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The Art of Exploration. Play like you travel, travel like you play.

Jack Graal
30 November 2014

There was once a time in my life when I just wanted to finish games without respite and a shadow of reflection. Fortunately after some time my approach to games (and other media as such) began to change significantly. I started to respect  them and desired to take a closer look at each of them.

Trying to squeeze every penny paid for the game by spending as much time as possible playing it is not a bad idea, as long as the "fun time" is not artificially lengthened. Nevertheless, since then to this date, I try to explore as much as I can doing everything fun. For me playing a video game is like reading a good book. But in the past I used to read only the summary.


Spending a week in sunny Tuscany (Pisa> Florence> Lucca> Montecatini), I noticed a similar regularity in the process of exploring new places. I had eyes in the back of my head, I could see more and faster. I looked behind each corner. Thanks to that I saw not only the most famous sites and monuments, but also wandered through these smelling like history (and sometimes something else) streets and squares. I saw other tourists unknowingly pass by somewhat hidden entrance to the other wing of a museum thinking that this is the end. Too late, they left. Where to? To another museum - just to take a look and leave . That's why I don't sightsee while traveling. I explore.


Most games have some kind of map or area to walk on. And if there are at least two dimensions and a few corners, we can theoretically say that the given title is explorable. Currently, the concept of exploration is an integral part of all games, because the coins and treasures scattered around the map can significantly extend the life of the game. Thanks to that the producers can proudly print on the back of the box some marketing bullshit like "100 hours of jumping around (and searching for cookies)". The only difference between exploration in travel and in games is the lack of access to the statistics of visited places or collected treasures (although I bet there is an app allowing to do this on smartphones) and the awareness that the bar will never fill up to 100%.


Imagine you're playing one of your favorite role-playing games - it doesn't need to have an open world. Do you go straight forward, map after map, main mission after main mission until the end credits? I used to do that all the time. I would get to the ending as soon as possible. I couldn't wait. I wouldn't look into a nearby cave. I wouldn't land on a nearby planet. I just run from point A to point B to receive the promised prize for another quest in the main story and get closer to the end. I wasn't even interested in the prize I got from that quest. I was too busy thinking about the end and the next game I will play.


Now imagine that you are in Florence. What do you do? The excess of historical objects highlights only the most famous and vertically protruding monuments. During my visit in the city I knew that seeing only the most popular places would be as spectacular as reading a random guide. Of course I didn't refuse myself that pleasure, but the first day of my visit was started with a lap around the old city of Florence to experience the taste of modern areas where people actualy live. I wasn't interested in five hundred years old ghosts. Not yet. This way I outlined my own boundaries on the map and I could begin my exploration of the places I was interested in.


I was approaching the unattainable 100%. It was just like visiting a new city in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Though I didn't approach every encountered passerby to ask if they have a quest for me. Along the way I discovered some interesting places including a very cozy (and relatively cheap) coffee shop where I would regenerate my health points and use some free Wi-Fi. The rule is simple - first go see everything that you would neglect if you were exhausted. Don’t worry. You WILL pay the 10 € ticket and you WILL get into the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore anyway. Remember that often completing the main mission in the area is equivalent to burning some bridges behind you.


Whether sitting on a couch watching TV or sweating in a crowd of tourists 1500 kilometers from home - try to get pleasure from what you do and determine your main goal. Do you play games just to pass them? Will you remember something more than just a single look on a famous cathedral after a week abroad? Be the positive hardcore player also in travel.



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