As you might know, I am one of the primary editors for Entertainment Buddha. If you didn’t know that, you do now, and I would recommend you head over to the site and read some of the content — it’s all really good. I promise.
This post is actually in response to a great feature that ran on Entertainment Buddha yesterday. Guest writer Taylor Bair wrote ‘Replayability and Rescuing the Joy of Games‘ for the site and it is a great read. He mentions early about his desire to replay Uncharted, commenting that Uncharted “isn’t a series anyone would consider high in replayability.”
I can’t speak for the gaming world as a whole, but I can speak about time with Uncharted and my own personal thoughts about it in terms of replayability.
Note: Bair approaches the subject of replayability in terms of video games as a whole. In this blog post, I am just addressing Uncharted for shits and giggles.
I don’t particularly like the Uncharted series. I’ve beaten Drake’s Fortune a lot, but haven’t finished the other two mainline Uncharted games.
I do, however, have one of the fastest times on record for beating Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. At one point last year, before I stopped speedrunning the game, I had the third best time. By my estimation, I have beaten Uncharted about 75 times.
It’s with this in mind that I raise an eyebrow at Bair’s mention of Uncharted and its lack of replayability. He is right, by all accounts, but I still feel as though it is wrong. Bair’s thoughts on replayability are largely true throughout the post. He addresses the concept from two main standpoints — that of the consumer and that of the developer — both of which are great points. He concludes that, no matter what way people look at the concept of replayability, we will keep coming back to games that we like or feel a connection to.
It’s within the idea of a connection that I find myself thinking back to Uncharted. Ask any speedrunner how to get into the scene and more often than not, they will tell you to start by playing a game you love. Due to the nature of speedrunning, you will be playing the same game constantly. Day after day, hour after hour. I had to listen to Sully spew his nonsense about Pablo Escobar in Uncharted more than I ever care to admit.
I didn’t start running Uncharted because I loved it. I didn’t even like it all that much. I was attracted to the game for much simpler reasons: it looked fun to break.
Uncharted is a remarkably linear game. Despite all of its cinematic moments and impressive (at the time) visuals, most of the game has the player controlling Nathan Drake, climbing stuff and shooting tons of people along the way. You get some treasure, ride a jet-ski, and shoot out some witty lines, all along the set path.
When it comes to speedrunning Uncharted however, the game’s linearity is thrown by the wayside. Nathan gains the power to clip through virtually any wall in the game, whole chapters are skipped, ignored, or rushed through. Combat becomes nearly nonexistent.
With this in mind, Uncharted becomes a new experience entirely. When it released, I had no real interest in playing through the game. When the new method of clipping was discovered last year, I couldn’t get enough of the game. I spent hours learning tricks, tweaking the route to save a few seconds and replaying sections until I thought I had them down perfectly.
I witnessed a game I didn’t like become one of my favorite games around. Turning the linear and dry experience of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune from a lengthy endeavor into a sub-one hour experience ranks among my favorite gaming memories to date.
Bair is right that the concept of replayability is warped within the gaming industry. As he writes in the article, “We experience things differently over time, which is why the value of a video game can’t be fully measured in what it means to us now.” I went from having no interest in a specific game, to obsessing over every second I spent playing it.
Video games, more than any other medium I can think of, have a transformative power on all of us. My desire for speed completely changed a firmly-rooted opinion of one of the last generation’s most popular titles.