IMHO: Gaming Trends That Drive Me Crazy (from a 24 year-old geezer) Part II

Some of you may have read my rant from last week, but some of you may be new. So, I’ll quickly recap what this is all about. When I was a kid, the video game industry was very different than the money-making behemoth it is today. This editorial highlights certain points of video game design and trends within video gamers themselves that I simply can’t stand. Whether that is because I cling to outdated formulas, I think I know best, or I’m just stupid, I’ll leave up to you.

  1. Overall difficulty sacrificed for accessibility

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In general (I know there are some exceptions, like Demon’s Souls) overall difficulty of video games has gradually lowered over the years, and I’m not talking about playing games on “easy” mode. There are several factors that contribute to declining difficulty. While I’m usually all for improved game design techniques, the problem is that developers design games for mainstream players. That means save points and health packs or what have you are far more prolific than they used to be.

PC gamers in particular have gotten used to abusing the quick-save button. In most modern games, the singleplayer campaigns feature frequent autosaves and checkpoints. While I understand that it can save gamers copious amounts of time if there is an autosave just a minute behind a main character’s gruesome death, I contend that frequent saves can diminish gameplay. I remember playing older games such as Chrono Trigger and fearing that I wouldn’t reach the next save point before my characters would run out of MP or HP. You could say that such a fear is completely artificial, and you’d be right. But that fear of death made gaming suspenseful. Autosaves and checkpoints are a convenience. Some might argue they don’t want to waste time re-playing an area because they died earlier. Those people should realize they’re playing a video game as a past-time. It doesn’t really matter how much time you sink into a game.

The problem is that people in general want instant gratification. They don’t want to slog through a difficult level for fifteen minutes only to be killed right before the end of the dungeon. Let me tell you that patience and perseverance will pay off just about every time. In my experience, the more difficult a game is, the higher your sense of satisfaction at completing the simplest of tasks. However, I’ll admit that there are some older games that are just unfairly difficult. And those can be extremely frustrating. This is where good game design comes into play. Again, I’ll reference Dark Souls as a perfect example of a very difficult game that rewards players for having the time and patience to play it.

  1. Achievements

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I know that plenty of people will hate on me for this, but I have to talk about it. Please, keep in mind that what I say in these rants is not necessarily the opinion of or other writers here. I hate achievements. My generation started off the whole notion that people should be rewarded and recognized for doing everyday things. The generations behind me have taken that to an extreme. Everybody has received an award for something. What happened to rewarding excellence on merit of excellence itself?

Achievements are artificial milestones created to keep gamers playing games. There is a little bit of perfectionist in most gamers, and lists of trophies and achievements tap into that perfectionist. I understand that it’s nice to feel recognized. It’s nice to know someone or something acknowledges your performance. However, achievements limit the scope of gamers’ imagination and drive them towards arbitrary goals. In the old days, games were all about exploration and realizing self-made goals. Achievements are feel-goods (you know, those warm, fuzzy feelings?) on rails. And, with the exception of Pokemon Snap, I haven’t ever enjoyed anything on rails (including trains).

  1. Publisher branding

I have never been a big fan of publishers. They were necessary in the early years of the video game industry when it was expensive to get media out to vendors. Materials, packing, marketing, and shipping created a barrier that most developers couldn’t overcome financially after creating a game. Publishers stepped in and took a cut of the profits. Publishers also began marketing their brand and buying up as many development studios as they could afford.

Greedy Activision Source:

Now Activision, EA, Ubisoft, and other major publishers are often more well-known than the studios that actually develop games. For example, the Activision name is closely tied with the Call of Duty franchise. How many Call of Duty fans could identify the game’s developer Infinity Ward? Publishers try to claim credit for games they didn’t develop. I think indie developers are better off in the long run because they have established a name for themselves. They don’t have to live under the umbrella of greedy publishers.

Publishers had a place early in the video game industry’s life. That place is quickly becoming obsolete as digital distribution and cheap internet marketing have given developers the tools they need to self-publish. This way, everybody wins, except for the publishers. Which I’m totally fine with. Maybe one day I’ll write a rant about why publishers drive me crazy.

I know, I know, It’s all about money.


Posted on February 15, 2012, in IMHO and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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