Having played video games for as long as I have, there is no doubt that I encounter the sentiment that “I’ve done this before.” I’ve gone through many turn-based battles, battled on a ton of multiplayer maps, traversed many dungeons, explored open worlds, taken on a smorgasbord of main and side quests, fought through a wide array of arcade modes, beaten a whole bunch of levels, built up my deck collection of cards, and played just about every type of sports game you could imagine. When it comes to gaming, there isn’t much I haven’t seen. That is why when I read reviews and impressions that refer to a game as being “repetitive,” I’m always looking for clarification as to the word’s intended meaning within the particular content that it is mentioned. For me, video games in general feature a significant amount of repetition. And repetition isn’t always a bad thing.
In my opinion, when something is enjoyable, it doesn’t make a difference whether it is repeated or not. Some gamers like me truly enjoy Battlefield and Call of Duty when the premise and foundation of those games are the same each time. It’s the same house but with different paint or objects arranged differently. But it is still the same house. It’s still first-person. It’s still a game involving guns, gadgets, and explosives. The premise is still to take down the enemy. The same could be said about sports games, Metroidvania games, etc. In 2021, it is rare to find a game that is a completely different experience that won’t remind you of a game you’ve played before. We’re too far along in gaming at this point.
When we as human beings like or enjoy something, we’ll keep coming back to it. We do it many times without even thinking about it. Why do we like certain television shows, movies, sports, or other forms of entertainment? Most likely it is because when we got our first taste of it, we were stimulated in such a way that we craved more of it. The same could be said about food and other things. But when we like something, we continually indulge it, resulting in experiences that would have an element of repetitiveness to it if we were paying attention. Following this line of thinking, repetitiveness could be a positive thing for a gamer.
Yes, part of the human experience is that we can tire of something when we crave something different. But what I find fascinating is how a reviewer will use the word “repetitive” to describe a flaw, but when it is something the reviewer enjoys, the word is avoided even though it would be just as appropriate. That is why I take the use of the word “repetitive” with a grain of salt each time I hear or read it. For instance, reviewers will punish the Far Cry series for aspects of it they find repetitive in each iteration but will be quick to give the Batman: Arkham Asylum games a pass when it has just as much repetition.
The question for each gamer should be this: When does something become repetitive to the point of it being detrimental to your experience as a gamer? The hacking and slashing combat of Devil May Cry 5 could be viewed by one gamer as very repetitive, but to another gamer who enjoys the DMC world and the storyline that goes with the game, the repetitive gameplay could be enjoyable. Furthermore, some gamers enjoy the same moves being repeated over and over again. This certainly is the case in games like Streets of Rage 4 and other beat-em-up brawlers. I believe it comes down to who you are as a gamer and what you prefer.
Now I want to share a negative experience I’ve had with repetition in a game. The game was Final Fantasy XIII. I will admit that I was surprised to find many people who enjoyed the game. The first game in the trilogy was something I gave 15-20 hours to and it felt like a chore to play. I noticed right away that every new area I entered featured the same sequence of enemies that you had to fight until you fought the boss. It didn’t help that I didn’t connect with the story or the characters. Had the story and characters been more to my liking, I probably would have been able to better cope with the repetitive gameplay. But in the case of Final Fantasy XIII, it just made my time with the RPG even worse. It also didn’t help that the game was very linear.
How something is “repetitive” will differ from person to person. Depending on the context, one person won’t mind it while the next will be annoyed by it. Both perspectives are okay because it is about what you as an individual gamer enjoy and can tolerate in the end. Also, I believe it is natural as human beings for us to overlook things that could be considered flaws to others because we enjoy them. We all have our unique tastes. But in the end, games are much more repetitive than we would like to think. There is nothing wrong with that, especially if it is something you like. In those cases, repetition is more than welcome.