The Top 7... trendy game-design crutches

We've all seen dozens of lists over the years that recount all the things old-school game designers loved to include in their games for bizarre and unknown reasons, like exploding barrels and wolves that carry gold and chainmail for you to loot upon their death. Yes, these things were weird, and yes, they were ubiquitous in 8-,16-, and even 32-bit games. But why stay fixated on such long-irrelevant game-design choices when so many current developers are finding new ways to make fools of themselves every week?

Above: Hardly anyone makes mine cart levels anymore. Time to move on 

In the past few years, a number of trends just as inexplicable as exploding barrels have spread like wildfire among game designers, to the point that a lot of games seem to rely on them (however paradoxically) to be noticed. Over the following seven entries, we’ll examine some of the most egregious ones and try to get to the bottom of why developers love this stuff so much.

7. Gravelly Voices

Why do they love them? Why is it that every male lead character outside of Nathan Drake has to sound like some 40-year smoking veteran named Aunt Ethel chainsaw-battling an angry wolverine when he talks? This is what we like to call “forced cool.” Yeah, Marcus Fenix is kind of cool, but so is anyone with 28-inch biceps who sounds like he eats smoldering ashtrays for breakfast. Obviously, it takes so much effort to craft a good character with subtle wit and subdued badassery (like James Bond or Han Solo) that most developers simply cannot be bothered.

Case in Point: Alex Mercer (Prototype)

By what right does Alex Mercer deserve his deep baritone? He's a hoodie fanatic who constantly hides his face and believes he's been deeply wronged by the powers that be. That pretty much only qualifies him to be a whiny emo kid.

6. Hoods, masks and helmets

Why do they love them? Developers enjoy waxing philosophical about the reason they choose not to reveal their character's face. They'll tell you all about how it allows players to become more immersed in the character, because on some level, they believe the character could really be them! If you want the realistic truth, though, it's because they don't want to spend the time or the resources to develop decent facial animations, and they couldn't think of any other reason why the character's face would be perpetually constipated during gameplay. So they cover his face in a hood or a space helmet and call it a day. Also, hair is a bitch to animate.

Case in Point: Altair (Assassin's Creed)

Supposedly, Altair hides his face because he doesn't want to be noticed in a crowd, or identified. But seriously, what sticks out more in a crowd than a guy in a giant white robe who hides his face and creepily stalks around? Admit it, Ubisoft: the hood was just for cool points.


Top 7


  • macbad - February 24, 2011 8:52 p.m.

    btw the way Cole clings to buildings IS explained, he uses static electricity. -.-
  • AVATARMAN - February 22, 2011 12:02 p.m.

    With inFAMOUS, it explains in 2 that he trained in New Marais, and perhaps the lore thing of it is that it made him partially magnetic so he could climb with ease and such
  • FanofSaiyan - December 7, 2009 3:19 a.m.

    Parkour, how the hell did they miss Mirrors Edge on that one!?
  • FanofSaiyan - December 7, 2009 3:18 a.m.

    Last great mine cart level I played was LittleBigPlanet, and Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time. Although half the level took place in a mine, but no carts.
  • Defguru7777 - August 30, 2009 10:45 p.m.

    I respectively disagree with 1 and 5.
  • PS3FANBOYKID - August 28, 2009 9:31 a.m.

    WAY TOO MANY SEQUELS!!! Think about all of the games you are playing or want to play... most of them are sequels like god of war 3, modern warfare 2, and ff 13!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • AHolyMonk - August 28, 2009 1:12 a.m.

    I agree on all points. The only problem is that it obviously isnt going to stop any of us from buying games for these exact reasons. We know what we want as gamers, but noone is showing us anything new and exciting, so we stick with what we know, and so do devs.
  • RickyV300 - August 27, 2009 3:44 a.m.

    you guys bash emos to hard
  • MGS4SolidSnake - August 27, 2009 3:13 a.m.

    what about a character like snake..he is an example of that grizzled chain smoking sounding 40 year old(even though technically he is or whatever)..but would u count him i mean he did it before it was coool
  • secretsearcher - August 26, 2009 7:17 p.m.

    @nadrewod999 DAMN man that's a long comment. @xboxrulez Looks like adadadad got another username. And I don't like the Xbox personally. OK now for my comment. This was a great article, though not one of the best top 7 list you guys have done. And some sequels are good (Sly Cooper 2 anyone?)
  • gameman67 - August 25, 2009 11:51 p.m.

    The Gravelly Voice for Alex Mercer is for a good reason. You shouldbeat the game, and you will find out why. If anything, he should be in the hood category over Altair, as an assasin should have concealing clothing.
  • theschwartzb - August 25, 2009 3:17 p.m.

    I would probably say that Altair wears a hood because he is an assassin. Honestly, you used a bad example for number 6. The fact that he is wearing a white robe and wears his throwing knives right on his belt, and doesn't even cover them up is a moot point. He wears the hood so that people are less likely to recognize him, just like any good assassin would.
  • Bobidge - August 25, 2009 2:57 p.m.

    I'll tell you who is still buying Dynasty Warriors..... My mate Dan! I only ever bought DW 3
  • bschroth - August 25, 2009 2:02 p.m.

    While I agree with the number one point that too many devs/publishers rely on sequels to line their pockets I think it's the gamers fault. When you buy a game you're voting with your wallet and we all know how shitty everyone is at voting. Stop voting for the george bush of videogames and start buying only the games you wish to see more of. Consider it an investment in good games.
  • Seabread - August 25, 2009 11 a.m.

    Oops, forgot to mention UnrealEngine3. lighting is too garish and blue. reflective surfaces actually look like they're glowing. Source is a much better engine. Dev's should use Source!
  • thomashalpenny - August 25, 2009 10:57 a.m.

    what does ODST even stand for? ReCaptcha: LAWRENCE linking...sounds like a gay dating website only for people called lawrence
  • Seabread - August 25, 2009 10:54 a.m.

    ah, the big mouthed boss. dont they all write cheques that our arses are required to cash? the Halo series got boring after CombatEvolved. Was there even a story in there? my money is on Halo:reach being exactly the same - or maybe a mashup between FPS and RTS (like MAG)
  • Felixthecat - August 25, 2009 10:50 a.m.

    I never noticed before.
  • Cool - August 25, 2009 10:20 a.m.

    another game cliche i think is the grey color palette.
  • Revanofsith - August 25, 2009 8:22 a.m.

    Majora's Mask for one. OoT was perfect without it. Electricity plus water equals PEOPLE DIE! reCaptcha: 2,300,000 rejoins

Showing 1-20 of 79 comments

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