Stop making me learn: I don’t have the time or the will

Saturday, 1 October 2011 13:54 GMT By Mike

Mike Bowden has fallen out of love with games: he’s bored of learning maps and button routines, and he has a life. Is core gaming refusing to evolve? Has the time-pressed family man been alienated for good?

My youth was mainly filled with button combinations, tricky pad movements, infinite lives, and game maps being imprinted on my mind to the extent where I could almost draw them myself. Fast forward twenty or thirty years and we’re pretty much still there, and it’s moribund. Granted, it’s all wrapped up in pretty colours and some incredible DOF, but it’s the same-old, same-old.

I don’t like games. I want to, but I can’t. I think they’re pretty mundane and essentially repetitive, and thus boring. A traditional video game, as I see it, forces the player into thinking how it wants to think, behaving how it wants you to behave, reacting how it wants to you react. The better you get at it, the more it throws obstacles in your path – ones that don’t change the algorithm entirely, but gives the gamer a perceived change of direction and perhaps pace. However, all you’re being given yet another pattern to learn by what can only be described (by me) as tedious trial and error.

Of course, the patterns and pixels can be beautifully woven and aesthetically adroit; but for me, doing the classic video game strategy of repeating the same thing over and over in order to slightly improve on your last run is boring. It’s now a system I’ve so fallen out of love with I simply refuse to play. Puzzle games, driving games, strategy, fighters, shooters: all fun for five minutes until the game demands that in order to progress you must “learn it.” Thanks, but I’m 36 next month; family, work, responsibility – I simply don’t have the time.

The Wonder Years

Now, when I were a lad – all fields, etc – this was all good in my local hood. Everyone wanted the latest Japanese finger twister and the highscore war amongst schoolmates made getting up in the morning less of a chore.

In fact, back then, nothing gave you freedom of choice except for Braben’s bombastic Elite: a game that shone so brightly in 1984 on the BBC it’s almost impossible to describe. Finally a game asked, “Where do you want go, and how do you want to get there?” Why this hasn’t been touched up and whacked on XBLA/PSN is beyond me. As Jean-Luc would say, “Make it so.”

My youth was mainly filled with button combinations, tricky pad movements, infinite lives, and game maps being imprinted on my mind to the extent where I could almost draw them myself. Fast forward twenty or thirty years and we’re pretty much still there, and it’s moribund. Granted, it’s all wrapped up in pretty colours and some incredible DOF, but it’s the same-old, same-old.

Multiplayer

In today’s market, online gaming is the new focus. I can’t stand it. Why? Yet again, if you want to really compete you have to – you guessed it – learn the maps. I can’t think of anything more mundane than trying to get my brain to learn spawn-points, secret passages, nooks, crannies and weapon locations. In fact, just writing it pisses me off. Why does anyone find this entertaining? Why does “being the best” equate to the amount of time you plug into something? I know that sounds like the most naïve sentence in history, but surely multiplayer games are skewed from the outset? I’m never going to be able to go back to my heady teenage days of playing Championship Manager for 68 hours straight (polishes loser badge) living only on some funny smelling tobacco, tea and baked beans on toast. By that token, I’m never going to be able to compete with anyone who has remotely that kind of time available to them.

So why bother? Sure, I can garner a few hours’ worth of enjoyment from it, but soon I’ll hit the inevitable ceiling, get frustrated and turn it off.

The sooner single-player and multiplayer elements of games are sold separately, the better.

The Fabled future

In Cliff Blezinski’s recent interview with VG247, he said: “The graphics aren’t good enough yet, goddammit. And anybody who says they are is full of shit.”

Basically meaning that, as far as Epic is concerned, the next next-gen will, once again, be about wrapping up more things for you to learn in even prettier packages.

I don’t want to learn anymore; I want to experience.

I’m aware of The Witcher, the BioWare games and a few others in between, but there’s not enough variation, and sooner or later they turn into a ‘game’. I know I sound like Peter Molyneux peddling Fable, but I find the older I get the more I agree with him. I want to be transported into a world whereby my behavior, my actions and reactions define my experience. I want the game to respond to me. I want to be able to feel like I’m great at something not by being able to compare my score, but by my accruing in-game abilities. I don’t want to be dictated to. I don’t want boss-fights as chapter markers. I don’t want faster, and I don’t want my reflexes tested – I want to be tested. Me.

I dunno, maybe I just don’t like games any more. But I want to.

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