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We don’t think this has anything to do with catering to children, because when we played games in our childhood, games were stupidly difficult and didn’t tell you shit. We could blame the influx of “casual” gamers, but that would be mean and besides they aren’t the problem. The problem is that developers think that casual gamers are stupid. This is indicative of entertainment as a whole losing more and more faith in the intelligence of the average human. If you look at movies from the seventies on back, on average the writing and directing was a lot more subtle. Movies today spell everything out for us because Hollywood is terrified dumb people will get confused. What Hollywood doesn’t realize is that it’s making its audience dumber. By lowering the bar further and further, it’s training the audience to want to put in less and less intellectual effort to digest the material.
Above: Enslaved had many great qualities, but wow was the climbing dumbed-down. It literally provided glowing ledges that also were the only possible route to travel, and you couldn't fall - it might as well have been automated
The same thing holds for games. We don’t need a tutorial to tell us what the crouch button is – give us a hole we can’t walk through and we’ll press buttons until we figure it out. Do they really think we’re so dumb and easily frustrated that we’ll frantically press three buttons and throw the controller down, sell the game, and never buy another title made by that company? With all this handholding, we might just turn into that moron. Discovery is fun – let us discover things and figure things out. Hell, that’s what gaming is about!
This ties into handholding, because an overly lengthy and redundant tutorial is a waste of our time. We’re adults, which means our free time is extremely limited. For god’s sake, we’re games journalists and we hardly have time to play games! When we were young we happily grinded 200 hours killing the same damn monsters over and over again in Phantasy Star. That shit don’t fly anymore. We need to be able to play games in short bursts and we need that time to be quality, real gameplay.
Above: LA Noire's option to skip combat satisfies more than one of our demands: if you don't like it then it doesn't waste your time and it also allows you to experience a non-combat game focused on other things like investigation and interrogation
We have a laundry list of things that just need to go away, right now: unskippable cutscenes, cutscenes you can’t pause, poorly placed checkpoints or the lack of “save anywhere,” bullshit backtracking sections, grinding/random battles, and shit-eating quick-time events (there’s a reason we wrote an entire article about notable exceptions to the rule that QTEs are an annoying waste of time).
Above: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed had a boss right here, followed by a difficult-to-judge jumping puzzle, and if you died trying to make a jump, the checkpoint took you back to before the boss. There are no words
Look, we don’t want to marginalize the kid gamers or the non-serious adult gamers. Most of us have families, which means we end up gaming in a household alongside non-gaming spouses or really young kids. We’d like to be able to include them in our gaming. What we need is more asymmetrical co-op modes where one player is the “main” gamer and the second player is the “helper” player. Super Mario Galaxy inspired this idea: one player controls Mario while the other has a cursor that can shoot and grab enemies and objects. The second player can’t die and has no real pressure to perform well. Yet it draws them into the experience. It’s the perfect solution to integrating the adult gamer’s hobby into the family so that dad/mom doesn’t have to seem “tuned out” when playing games.
What would be super awesome (game devs take note – this idea is GOLD) is an option in the main menu of a game to turn on “mature” mode. Think of it like a difficulty select, except it changes parameters all over the game to suit an adult’s tastes. So with the tap of a toggle, the game suddenly gets: quick matching online that only searches for 18+ servers, sex scenes without clothing, toned-down and more diverse female character models, reduced hand-holding measures, and reduced time wasters (see above for specifics). Ideally each setting could be adjusted individually (you know, in case you really need huge breasts everywhere). This way there could be games that are inclusive to the mature and the immature. Yes, we know that once again this would not be simple to implement and that it wouldn’t be appropriate or necessary for every game, but in an ideal industry it would be pretty darn awesome, wouldn’t it?
We'd sure like it if videogames didn't usually feel like this:
May 27, 2011
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