Apr 11, 2016
It probably goes without saying that games have changed a lot over the past few decades. But one thing that still bugs me is how many games hold your hand throughout the entirety of the narrative. What worries me more is how accustomed I’ve become to it. Games which implement numerous guides and mollycoddle gamers do not allow us to use our own brains.
Some of this can be put down to the cinematic experiences. Being lost or getting frustrated with a task can mean that the experience is jeopardised, and the fluidity of the movie-like structure is lost. I mean, what fun would it be if in Die Hard Bruce Willis just got lost in the building and spent 30 minutes retracing his footsteps? Well that would really suck.
Also the more casual fanbases these days is proving to show that they will lose a lot of customers if they don’t allow them to ease themselves into the game. Imagine buying your first console and respective title, and having no idea what to do?
I can’t remember the last game I played that didn’t begin with a tutorial of sorts. Back in my childhood of the PS1 (I’m so old, right?) I spent the ride home from the game store reading the instruction manuals and memorising all the buttons, so I was ready to go by the time the disc was in the machine.
Only on replaying certain games have I realised how the trend of leaving you to work out where to go and what to do was. Is leaving the player to work out challenges so archaic and far gone, that we need directions wherever we go?
Eiji Aonuma previously discussed The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which leaves players to an open world, to decipher what to do.
“I think that one thing all game developers worry about when they’re putting something into a game is, ‘Will people notice it? Will people realize what they’re supposed to do?’ And we kind of have a bad habit of hand-holding, trying to make things easier for everyone. But more and more, I start to think that that kind of isn’t actually that fun.”
Is exploring without any form of assistance dead? Well, this Zelda title allows you to tackle dungeons in any order you wish. So this is a step in the right direction. But Nintendo have always been a company which stuck to their roots, and have managed to resist many trends, such as the increasing violence in games. If you ever played SEGA’s Shadow the Hedgehog, then you’ll know what I mean (I also feel for you because, I endured that inexcusably awful game).
So, what got me thinking about all this? Recently, I’ve started playing Half Life 2, having previously never played it (please, hold the abuse). But what I’ve noticed is: 1) how well it’s aged, and ) how when i load up the game I have no idea where I’m going. My thought process is something like the following: Where is my map indicator? Where is my map? Where am I? And then I spend the next 20 minutes trying to work out which way is forwards and what I was trying to do last week when I last played.
I had a similar experience with Morrowind. Having adored Oblivion and Skyrim, and hearing such good things about the previous title, I thought I’d pick it up. But my god, working out where to go from the directions from other characters is so difficult compared to today’s standards. I became so irate that I could just not go on.
And it is this that bugs me; I used to love games that didn’t hold your hand. I used to love puzzles that took genuine intellect, like Starfox Adventures or Tomb Raider. I enjoyed the cognitive challenge. But now, Uncharted is the best treasure-hunting game out there, which replaced Tomb Raider’s challenges with extra gunplay and simplistic puzzles. Which I may make sound bad, but it’s a feature I genuinely welcomed upon my initial play.
I also started LIMBO a few weeks ago. I have always been a big platformer fan, so my initial response was great. The physics are cool, a unique style, and it really makes great use of 2D sidescrolling action. And the challenges you come across are truly thought provoking. I found myself baffled for several minutes (often into double digits for some instances), but then would figure out the puzzle and be quite proud of myself for doing so. It seems that LIMBO gets it right; it is not frustrating, but I find myself driven to succeed, and do not want to be outsmarted. It is a genuinely rewarding experience which I have missed from many current games. So perhaps there is still potential for such a premise, and indie developers can lead the way into showing mainstream games the way forwards, or backwards. Whichever way you want to look at it.
The video game is changing. It is now all about the experience, rather than a challenge. Although the difficulty in games may have become easier, it seems that there are other factors which are changing too. Whether this is for good or bad, it is up to personal opinion.
Some of the most popular franchises, such as Call of Duty, are all about turning off and mindlessly gunning down strangers online. Maybe the general public do not want to have to think hard after a long days work; they just want to strike back at humanity in a virtual environment.
But one thing’s for certain; I am a bit horrified with what I have become. Despite this, I think there is room for both challenging and hand-holding games; but what strikes me is the severe lack of necessary intellect in modern games. And I sorely miss it.