Passive Loot Games

I’ve been checking out Tom Clancy’s The Division for the past week or two1. It’s a third-person shooter, set in a post-virus-infected Manhattan, where the primary conflict is sleeper government agents versus extremely organized looters. The story is inconsequential; the main attraction of the game is around leveling your character, getting better guns and equipment, and repeating this gameplay loop ad infinitum.

In other words, it’s a Diablo-esque loot game.

There’s nothing wrong with following the Diablo template for modeling the core gameplay loop. In fact, the progression of items and difficulty, the skill trees and available user actions, along with end-game systems and content are actually quite hard to get right. To use another game as an example, Destiny is a similar type of loot-based 3rd-person shooter, and gamer consensus has been that took a full year’s worth of tweaks and additional content after its initial release — which itself took 4+ years — to make the game meet expectations. The Division will follow a similar playbook, though it’s unclear whether it’ll find eventual success.

Anyway, loot games like Diablo and The Division turn pretty mindless after a few hours, especially if you’re like me and end up playing by yourself most of the time. The attraction is in the familiarity of the gameplay, and the chance to find better equipment while blasting through relatively simplistic levels and enemies. It’s almost a passive activity; something to do while actively listening to a podcast or chatting with someone else or even watching a video on another screen. Focusing on the game itself only emphasizes its repetition.

And I don’t mind in the slightest. There’s a queue of podcasts I need to listen to anyway.

  1. I also recently learned that Tom Clancy hasn’t had anything to do with these games for a while, and it’s just really a shorthand for a specific style of modern military shooter.

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