Once, we were a proud warrior people, adept in every skill, discipline and combat technique required to earn mastery over our every digital domain. We were a pantheon of noble thumb-ninjas, our legendary victories and kill-counts matched in number only by the calluses on our digits; calluses we wore as badges of honour through the eternal, bloody war against AI and our fellow man. But through its ever more sophisticated design and an unerring need to be accessible to all, modern gaming has done us a disservice.
Not only are our skills being neutered, it's being done in a way which makes us think we're still at the top of our game. It's exactly like The Matrix. Exactly like The Matrix. Yes, a no-thumbed bonobo monkey can now feel a simulation of the sense of achievement we've enjoyed since the '80s, but just remember, as The Incredibles told us, when everyone's super, no-one will be. Don't believe the full extent to which we've been emasculated? Read on.
By far the worst offense perpetrated against good, honest, battle-hardened gaming skills. Let this be clear; you have no reason - no reason at all - to feel proud of yourself for defeating your enemy if you can shrug off a bullet-wound with a nice quiet sit down. That's like Superman beating up old ladies and being all "Hur hur! I r teh badass" about it.
Automatically regenerating health makes an utter mockery of the skills really needed to succeed in any combat situation. Is it enough to wade blindly into any conflict, happy to soak up any number of gunshots, punches and stabbings to the face as long as you're scoring a few hits yourself? Has any soldier, swordsman or martial artist in history ever tried to get through a fight by simply dishing out the damage with a flagrant disregard for personal safety? Probably a few have, but no-one's ever heard of them because they died really bloody quickly!
Real combat is a skilled balance of damage and evasion. It's about wrong-footing your opponent and maximising attack opportunities while maintaining a tactical sense of self-preservation. It is not about charging into a battle zone, thoughtlessly swinging your gun around your head, safe in the knowledge that you spotted a rock to recharge behind on your way in, and thus are in no danger from the assembled enemy ranks whatsoever.
A system implemented originally, and still primarily, in the first-person shooter. The first-person shooter being a genre based almost entirely around the concept of aiming. Is anyone else seeing anything wrong with this?
So what's next? Auto-driving in the next Burnout update? Auto-punching and kicking in the home versions of Street Fighter IV? A Mario game where we only have to maneuver the portly one within six feet of a koopa before he runs up and bops them on the head, all of his own accord?
Look, we could understand this crap when FPS had rubbish controls. Aiming up and down with cursor keys was always an excercise in knitting with spaghetti, and in a strictly head-on game like the original Doom, vertical auto-aim was vital. But in this age of decent dual analogue control and the unfailing wonder of the laser mouse, it's just patronising. Auto-aim is like being eight years old, falling arse over tit off the bike you're trying to learn to ride, and having your well-meaning but intrusive grandma grab the back of the saddle and guide you along.
"Aw, is the poor wittle man having trouble shooting the baddies? Here, let Granny Halo do it for you, diddums"
"Sod off, grandmother. Shooting these bastards to death is my own business. How will I ever become a man if you won't allow me the honour of my own headshots?"
We need a manual or a tutorial, not both. Do publishers assume we're illiterate as well as woefully unskilled? Do they think that we won't understand the meaning of all those cryptic symbols, shapes and colours in their unfathomable grimoire, and thus will need worked, practical examples before we can make sense of "Press A to jump"? This kind of hand-holding just will not do.
But woah! "Hold A to jump higher!?" What kind of avant garde torment is this?
Hold us mother, we're scared!