If there’s one thing an entertainment executive loves to do, it’s beat a dead horse. Those who run the show in the gaming industry are no different from their media brethren, and will routinely whip them out for a round of festering horse flesh flagellation, the results of which are then tossed to the consumer as a meager scrap of creativity that keeps us hooked liked heroin.
Even the fattest of horses won’t last forever, though. Eventually you need to wake up and realize you’ve been slapping the blood-stained concrete for the last few years and it’s time to move on.
6. Q.T.E Boss Fights
A lot of people like the God of War series. Fair enough, it’s a visceral thrill ride along a raging river of gore and the occasional pixilated tit. What’s not to like? Titillatingly violent though it may be, that doesn’t excuse the series for saddling us with the scourge of Quick Time Event boss fights, for that is a crime against nature from which the spectacle of the boss fight has yet to recover.
For a number of years, it was a given that every boss fight, regardless of genre, age bracket, or celestial influence, would end with a QTE. You could never have played the game before yet still would know exactly when it was coming and often exactly what it would entail. The boss fight QTE was thus the most predictable thing in gaming, more so even than conveniently placed exploding barrels or really slow to arrive elevators.
5. The Gritty Protagonist
In the pantheon of horrible marketing decisions, the gritty protagonist rides high as an especially cynical attempt to capture the customers’ attention. Antiheroes are, almost by nature, impossible to manufacture, since the very notion of “I dare you to love me” rather falls apart when you remember that being liked is pretty much the whole job of the protagonist in the first place. It certainly wouldn’t do for the player to turn their nose up at the game’s avatar.
While we’re on the subject – and I can’t believe that this still needs to be said – if you make a gritty protagonist self-aware of their stereotypical nature, it isn’t edgy; it just highlights what a crappy job you did in the first place. Is the take no prisoners, I laugh at rape and human suffering, Duke Nukem a cool guy? No, he’s an utter tool, and many of the game’s failings are indicative of a community that didn’t much feel like playing as such an idiot of a protagonist.
4. FMV Cutscenes
The advent of CD-based gaming was a watershed moment for the industry. Overnight, the new technology increased the storage capabilities of games many times over. Flushed with a tidal wave of new toys to play with, the gaming industry quickly set about coming up with ways to use all this new space. About ten minutes later some bright spark hit upon the idea of Full Motion Video cut scenes and the industry hasn’t stopped to look back since.
Though it is perhaps grossly unfair to single out any one perpetrator, I think we can all agree that Hideo Kojima is an excellent example of someone who took the FMV cutscene just a wee bit too far. In doing so, he served to remind us all that a game is there to be played first and foremost. Despite this, FMV cutsences continue to run rampant in many titles.
3. Moral Choice Systems
Considering how relatively young the moral choice system is to gaming, it’s a little surprising to see how poorly the idea has aged so far. In theory, morality could be the best thing to happen to gaming since someone asked the question, “Why don’t we make the enemies Nazis?”, but a long succession of middling results have shown us that this is an idea that developers just can’t seem to tweak right. In the brief history of the moral choice system, all it’s ever really boiled down to are a few additional cut scenes and a palette swap.
Most morality systems in gaming bear more resemblance to a “chose your own adventure” novel than anything in reality. With the book, at least turn back the pages, while games tend to pen you in with a few early decisions. Somewhat more fluid games like Fallout: New Vegas offer more depth, but still maintain a rigid structure of rules that is as liable to subtract from the game as it is to add anything.
2. Limited Weapons Capacity
The trend towards limiting the player on the number of weapons one can carry smacks of a wider problem in modern gaming, I call it ‘realism for realisms sake’ and it’s slowly been killing off the notion of escapist fun for a number of years now. Because I really don’t like the game, I’m going to single out Duke Nukem Forever again as an example of this, since seemingly the only way that a limited weapons capacity made it into that game is because some idiot said, “Why the hell not?”.
DNF was supposed to be an antidote to blandness of the modern shooter, but just that one decision alone proved that the modern game developer has no sense for the meaning of the word “irony”. Copying what everyone else is doing and then saying, “Look at me! I’m copying the stupid decisions of everyone else for laughs,” isn’t clever, it’s just copying everyone else and trying to cover your lazy tracks.
1. Cover-Based Shooting
You didn’t think we’d make it through this entire article without mentioning the Marmite of modern gaming, did you? Cover-based shooting has become so ludicrously common that the idea of a game that doesn’t adopt is not merely novel, but damn near extinct. Diving into cover has become as ubiquitous to gaming as the jump button.
Every generation has had its go-to genre, a well into which near everyone has dipped their toes at one time or another, and almost invariably one of the first creative streams to run dry. For the last few years, the public watering hole has been the cover based shooter, and if it wasn’t already eminently obvious that there’s little difference between a stack of sandbags and a four foot wall, it’s been repeated enough that we should have all at least learned by now.
Time to move onto something new.