Ever think about the way you play games these days? By that, I mean the way you approach games, how you feel about tutorials, guides or FAQs, and how easy it is to go back to older games. Do you ever wonder if we are being coddled? Are games actually considered “easier,” or is it just another way of saying they are easier for others to jump into? Are in-game tutorials just a way for developers to compensate for the potential new and complex mechanics in games? These mechanics may not be complex for us, as people who grew up with (or at least have a decent amount of experience with) games, but they might be for those with a desire to start playing now.
Recently, an image went around depicting people posting on the Miiverse Communtiy for the Wii U version of Super Metroid. It was easy to laugh at it. These people were asking questions about how to get past things that, to us, are probably completely obvious. Maybe we’ve played the game so much that we know it front to back, or maybe we grew up in an era when people who played games weren’t concerned about hand-holding. It’s hard to say, but if a system like Miiverse was in place for Super Metroid back when it came out, would we be seeing the same questions asked?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: games are an evolving medium. For the industry to grow, developers need to adapt their games or create entirely new games for audiences that didn’t grow up playing Super Metroid. This is why iOS and Android games are so popular. This is why Call of Duty, despite being an immensely popular franchise, still features basic tutorials to teach people how to play. You pick up a controller and it feels natural to some people, but there are other people who have never held a controller and want to learn.
Yes, game tutorials can be annoying. They tend to over-explain the most basic facets of any game that we already know. No, Assassin’s Creed III didn’t need to teach me things I’ve known since the original. Forced tutorials can drag an experience down, especially if they are stretched throughout a game’s experience. I love Grand Theft Auto IV, but that game is still teaching you stuff after playing for over ten hours. There are a lot of games that either incorporate tutorials skillfully or make them entirely skippable for those who don’t feel the need to go through then. It’s a necessary evil, unfortunately, but it can be handled better.
Even as someone who grew up playing games, I still tend to get stuck on the dumbest things. It seems possible that games have made me less patient. If I played Super Metroid , or any other Metroid game for the first time, I might find myself in a similar situation. I probably wouldn’t turn to Miiverse for help, but I’m not ashamed to open a guide and see what I’m doing wrong or what I’m missing. Figuring things out on your own is rewarding, but games have taught me to value my time as much as they have taught me to teach myself.
This is why I gave up on Demon’s Souls when I first played it. I bought the game at launch, and was completely ready to take on what many considered to be one of the most challenging games in quite some time. I knew there was a good chance it would turn me away, but if I could at least understand why it did, I would feel like I gave it a fair chance. It wasn’t a lack of patience or skill; it was my desire to not spend time with a game from which I knew I wouldn’t get any enjoyment. I didn’t require instant gratification, but what that game represented was not what I personally get out of games. And after spending a few hours in that world, I turned it off, never to return to it again.
What does that say about me? If I gave myself the time to play through that game, I think I could do it. It would take me a long time, and there would be moments when I felt like giving up was the preferable option, but I could do it. I just don’t want to. It speaks to this medium as a whole that I can have a satisfying experience with a game that has little challenge the same way someone gets satisfaction from conquering Demon’s Souls. Games haven’t devolved or changed for the worst; they’ve expanded even more than you can ever imagine.
I can look at someone having an enjoyable time while playing Demon’s Souls, and then see someone else playing Angry Birds on their phone getting the same level of enjoyment. The differences speak for themselves, but one does not preclude the other. Maybe games are easier these days, but games like Demon’s Souls exist for those searching for them. Why do some people need to be punished for playing games one way, or playing certain kinds of games? When did we become so mean-spirited about our hobby that it becomes something that only we can enjoy? It’s not just for us, it’s for everyone.
Jennifer Hepler is a writer for BioWare who came out and said that she would love games that allowed you to skip or “fast-forward” combat in action-RPGs. She wanted a game experience that let her focus on the story and character interactions. To put it mildly, she was scorned for it by gamers everywhere. You probably know the story by now, so I’ll get to the point. There is a problem when the mere mention of easier modes in games or modes that allow you to play games one way instead of the way “most” people play is considered a bad thing. Some games aren’t designed that way, sure, but not every person who plays games is looking for the same thing.
When I play a game and get frustrated and need to look at a guide of some kind, or go to my peers for help with something that many might consider obvious, what am I doing wrong? Nothing at all. I don’t play games to be frustrated, and if it does happen, I want to alleviate that however I can. Some people can’t accept this. Some grow up with the mentality that gaming being “streamlined” in any way is bad for the industry. It’s not bad for the industry and it’s not bad for you either. You aren’t being pushed to the side. You have games that suit your needs and you don’t need every game to do so.
Take a close look at who you are, how you play games and how you interact with others who share your hobby, and you’ll find out quickly which games are and aren’t for you. The games that aren’t for you will continue to exist, and the people that play them aren’t necessarily out to destroy what you love just because their experience is different. There is no malicious intent, I promise.
Those people asking questions about Super Metroid may be impatient, or maybe they haven’t played many games before. Again, laughing is fine; it’s easy to see what’s funny about it. At the same time, simple jokes and laughing at their expense can lead to something else entirely. I’ve probably been doing nothing but stating the obvious at this point, but sometimes people tend to forget the most basic things when they feel strongly about their hobbies.
There are ways in which we can improve the way people get into games. Tutorials need work, as stated before, but stuff like Miiverse is an interesting approach to a message board that is directly connected to the game you are playing. But as these things are constantly changed and tinkered with, it’s smart to remember that everyone approaches the medium from a different perspective. Games are being streamlined in many ways, but the ways in which you personally play games will always be viable.