Shadow of Chore-dor
Variety may be the spice of life, but some folks truly do like it mild - one player's fun is another's ulcer-inducing tedium. The likes of EVE Online may seem needlessly stuffy to some, but to its scores of fans around the world, this strategy-heavy space sim is naught short of a bureaucratic bonanza. Likewise Call of Duty. Where some see the pinnacle of adrenaline pumping gunplay, others observe a shallow and increasingly weary formula. 'Different strokes for different folks', 'to each their own' and all that. Making the case for why certain popular brands are bland, while others represent the height of adventure, is a biased, ultimately fruitless endeavour. But individual game mechanics? Well now we're talking.
Video games are no stranger to the insufferable chore, the poorly planned challenge or the stifling distraction. Whether by ill luck or lazy direction, these kinds of monotonous tasks turn up with alarming regularity. Today's big list of stuff takes a good hard look at some of these ruinous errands, before figuratively falling to its knees, raising up its arms and screaming "Why, Lord!? Why have you forsaken me!!". Enjoy
Dragging/ hiding bodies
Whatever happened to 'painting the town red', to tiling the aisles with scores of the dead? Nowadays it's all 'hide this', and 'drag that', 'sneak over here', and 'duck under there'. There was a time, not so long ago, when most missions bore an uncanny resemblance to Call of Duty's own 'No Russian', as waves upon waves of oblivious enemies lined up like lambs to the slaughter. Mere targets in a shooting gallery they were, oblivious to their buddy's blood curdling screams and the ever-expanding stack of cadavers piled high in the corner. Bless those poor, dumb digital fools, they made life so much simpler.
Today's gaming enemies are a different breed entirely. For instance, most of them will no longer fall for the old 'strawberry jam food fight' line. That right there is a massacre, and they bloody well know it. So how do we stop said troopers from discovering their chums? Why, by hiding them of course! By sloooowly grabbing and dragging and hiding them. Sure, it might not sound so bad at first, but just imagine repeating said section over and over again. Congrats, you're now a virtual removal man. "Just put it over there mate, by the 18 dead henchmen".
Compulsory 'scavenger hunts'
Rocky Balboa may have pursued poultry with the best of them, but even he'd have a hard time contemplating some of gaming's wildest goose chases. 600 sets of this, a thousand shards of that - video games delight in scattering their lamest wares all throughout the land - ostensibly to encourage exploration, but also to pad out the experience. Where most titles are wise enough to feature these 'scavenger hunts' as purely optional excursions, some bloody-minded types continue to utilise them as mainline objectives.
Consider Mass Effect's super-tedious resource gathering. While not truly compulsory, the penalties for ignoring it can prove particularly galling. Activities like this one can easily transform a rollicking good time into a shopping list surrogate. It turns out that lopping off 18 witch heads and wiping out 10 nests of plasma dragons is the new 'browsing the cereal aisle'. Gee thanks games. I'll never know excitement again.
Managing an inventory is a lot like playing buckaroo, except in this instance the donkey is you. But while the plastic buck bolts at the first sign of excessive weight, video game icons are much more likely to trudge on regardless, crushed ankles or no - shattered spines be damned! One tiny milligram too many and it's hello zimmer frame, goodbye Sunday football. The real trouble comes with knowing just which items to keep. Which troll skull will fetch the highest price? Is it worth my while to trade this fancy tome? Has the bottom really fallen out of the orcish genital market?
From dashing rogue to obsessive collector, the limitations of inventory can often provoke painful hoarding headaches. "Will I need this nondescript item later?". "Can I make do with just a dozen baboon hearts?". Resident Evil 4 had the right idea, turning bloated busywork into an effective mini-game all its own, so why are we still encountering titles that force us to crawl home, dump our valuables, and spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling through barely concealed spreadsheets? Welcome to the Skyrim postal service - 'Drudgery delivered'.
Completing lame/ uninspired puzzles
When it comes to video game design, establishing a killer mechanic is only half the battle. You see, in order to get the very best out of that swanky new system you'll also need to know when not to use it. By depending on one key feature, developers run the risk of overexposing it, thereby ruining its innate charm. You need diversions, asides, an occasional change of pace. Some games achieve this by inventing a second, equally polished play style, while others deign to dip into the industry's well-worn bag of tricks. One of the most popular of which is the 'set-piece puzzle'.
