Video Games Aren’t Boring, You Just Buy Boring Ones

It’s that time of the year again when Video Games Are Bad, the latest argument being Video Games Are Boring, a piece I won’t critique too hard for fear of sounding rather mean. I don’t really mean this as a response to Brie in particular, but this mindset I keep seeing pop up. This just makes a nice catalyst.

But there’s one thing I have to pull apart here first. In their effort to introduce “non-gaming” friends into “gaming” the started with Journey (reasonable), then when Journey was too violent they eventually turned to suggesting Skyrim (I’m sorry what?!).

I know a lot of gamers can’t really imagine Journey being “violent”, but there are things that attack you. That’s scary. Not everyone wants scary. Not everyone wants adversity, especially for their very first experience. It’s a bit hard to emphasize with that if you started gaming in the 8-16 bit eras like myself, but if you step back, it’s not hard to find games less violent than Journey (AbyssRium, Beglitched, Noby Noby Boy, and those are just games I played literally yesterday).

I really can’t ignore the absurdity of suggesting Skyrim after Journey proved to be too violent, but at the same time I totally understand it. It shows an extremely, shall I say, “Core Gamer” mindset.

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The Finer Points: Scripted Losses are Bad Game Design

I’ve ranted on Twitter a couple times about scripted losses in games, and a fair number of people still seem to think they’re pretty decent ideas, so I thought I’d get into the meat of what makes them poor design. The bottom line is they violate too many of player’s expectations in a lot of ways developers probably don’t even realize—like many issues in gaming, it’s really easy to overlook when you know what’s going on, but when you don’t, hoo boy.

Losing Sucks

So this isn’t news. But I think game devs underestimate just how a sudden loss can affect players. Allow me to tell you a story from my youth. From the ancient times, when all games were pixels, and “multiplayer” often meant taking turns in a single-character platformer or just plain ol’ watching a friend play a single player game all day.

I was playing Chrono Trigger with a friend on my Playstation, a bit late to the game. He had beaten the game on SNES before I had even played, but he didn’t want to spoil the game so I was going in fairly blind. The only RPG I had played before this was Super Mario RPG, at that same friend’s house. I never owned a copy.

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