What adults want from games

Less hand-holding

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!

Reduction of time wasters

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

More co-op designed for one gamer and one non-gamer

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.

Make it a package experience

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:


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  • ColonelKc - May 28, 2011 12:19 a.m.

    Agreed, these are things games should have regardless of age...
  • TriforcePlayer - May 28, 2011 12:20 a.m.

    What Matthew Keast wants from games.
  • p0wnd - May 28, 2011 12:23 a.m.

    I hardly see Portal 2 as a good example of as it was mainly played by children and could be comprehended by a frog thats been hit with a sack of batteries. And hav u seen dem virtual boobs? Only reason I buy games now.
  • dphoenix192 - May 28, 2011 12:28 a.m.

    Although I agree with you on most/all of these things, the last one would be quite weird to implement for most games you are probably thinking about. Most of these games are rated mature so in theory the people playing them should be over 17, but thats not going to be true, and it would be weird if the game is for people over 17, yet they have a separate online system for people under 17. The press would have a field day with that. I could see the headlines "Game Developers promoting adult games to children"
  • hellodesdemona - May 28, 2011 12:29 a.m.

    Great article. Mandatory reading for developers out there.
  • Moondoggie1157 - May 28, 2011 12:32 a.m.

    In a perfect world... *Sigh*
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - May 28, 2011 12:45 a.m.

    Damnnn I love features Matt writes, so long, thoughtful and above all good reads.
  • RedHarlow - May 28, 2011 12:47 a.m.

    Hear, Hear! Great article. Send multiple copies to every game dev!
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - May 28, 2011 12:53 a.m.

    I would just like to say that even though I'm 16, I don't feel like I know everything. Also, my gamer friends and I have intelligent conversations about games and other things (mostly games). All I'm trying to say is, not all the people under 18 are stupid dumbass pricks. Great article though, I agree with pretty much everthing.
  • FauxFurry - May 28, 2011 1:07 a.m.

    This article makes me think of some of the forum topics that have been popping up at The Escapist, particularly one asking adult gamers if they would be willing to pay extra to ensure a child-free atmosphere, at least for M-rated games. I'm guessing that Keast here would vote Yes. Most of this article I agree with, more or less. A few of these, I want something slightly different from but not by much. On the topic of violence, what I want is Specific Violence rather than the generalized violence against faceless masses which is really just killing time (which is supposed to be on our side. This ally killing will not stand!), somthing adult gamers don't have a lot of in the first place. Two of these items, namely the Nudity related one and the non-sexist portrayals of women are very much interconnected. If women's bodies were viewed as nothing any more offensive or sacred than a man's body, you wouldn't have artists in various media constantly obsessing on designing costumes that get as close to showing body parts that are regularly shown on their male counterparts without getting around to showing it, no matter how badly that makes their costumes clash with everyone else's costumes. That 'carrot on a stick' (or should that be melons in a sack?)/imminent wardrobe malfunction-tease approach to female character designs is played out. The idea that having more fat and glandular activity in one part of the body make it off-limits is a profoundly immature idea in and of itself. Once the female body is demystified enough, you'll likely see a lot more diversity in female character models, at least as much as there usually is in male models in any given genre. If a game could turn out to be as mature about 'nudity' as Kirikou and the Sorceress (and have the same diversity of character body types), I would be pleasantly surprised. Hand-holding is necessary to an extent when things such as context sensitive button presses, sensitive movements on the analog stick (what new gamer knows to lightly press the analog stick rather than push it all of the way? Every other button or lever in their levers either works or it doesn't save a gear shifter. Who expects a game control stick to be the same as a gear stick without being told about it?!) and analog sticks being used as buttons. I recall being somewhat confused for a bit when the R3 button was mentioned in Grand Theft Auto 3. If games don't have a new player friendly tutorial, then game systems should have a built-in tech demo (or free down loadable game) game that goes over every possible control method for a game on that system. After that, they will know enough to be able to guess which control scheme the game is going with.
  • juicenpancakes - May 28, 2011 1:30 a.m.

    I'm actually optimistic that these things will all slowly creep their way into games. As far as being a form of media, games are still in its relative adolescence and are consistently growing. I do not have a doom-and-gloom outlook regarding the future of games (as many do), but a genuinely bright future. And it all begins with the guidance of Keast.
  • NEVEC12 - May 28, 2011 1:35 a.m.

    Oh look a grown man complaining about everything. Deal with it
  • TheHungryLemur - May 28, 2011 1:41 a.m.

    The funny thing is, I'm 13, and I can agree with pretty much all of these points!
  • Markoose16 - May 28, 2011 1:43 a.m.

    I agree with a lot of this. The game that showed me how bad developers can be at misjudging their audience is Fable 3 (and 2 as well). The game is rated M or 16+ but the developers seem to think we're brain dead. If your game is rated 16+ why on earth are they making it playable for 5 year olds? I know how a map works so give me a map not a 'golden bread crumb trail' or a 3D representation of the area which actually makes the game harder to navigate. The humour is good and one of the few games that can make me laugh (those damn gnomes every time) but when I played it I felt I should be sat there with drool falling from my mouth whilst someone mopped this piss from the floor around me.
  • Daruniah - May 28, 2011 1:52 a.m.

    Weird, I justed started playing Psychonauts yesterday. Also, these points seem to be less geared toward adults than to all gamers. At least the last half of the points do.
  • mackshizzle - May 28, 2011 1:54 a.m.

    I always viewed video games as a child's medium, kinda like toys. When you got older and realized your action figure was childish, did you send a letter to the company and complain to make it more suitable for an adult? If you still play them and collect them, fine. But don't expect things to change just because you do. I honestly don't think the industry was meant to support 30 something year old guys who couldn't put down the Super Nintendo controller back in the day.
  • Genericide - May 28, 2011 2:16 a.m.

    @ mackshizzle: I would argue that the metaphor is not at all comparable, considering that actions figures are pieces of plastic and 'video games' covers an entire medium of expression, same as movies or books. Of course, video games as toys for children are certainly not something that has to go away, but I see no reason why we cannot also have more mature games as well. I don't agree wholeheartedly with all of the points on this list, but they all have a least a hint of truth to them. Well said.
  • JohnnyBullet - May 28, 2011 2:26 a.m.

    What a great article. Developers everywhere PLEASE TAKE NOTE!!
  • AirickG - May 28, 2011 2:27 a.m.

    So I understand that because I'm 17 my words don't mean jack shit for another month, but I would like to say that this is an amazing article! Good Job PS: Why the HELL hasn't there been parental control options in games? Is it really that difficult?
  • Mfchimichanga - May 28, 2011 2:40 a.m.

    Cmon Im 15 and I don't laugh at boobs or gauff at exploding heads, given that I do enjoy a boob here and there and exploding heads, I do so in a mature matter. Not digging the generalizations here ):< but I agree that violence doesn't equal gameplay however violence does come with the territory of certain games and violence does wonders for gameplay..

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