-201TCA88-LM- Virtue is Bond. I/We have discovered the ex-dictator of the late Facewizard empire fled to Earth and is masquerading as Earthen flesh Laura Michet. She is one-half of Second Person Shooter and also a copywriter for Tencent America.
The Spiritual Domain of The Aspiration and Facewizard were neighbours. Today, Laura describes her experience of running an empire.
Why I Did Not Enjoy Neptune’s Pride
Games of Neptune’s Pride eventually come to an end, apparently.
After about two days of playing the game, I was more interested in seeing that end than in winning, or even continuing to play. The game takes place at a glacially slow pace; ships crawl across the map. Apparently, this is necessary for players to form strategies. As a veteran of the mid-ninties fast-paced-RTS craze, weaned on Age of Empires, I can affirm that strategy is just as much fun in a fast-paced game as it can be in a slow-paced one, if not more fun, and usually far more stimulating. Heck, Galcon and its Steam counterpart, Galcon Fusion, shave matches down to approximately two minutes! Anyone who has ever played a game of hot-seat-multiplayer in Civ 4 will realize the kind of frustration associated with incredibly slow-paced multiplayer strategy games. Against a computer, the frustration is less, since you can always simply stop playing. Against humans, it’s harder to admit to that frustration and boredom: you’re afraid you’ll seem like a bad sport, like the kid who throws the chess board across the room and stomps out.
My reasons to dislike Neptune’s Pride only proliferated as time went on. Half the people near to me seemed to be having more fun pretending to be space aliens than actually negotiating anything reasonable; the other half seemed to be focused on stabbing me in the back. Kent’s earlier, failed attempt to get us all into a different game of Neptune’s Pride meant that half the players were already very familiar with it. I, on the other hand, was unclear on several of the mechanics. In sending my ships to a star that was unoccupied, I angered a neighbor who happened to arrive there only a few hours before I did. I had no idea at the time that it was impossible to turn ships around mid-jump. My ships arrived and lost the battle—so, really, no harm done to my neighbor.
While taking a break at work, I opened the game in a browser window and was surprised to see that instead of listening to my explanation, this neighbor has decided to roleplay an angry alien race. Soon I began noticing hostility from several other players, most of whom refused to answer my messages. By this time, I was so frustrated with the pace of the game that I had little love left to lose for it. Crumpled in my chair at work, I realized how inappropriate it was that something could make me have these kinds of thoughts, and this degree of angry rage, when I should have been concentrating on my job. We were only a fraction of the way into the game itself, and this did not bode well for the future. I couldn’t afford to care so much about something like this. So I shut the window and decided not to play anymore.
About a month later, I read Ian Bogost’s widely-read blog post about social games (and his own attempt to make a social game, called Cow Clicker). I realized, then, why I did not enjoy Neptune’s Pride: it destroys time in the same way that much-hated Facebook social games do. It plays upon compulsion and obsession, and it destroys the time we play it and the time we spend away from it, and there is really no excuse for that.
Essentially, Neptune’s Pride is a solid strategy game with the soul of Farmville.
It’s so slow that there’s no room for experimentation and so social that there’s no room for frustration and boredom. It’s just complicated enough to make us feel as if we have lost something significant if we stop contributing. It could easily be on Facebook. The irony of this bothered me a lot. We’ve attacked Farmville and accused it of being a game for old ladies, but nobody’s called Neptune’s Pride out on having the exact same compulsion strategy—probably because it’s strategic and about aliens, two things that gamers consider antithetical to old ladyhood. Where Farmville boosts egos by making its players feel responsible, Neptune’s Pride boosts egos by trying to make its players feel smart—an emotional appeal that has particular strength with kind of people who consider themselves gamers. All strategy games work this way—we’re supposed to feel smart when we win, and we often feel stupid when we lose.
I was sick of sinking so much time into something so compulsive—and so unrewarding—that made me feel so stupid. Fuck social games, I thought, and fuck strategy, and fuck aliens. I’m simply not going to play anymore.
So I didn’t.