29 March 2008

Are we too lazy to play difficult games?

I was reading back issues of The Escapist when I ran across a well-written article entitled The Slow Death of the Game Over. The author gave a brief history of how the save system in video games has changed over the years. He also suggested that players might be spoiled by the ample save points that have been programmed into today's games. Go read it and see what you think.

I will admit that one reason I stopped playing console games when I was a teenager was because I died so easily. The dexterity necessary to get through platformers like the old Super Mario games came more naturally to my siblings so I got edged out of my time on the Nintendo. By the time I was out on my own and didn't have to compete with them, I owned a computer and had moved on to adventure games which allowed me to save frequently.

The author of the article mentioned that in the early days, difficult levels were put into arcade games for economic reasons. If you keep dying, you will keep plugging quarters into the game. I believe that current games also have liberal save systems for economic reasons. If I pay $50 for a game, I want to get to see the cool bits. If I keep dying before I get off the first level, I am going to be angry that I spent the money and I won't recommend that game to anyone.

Today's console games are more similar to the old adventure games. Instead 100 levels of basically the same action, the console games now have a story. The games aren't always as linear as they used to be. There may be one correct path to victory, but some games don't stop you if you go in the wrong direction. In this type of game, it is rather boring to keep repeating the same section over and over. It's like watching the same TV episode again and again within a short period of time. It may be considered lazy, but I'd rather be able to create a save point so I can go directly back to the spot where I messed up instead of redoing everything before it.

I read about a game called Tex Murphy: Overseer that had two modes, Entertainment and Gamer. In Entertainment mode, there were hints available and the player could skip certain puzzles. In Gamer mode, there were no hints and bonus points were given for speed in solving puzzles. If more games could incorporate something like this and publicize the heck out of it, then I think publishers could get money out of the people who are currently sticking to casual games.

I don't think that current gamers are lazy, but I do think we may want something different than gamers did in the past. Some people want to feel like they've accomplished something when they play a game, but I just want to be entertained. A walkthrough and a liberal save system are my friends!

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