essay, video games

Proportional Asymmetry

Before I decided to end my playing of Final Fantasy X-2, I was taking on a number of the more powerful enemies in the game, Angra Mainyu. It was a major battle that I ended up losing, after at least twenty minutes each time. I kept trying and trying to beat this enemy while using the techniques that I had at the time. Each time I lost. Again and again. I was, I finally decided, too under-powered. I needed to gain more levels and maybe find more more powerful weapons and accessories.

This battle was, as I’ve come to think about it now, too difficult for the levels and skills that I had at the time. It was, for my journey in the game, disproportional asymmetrical. In other words, he was too powerful. As we took turns, back and forth, we was slowly knocking me down. His attacks kept gaining ground on my own health and ability to heal my characters. He was inflecting status aliments on me that I could not keep up with and he eventually won, time after time.

In the normal turn of events, if you can excuse the pun, the enemies must be just slightly more powerful than the characters that fight them. There must be a slight curve to the progression from area to area, level to level or mission to mission. The characters must continue to face up to the challenge of the game, the difficulty and patterns of the enemies. As the characters keep going in the game, keep finding more and more information about the plot, there must be a constant proportional asymmetry between the power of the characters and that of the enemies, the obstacles in the player’s way.

It this proportional asymmetry that people like me continue to come to games for. It is the knowledge that, with time and patience, patterns can be learned and tactics deployed against the challenges and obstacles that developers have placed in the path of the players. It can be thought of as the push to gain the mastery of the language of the game, to continue the use of the grammar and syntax of the game. In continuing to battle against the proportional asymmetry, the player faces both the skill to which they have mastered the world and the design that the developers put into place for them to discover.