'cause I was actually going to ask you about your take on that exact game.

Anyway, I understand your feelings on the issue and even, to a certain extent, empathize with them. God knows I've tried to 100% the first two Mass Effects on multiple occasions, but just haven't been able to push myself through them.

Here's the thing you don't really address, though: although you're right about the fact that, for the most part, your repeat playthroughs won't have the same pull or feel as the first one did, I find that this effect tends to lessen the more time has gone on since your last run.

Case in point: I love the KotOR series. I've made several characters of various class, gender and alignment combinations. Each time, though, I tend to have a somewhat unique experience because I let months, sometimes years, elapse before I start a new character. And during these alternate playthroughs, I don't usually say to myself, "Well, I haven't made a sith character yet, so I might as well do that for completion's sake"; In fact, I tend to just play through as my mood permits.

Sometimes I say to myself that my character has this kind of personality and I should stick to choices that he or she would make (one of the few cases in which I find myself actually role playing in a video game). Other times I tend to play as though I were really in the situation, myself. Most of the time, though, I just do what amuses me. I'll play two-thirds of the way into the game as a straight-arrow, no nonsense good guy, then, without warning, force lightning anything that looks at me sideways, just because I can.

The point is, though, that because I've let my memories of my past decisions wane, I can still enjoy a lot of those decisions a second or third time through, because I have no idea what I did last time or how it turned out. I can still get that unique playthrough that's different from someone else's, like Mr. Cage intended.

I must agree. No matter how many times I've played through Persona 3, no matter how much knowledge I acquire, no matter how overpowered I know how to make myself, it will never be the same as the first time I played through and experienced what the game had to offer. I still remember lugging around a Take-Minakata that far outlived its usefulness because I didn't like any of the other Zio-casting Personas. Nowadays, I just fuse a quad-element Lilim and use that exclusively, apart from bosses, to destroy a good third of Tartarus. It's fun to perfect your strategy, but it's not the same as your first experience with a game.

Even Minecraft, a game that's always, ALWAYS different, isn't the same as before. I spent my first night hiding in a box, scared as hell of Creepers. Nothing has been able to replicate that same feeling.

I completely agree, and if I buy my future kid a sixty-dollar Lego set, I will expect them to build what's on the box and nothing else. I will punish and shame my child if they decide to take it apart and rebuild it to see if they can do different things, because they are ruining the artistic value of the designers' intent.

More seriously, I can kind of see where he's coming from, but even with the increasing number of games that are a step away from being rail shooters with absolutely no reason to play again anyway, it only works with a handful of games. Even that group and "games with interesting stories" do not have anywhere near 100% overlap on a Venn diagram. Play Alpha Centauri or Civ 4 once? Only do the content in WoW once, no alts, not even a character in the other faction? And that's not even counting non-story multiplayer in games with story-based singleplayer that you don't feel the need to play more than once.

Myself, I consider it insulting to the artistic value of the game if I don't do my best to find and experience as much of the content as I can. I mean, even if you only play the alternate origins in a game like Dragon Age--not a bad idea if you're not a rabid completionist--you're still getting a very different (if much shorter) story and game experience if you first played a human noble warrior and decide to go for an elf mage or dwarf rogue next time.

That's the advantage of games where it's not just striving for victory but you making choices. If there's enough freedom, it's not treading the same ground. You may as well be playing a different game using the same engine.

Playing only once works for the writer, and that's fine. Boats float, etc. But I don't think I'm alone in saying that the feeling of playing my games for the very first time is not the only kind of worthwhile enjoyment I get out of it.

The Jak & daxter series is one I can play through a few times in 1 sitting. Once you finish the campaign you can unlock 'hero mode' (increased difficulty) but you can keep all the cheats you unlocked in normal mode (unlimited ammo, invulnerable, etc.) which does make it quite fun to play through again, even though you know what's coming and what to do.

Apart from that most games get completed and then shelved for a few months, after a while I'll play it again and depending on how I feel about it on the 2nd run it either stays and repeats the play/shelf cycle or gets traded in for something new. It mostly depends on the game; shooters like CoD get one proper play through then an achievement grab run and then they're gone (unless the multiplayer is really good) but games like mass effect that are totally different depending on what class you are can stay on the cycle for months or years while I work through all the options.

The mark of a great game is like that of a great book. Its something that grabs your attention and maintains a special place in your memory. It becomes a mark or standard, that other games are measured to. When you see it on the shelf and the dust is blown off, fond memories are brought back and that instant urge to break out the old system, pick out your game food, and prepare for a trip down memory lane is something we all have from our earliest days of mashing keys and single button joysticks on the old black and white.


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