You know what are cool? Video games! Packed full of adventure and drama, video games of all genres suck you in, treat you to a roller-coaster ride of thrills, chills and all manner of words ending with ‘-ills’.
That’s the theory anyway.
All too often even even the most engrossing and fantastical game comes with a momentary departure from the excitement in favour of the gaming equivalent of everybody’s favourite: Busy Work. It’s like walking into double Maths and finding that not only has the teacher been replaced with Jack Black but he’s going to take you all on a mad Rock n Roll adventure. First though, how many things in this room begin with the letter ‘M’? Make a crossword of it, daddy’s watching his stories.
#10 Exact movements only
Most platformers are guilty of this, as are many games with platformer elements. There you are, happily bombing along, usually caught up in the pretty colours and zany noises and suddenly splat! You fell off a mountain or what’s more probable you tried to jump between mountain A and mountain B and landed instead in bloody mess C. No matter says you, brushing yourself down, winding in your lower intestine and setting yourself up for the good old college try. Except you fall again and again and again before you realise ‘holy shit! I’m losing lives doing this.’
For some reason, probably because game developers moonlight as massive sadists, every platformer comes with ‘that jump’ requiring you to take time out from your funtime to consider the geometry of the jump before you with all the care of a Nobel physics prize winner.
So instead of racing through the levels with all the carefree joy you would expect from a platformer, you stop, line yourself up exactly, propel yourself forward with precise momentum and repeat, all the while screaming such obscenities the neighbours move house into the tourettes district to escape them.
#9 Reorganising your inventory
Ah Final Fantasy, how we enjoy your inventory system. Enter the menu, hit the ‘organise items automatically’ and enjoy as enough items to fill an IKEA warehouse jump into a sensible and structured order. Not so in most survival horrors! Suddenly the fact that you have over a hundred healing potions is an issue because we’re dealing with realism here people! Where are you going to put a hundred healing potions, your gun and a novelty chess piece?
Back in the day inventory management was simple. Your inventory consisted of six slots, an item takes up one slot. Over the years inventories have become more complex, and in so becoming comes with it that unenviable moment where, once more, you have to put the entire game on hold while you pull up your items and decide whether you can do without health or ammo for the next ten hours. Even worse is when you take time out because your inventory isn’t properly categorised and you simply must colour code your weapons. That at least has the defence of being self inflicted. Masochists the lot of you!
#8 Escort Missions
When Pandora opened her box, she unleashed all manner of evils upon the world; violence, deception, fundamentalist Christian Conservatives and somewhere in there escort missions slipped out, probably trying to shield the seven deadly sins from harm as it did.
Another staple of survival horrors, though some RPGs are guilty here too, our sadistic developers decide that it’s not enough that you are barely holding yourself together, and in fact seem to have lost an arm and a selection of teeth, to make things better we’ll let you accompany this helpless person out of your nightmarish surroundings.
Escort missions are usually the most exhausting and frustrating aspect of a video game. On the odd occasion you manage to actually protect your unwelcome charge from the opposing forces around you, you will probably end up killing them yourself. Mostly accidentally you will hit/shoot them when they decide to wander unhelpfully between you and whatever is attacking you. However, let’s be honest, most of the time they die because you kill them for doing just that. That’ll teach ’em.
I defy you to say you didn’t put C4 on Emma Emmerich’s back next to the pool of magic water. I defy you.
#7 Levelling up
Levels are pretty standard in most games and the action of levelling up is usually fairly balanced. Your opponents will either maintain an average level across the map or will level up with you as you progress. In this way the game can remain challenging even should you elect to level up considerably before advancing.
However, some games haven’t quite hit the ball into the ballpark. In some instances the ball is not in the ballpark but resting in the car park of a nearby supermarket while others aren’t even playing with a ball, so much as a brick and wondering why little Timmy’s bat broke. These are the games that not only require you to spend far more time than you’d like trying to level up, but will make it actively impossible for you to progress without an hour of so laboriously searching the same area for a random battle. All so you can defeat the nearest boss which for some reason is twenty levels ahead of you. Still not quite as bad as…
#6 Levelling up weapons/magic
If there is one thing worse than grudgingly retracing your steps over and over again trying to kill the same random monsters to level up, it’s having a particular skill/weapon/spell that needs to be used repeatedly in order to level it up.
