The other day when the brand new Assassin’s Creed game was announced – I couldn’t help but wonder… How is it that the Assassin’s Creed series releases 2 to 3 games a year (in addition to releasing portable spin-off titles) and has yet to crash and burn like the Guitar Hero series? I mean, I enjoyed AC II until it decided to glitch half-way through the story, but the introduction scenario of AC III was so dull (for me) that I haven’t managed to play beyond the first three hours or so…
And then I realize that I don’t have much of an argument because I still play Dynasty Warriors…
For gamers, I think there’s something especially comforting in a series that’s familiar. Often, repetitive (and fan favorite) series are nostalgic. I know, personally, that when I play a ‘new’ Dynasty Warriors game I feel like I’m 15 again – the age when I started my Warriors journey with Dynasty Warriors 3. I’m reminded of the many happy memories I have with my younger brother, playing the game with our favorite characters at 7:30 A.M. before school started – and playing more rounds of free mode and versus mode after the school day ended – to see who could get the most K.O.s.
I suppose the same is true for other fans – not just of Dynasty Warriors – but also Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, etc. The characters are like old friends; the stories are old memories; and the gameplay is a skill that players have mastered and perfected over time.
In games studies research, one of the most highly cited concepts regarding video game enjoyment is flow. Sherry (2004) explained that a flow state is achieved in gaming when there is a balance between the difficulty of the given task and the player’s skill. Tasks that are too easy result in boredom and tasks that are too difficult for the player induce anxiety. Fans of a particular series are likely to experience the flow state when they play a new game in the franchise because the gameplay is still familiar enough – but also presented in a different way – to establish a balance between the player’s skill and the difficulty of the given task.
Flow, in addition to nostalgia, may be one way to understand the popularity of repetitive and sequential video games.
But – please – Tecmo-Koei… you do need to revitalize Dynasty Warriors. Flow can only get this series so far.
Sherry, J.L. (2004). Flow and media enjoyment. Communication Theory, 14(4), 328–347. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2004.tb00318.x