Done well, these mere diversions can blossom into a worthwhile experience all their own. Implemented poorly however, they can drive a figurative ice pick straight through your pleasure centres. Main offenders tend to show up with no regard as to a title's logic or atmosphere, forcing you to engage in a bland guessing game in order to get back to the good stuff. It's a bit like finding a dead rat in a fajita. It may make the meal bigger, but you damn sure won't be back for seconds
Enduring the same dialogue chain over and over again
Catchphrases! Everybody enjoys a good catchphrase. Some witty slogan, pithy comment or blithe remark, scrunched up and tossed into our collective psyches like a burning ball of napalm. You might be forgiven for thinking that they all originate with advertisers, but the truth of the matter is, it's all chance and repetition. As an experiment, try rewinding a tv show four or five times. Simply pick out a piece of dialogue and replay it every five seconds. Is it starting to sound like a catchphrase yet? Good. Familiarity can be a blast, though it often leads to contempt.
The same is true of scripted video game sequences. Sadly, some titles still insist on setting their checkpoints prior to an unskippable dialogue exchange. Maybe not a conventional cutscene - most devs know not to do that - but a 'real-time conversation', the kind that might occur between two oblivious henchman. First time through it's informative, then maybe even amusing. And by the third or fourth attempt, their earnest regurgitation will start to become outright funny. By the 18th round, however, you'll be positively begging for a power cut. In essence, the game has coined a new catchphrase - and it's all too happy to troll you with it.
Is there anything more irksome than replenishing a rifle in the midst of a massive battle? Its the combat equivalent of squatting down to re-tie your own laces, only without all of that 'sporting conduct' crap to stop the other team from blasting you into oblivion. Of all the chores on this list, this entry makes perhaps the most conventional sense. After all, how else are we to believe that our weapons just keep on going? "It's super-duper realistic, dude, you can't just fire on forever!". Well to that I say - what about fantasy titles? Why does plasma, or better yet, magic, need the occasional top up? Hell, if it's realism you're after why not include the other necessities of modern warfare, like cleaning up and maintaining your rifle, dealing with jams, and pooing in a ditch?
Sure, reloading has its place in gaming - it can create tense standoffs and promote second-to-second strategy, but that doesn't mean it has to be in there. Frankly, it can all be a little aggravating, especially when the folks around you are swapping out clips like a set of obsessive-compulsive bean counters. Just let me be like Rambo, damn it!
As surely as if this were a how-to guide to nightclub douchebaggery, grinding was always going to appear on this list. However, in the interests of sparing you all yet another 'grinding = lame' thinkpiece, I've decided to set my sights on a slightly more specific type of grind. That's because even the most mundane of monster slaughtering objectives i.e. 'butcher these 16 cow-sharks', is infinitely more enjoyable than the kind of stat boosting blandness that pervades the average 'RPG-lite'. Take the sports genre for instance, with its seasons-spanning career modes, merrily thrusting players into the shoes of some aspiring Messi, Mayweather or Michael Jordan.
These guys made it to the top only after years of hard graft, and so, it seems, will you. That's because the vast majority of these titles singularly fail to find the fun within training. Instead you're presented with a series of one-note skill games designed to advance one stat or the other. It could work, and sometimes does, though seldom for the entirety of an in-game career. Of course, attaining physical perfection is never easy, but mimicking it from the comfort of your cheese-encrusted sofa? That really shouldn't be such a chore.
Travelling long distances
There's a reason most folks will gladly commit in-game suicide rather than endure a long and dreary walk back home. You see, the bigger games get, the harder it becomes for developers to fill up those vast and empty landscapes. And while it's certainly true that some titles perform admirably in this regard, no amount of shelters or minor points of interest can change the fact that there's still a whole lot of walking to be done. And while fast-travel mechanics can alleviate most of these issues, the player will still likely endure many an unwanted trek in the time it takes for them to become available.
Far from remedying the issue, the availability of horses and/or vehicles can also prompt some developers to expand the size of their settings, so as to make best use of these comparative speed machines. In the end however, the journey still takes the same amount of time to complete, except now losing that ride of yours means jogging home like the forgotten friend on a night out. When you said 'video game marathon', this isnt what I had in mind.
Man, that was a painful to get through, huh? It's almost as if the writer made it purposefully difficult to read Like wading through treacle, while wearing a set of Forrest Gump leg braces and tethered to a bungee cord. Ah well. To suggest some horrifically tedious challenges of your own, head on down to the comments section below. Alternatively, just keep on living your life.
But if you're entirely not worn out from all of that, why not bravely limp along to a couple more features? If you want to make yourself feel better by leering at some poor bastards doing even more thankless tasks, check out Solid Snake doing mundane, unexciting jobs (opens in new tab) and 10 great games based on 10 awful jobs. Ciao for now. (opens in new tab)