Paige FTW: The Joy Of Planning

Sometimes, the best part of playing a game is preparing to play the game.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is out now for Nintendo Switch. As a huge, unabashed fan of the series since its American debut on Game Boy Advance, I am keen to sink my teeth into what appears to be a very meaty game.

(Yes, I know the game came out, like, two weeks ago. I was on vacation during its initial release window so I haven’t had time to really play it yet. This hurts me more than you possibly know.)

Much has been made of this Fire Emblem’s embrace of the kind of labyrinthine resource management systems that titles like Persona have perfected. I love resource management, so I’m very excited to see how Nintendo utilizes the system.

But even more fun than playing this game of planning is planning how you will play the game of planning.

Poring over the options — if I make sure I invest in this, then I can get this character, and if I do this, then I can raise them to their max potential, which ensures my final army will look like this — can be just as satisfying as playing the game.

Well, it does for me. An argument can be made that this kind of metagaming takes the joy out of playing (as it does eliminate most elements of surprise), but I would argue that there is a certain pure joy that comes from … optimization.

When you are able to perfectly manage your time and resources and produce the best possible result in these types of games, it feels impossibly good. Spoilers are irrelevant in the face of understanding and conquering the system. It doesn’t take skill in the traditional sense to beat the system. It takes knowledge. And the more knowledge you have, the more thoroughly you master the system. The fluency of mastery brings delight in its ease.

It’s a different approach to gaming to consider.