Used Games: The Good, The Bad, The Pissed Off

We’re nearly broke because of used games…our designs are flawless. Dead Space 3 is Just Dead Space

dead-space-3 aliens that need hugs - all that gaming stuff

Maybe creating a good game is hard. Maybe that is why there are so many sequels and absence of ideas in game land. Maybe that is also exactly WHY some game developers forget they are making a game, which by definition is expected to be fun and entertaining, amusing, or at least not a “anger generator device” filled with repetition, like I’ve found in Dead Space 3.

And yet, I am obviously not the only one with this perception:

But I don’t conclusively submit to the overall depression or concept either. Games seem to try and tow a line: length, expense, graphical look, sound, feel, rule set, gameplay, concept, and telling of a story. From what games once were, long, long ago, that is in some ways an achievement, as playing a game of Go or Checkers didn’t exactly have a backstory, backdrop or exciting set pieces to make play more interesting. Probably just some rocks dropped into the sand with some mosquitoes buzzing overhead, originally. Not exactly heart pounding.

And yet, whenever I get to the truly frustrating parts of a modern game, I briefly want to go to the workplace those folks create the game at and express my sour opinions with a crowbar on their car. You know, just to make my point really clear. “Are ye feelin’ me? Do you hear me NOW?” I think you get the general drift.

I can forgive a lot of problems and errors, because after all, a game is just code. A massive sequence of numbers, of little 0’s and 1’s all chained together to make something (supposedly!) fun. And yet, developers seem to fall upon their successes and make them into washed out has-been tropes; taking the vilest of bad habits – converting them into boredom dragging, time wasting, life consuming, energy draining standards. Standards, because they get repeated time and again to drag a game out and make gameplay “last a little longer.” In my world, we call that LAZY. But company management just seems to just see it as ‘a day at work’.


So. Dead Space 3 is just another example of this. If you play it because you know there isn’t a huge pile of co-op games out there to play, you might enjoy yourself. But, if you have played quite a few games before, you will likely get weary of the tropes of “ok, you have 5 seconds from the cut scene to find the right path or die. RUN!” (Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail…) Because repeated failing is really very, very FUN. And everyone but you obviously knows it.

The ending of Dead Space 3 takes this idea and elaborates upon it with all the resources a developer can manage. You die because you stood too long. You die because you stepped on a “monster land mine”. You die because you were slow. You die because you need to not stop running for any reason (despite the monsters, path blocks, ‘instant death landmines,’ low everything, etc.) You die because…well, randomly – you need to die, because, after all – it is the “big finish”.dead-space-3-stuff

Yet, it is really no different than so many others I have played, that pull this same type of crap out of a hat. And really, after failing the same thing 25 or 35 times, Dead Space 3 and other similar games stop being fun and becomes boring, from boring to making one angry, from angry to quitting in frustration and selling the game for used. I mean, in hopes that other developers don’t do the same exact thing. Am I the only one who experiences this? I doubt it. But, we get punished because we are not ultra hard-core players that are employed as game testers, or so completely beat down in life that any microscopic crumb of entertainment will make us gleeful.

I suspect the dynamic exists due to the ‘potential death represents excitement’ (with rapid reloads = failure) aspect, which many developers have translated into higher difficulties merely to make sections of a game drag on. For me, it’s artificial time extension, and likely why the advertising says “100 hours of pulse pounding gameplay!!!” Yeah. Because you wasted 75 of those hours making repeated tries at a insanely difficult section, and are now so freaking angry you are actually feeling lucky NOT to own a physical weapon in your home. But hey, it’s our own fault because we have feelings. And it’s also our fault because we didn’t read enough negative reviews of “Time Killer – adventure into space” (or whatever).

But, I am probably wasting my time here. Managers don’t learn and they don’t read. I had one once that said “A monkey could do your job,”  which I found amusing, as a intellectually challenged monkey was doing his. I doubt that games will change in this aspect, because it’s just another cheap way out. Many games are done in the ways they are because it is a cheap way to do it, and roll the money into a larger amount. It is a “for profit” business after all.

Making a game with violence is easier than games that make you think, and ‘more exciting’ (read: “higher sales”) just as crappy, thoughtless solutions are. If we look back into our distant past, we will see that people during the American Civil War had better writing skills than we do. Better handwriting, better printing, better poetry, better storytelling ability, all the way around. What is now a college degree used to be 9th grade.

As modern people we often brag because we have so much knowledge at our “futuristic” disposal. It doesn’t mean we actually know it or are the master of it. Mastery is what games used to be about – easy to learn, difficult to master. Our modern gaming rule sets are often complicated like our laws. The game is often somewhat difficult to learn, and the rest is just reaction and muscle response. Mastery isn’t even in our vocabulary. Maybe there are those who have mastered the technical aspects of game making or playing, but there certainly is a lot more to a great game than that.

But, I am grateful for games with monsters, because I can go hunting and no animals (or space monsters, as they are a figment) ever actually get hurt. Although I do wish sometimes there were “monster benches” in games where I could take the developers’ faces and put it on the monsters, just to relieve my frustrations…

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