Once a niche hobby relegated to basements filled with sweaty people, video games have now exploded into mainstream culture. You can’t fly on a plane or ride a bus without seeing one kid playing “Pokemon,” a businessman playing “Angry Birds” and an old man thinking he’s playing “Solitaire” but is really just dragging his finger on the window.
While the medium has certainly expanded in the past decade, there are many tropes of video games that have remained relatively untouched. We can have graphics with a million pixels per square inch and a tongue mount that allows me to taste the lead as the bullets pierce my virtual soldier’s mouth hole, but a game just won’t be fun if it keeps these tired mechanics. I’m talking about things like:
1) The Tailing Mission
Culprits: “Grand Theft Auto,” “Sleeping Dogs,” “Mafia,” “Saint’s Row”
The beauty of the sandbox game genre is that the world is your oyster. You want to murder a prostitute? Who wouldn’t? You want to drive a burning car straight into an orphanage while wearing a bathrobe? Join the club. However, this makes it infinitely more frustrating when you have to follow the rules. Enter the tailing mission.
The setup is usually the same: some wise-guy is meeting with a rival gang or whatever and you have to follow him in your car. If you go too close to their car, you lose. If you go too far away from their car, you lose. If you crash into a car, you lose.
While 90% of the game is going balls-to-the-wall, emptying clip after clip of ammo and speeding around town, this part involves following traffic laws and being a good citizen. What is the fun in that? I’m not saying games necessarily have to be crazy violent all the time, but if I wanted to do the tailing mission I might as well drive in a circle around a residential neighborhood. Video games are for me to have experiences outside of reality. Being stuck in traffic is about the most realistic thing I can think of.
2) Regenerating Health
Culprits: 99% of first person shooters
Death is important in video games. How are you supposed to get the hint that you are terrible at a video game unless you die a lot? Consequently, how are you supposed to feel like a total boss without opponents truly feeling your wrath? That’s why it is disheartening when you can instantly heal from a shotgun blast to the chest by crouching behind a wall and breathing for a few seconds.
I recently purchased “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” (an awesome game by the way) and the great thing about that game is that death really means something. If you die in a round, that is it. You want to keep playing? Wait around for all of the other players to die and you can come in again the next playthrough. The losers are more infuriated and motivated to alter their strategy to do better while the winners get more satisfaction from their superior skill. Everyone wins. Well, except the losers. Those guys obviously suck.
3) Save Points
Culprits: “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword,” “Dead Rising 2,” “Dead Space 2”
Gamers had this problem in 1982, and they are continuing to have this problem in 2012. You’re playing your game, having a grand ol’ time, until you have to leave. But you can’t. You haven’t found a save point yet. So you rush furiously through the level, checking the clock incessantly just so you can save your precious progress for a later time. Eventually you give up looking, toss the controller like a bad habit with your Cheeto dust-laced fingers and just leave the console on while you’re gone. Will your progress up to that point be there when you get back? Who knows.
Save points are a relic of a bygone era where memory space was precious. We no longer have that problem, and yet save points are still prevalent. Some developers think these make their game harder. No, they just make them more annoying. So maybe next time I see a game that has save points I will just SAVE some money and not buy that game. Ha! Yes, I get paid to do this.