If you thought levelling up a character was about as irksome a task as you could manage, having to take time out of the game to find enemies to fight using the same spell or the same attack over and over and over again is like a special kind of purgatory. Which is why, we can only assume, a lot of games don’t do it. Sure it adds a new element to combat situations, but at the cost of your sanity.
#5 Forced Tutorials
I often think that tutorials in games are a sign of how much replay value developers feel the game has. The best kind of tutorial is the one that you can skip. ‘Would you like to learn-‘ No! No I would not! There are a number of reasons to want to skip the tutorial; you’ve played the game before and don’t need to be reminded of basic gameplay instructions, the gameplay is obviously so simple a tutorial is simply a waste of time or perhaps you just want to bomb straight into the game and figure it out yourself through trial and error. If worst comes to worst you can flick through the manual and read up on the controls.
I have no problem with tutorials per se. I own a number of games that I wish had a tutorial so I knew wtf I was doing. (Yeah I’m looking at you Bus Simulator) The problem comes with games that give you rather long, detailed tutorial that insists on describing each detail of gameplay that leaves you desperately pressing the skip button to move on. Worse are the tutorial levels that insist on throwing you into a scenario and halting that scenario to tell you which button to press to perform a certain action, just in case you weren’t aware that pushing the left stick forward moved you…wait for it…forward!
#4 Retrace your steps
A recurring theme across a variety of genres is a large world map to explore. If the map hits a certain size more often than not you’ll be offered a quick way to return to previously explored areas. And what a Godsend these shortcuts are! Often, in particularly large games, you have the option to return to completed levels using new abilities or items to unlock new areas and new achievements thus satisfying your completionism.
But there’s nothing worse than getting towards the end of the game and finding that suddenly you have to retrace your steps and leg it all the way back to one of the earliest areas. Depending on the genre this will mean one of two things. Either you have to run through the game and get very bored as you simply retrace your journey or you have to run through the game and get very bored, breezing past respawning enemies because fighting them would be almost as dreary as the journey itself.
#3 Take this to X (if you can find them)
Mission based sandbox games frequently offer optional missions to undertake. Most of them can be pretty fun. Unfortunately so often they introduce a whole new level of tedium with a basic ‘take this and take it to x…by the way x is on the other side of the map.’ This can lead to some of the most boring moments in video game history. Sometimes you’ll at least be able to utilise a car so the journey goes a little faster but is no less dull. It’s busy work of the highest degree when the only reason for completing these missions is x saying, ‘cheers mate,’ and sending you on your way with perhaps some obligatory experience points.
As if this may not be boring enough, sometimes you have to take items to characters who are mobile themselves and who may not be at the location when you arrive. What follows is usually you chasing ‘x’ down, asking people where they were and hoping that somewhere along the line you bump into them. As we at wasduk know well, this is utterly hilarious to watch as the player gets more and more frustrated but it’s less fun for the player. A lot less fun.
#2 Puzzle puzzle puzzle
Sometimes a game comes along with an amazing storyline but disappointing gameplay. Perhaps the combat is not what you’d hope for, perhaps the gaps between plot development are too quick or too slow, or perhaps they cram the game so full of convoluted puzzles you just cannot be bothered to solve them.
Puzzles in games can usually be great fun, especially if they’re challenging. A good puzzle can be really enjoyable and give you as much satisfaction from solving it as it did from trying to work it out. Unfortunately all too often instead of the perfect balance you either end up with a puzzle that is so easy it might as well not be there, a puzzle so difficult that you have no choice but to google the answer or, what is increasingly common, a puzzle that is just long. You know what you have to do, there is no problem in the execution of what you have to do, it just takes you freaking ages. Even worse are those that see you repeating the same series of endless actions three times for luck, or you finish one unnecessarily long puzzle only to open a door to another one *prolonged screams*.
#1 Rare item dropped by equally rare monster
In games where enemies drop items guaranteed you’ll have an enemy that (sometimes) drops a really rare item, or a really rare enemy that (sometimes) drops a really rare item, or a really rare enemy that (sometimes) carries a really rare item and you have to steal it because said monster won’t be giving that shit up when it’s dead for some reason.
If reading that was laborious, it’s no where near as exhausting as actually having to find these items. Taking time out of otherwise linear games to complete mini games or side quests, exploring the world map or improving your characters can be great fun. Running backwards and forwards on the same patch of world map in the hope that you bump into really rare monster and killing it is so mind numbingly dull, the only thing to break the monotony is the string of expletives that flow forth after you kill it and find that it hasn’t dropped said item. And repeat ad infinitum.