How modern gaming has made us into wimpy gamers

Bosses who don't reset their health when you die

Bosses used to be something to be feared. Towering, all-conquering bastards of untold destruction who we had to earn bitter victory over every single time. Defeating one of those behemoths not only improved our gaming skills ready for the onslaught of the next, more difficult level, but also served as great character-building, both in-game and in the real world. Beating a boss made us feel like we and our on-screen hero had gone through a rite of passage together, and it was also an important tool in pacing the increasing difficulty of a game.

But to modern bosses, we pose only one simple question: What are you the boss of, exactly? Because it must be a pretty piss-weak organisation if a being of ever-degrading health and non-existing sense of self-preservation has limp-wristedly wrestled control of it. Far from giving us reason to man up and hone our fighting abilities, bosses are often now impossible not to beat on the first go. We don't need skills any more, we just need to have a spare ten minutes and no problem with back-tracking a few feet. We die, we restart, get back to the boss, and we find that although we now have full energy, he's spent the intervening time absent-mindedly perusing the texture quality of the surrounding architecture and is in exactly the same beaten-down state we left him in. It's about attrition, not ability. It says a lot when the button you'll use most frequently in a boss fight is Start.

Cut-scenes that do the fighting for us

And half the time we spend battling the malnourished-kitten styles of these bosses of not-much-in-particular, we're not actually fighting them at all! We're just watching them die while pressing the occasional button. It's about as challenging as switching a life-support system off.

It used to be that the introduction of a boss was a terrifying and awe-inspiring affair. "Holy shit!", we used to exclaim, "You expect me to fight that!?" Well not any more they don't. The scarier the boss, the more likely it is that its introductory cut-scene will involve it falling down a hole, getting auto-killed by your character, or just becoming bored and buggering off somewhere else with only a vague notion of returning at some later point in the game. And even if we do have to do the fighting ourselves, all too often the fight will boil down to landing a few easy hits, moving in close as said boss reels and cries like a chronically depressed dandelion in a gale, and then hammering two or three inputs as instructed on-screen to trigger an effortless kill.

Check-points and quick-saves

Has a marathon runner really run a marathon if he completes the course over fifty-two days, doing half a mile every day? No. No he has not. If that were the case, then the Radar staff could count ourselves as endurance athletes just for doing the walk to work every day. And endurance athletes we certainly are not.

Anyone can be good in short bursts. It's consistency that really counts. Anyone who started gaming back in the early days of cassette tapes and 8-bit cartridges knows what commitment really means. Hard-drives and memory cards have killed our dedication.

Scalable AI

If a batter isn't doing too well in a game of baseball, does the bat quadruple in size and the ball fill up with helium to allow for bigger hits? Does the adjudicators of school tests lower the pass mark for stupid kids so that everyone can get an A? And does, in fact, the rain stop falling if you find yourself outside without an umbrella? The answer to all of these questions is of course a resounding "No". The reason? Because if any of those things happened, it would be bloody ridiculous, it would remove all elements of achievement and self-improvement from life, and no-one would ever learn anything from anything. Much like what scalable AI does, then.

And to add insult to even bigger, more annoying insult, this insidious process of adapting game difficulty according to the player's skill actually provides an incentive for being shit. Finding things difficult? Just stand still, take a beating, and the world will go easy on you. What kind of a life lesson is that?

Abandon hope all ye that enter here...

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