Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Seven Deadly Sins Of Video Games

I wish these sins were to be found only in bad games. Unfortunately, the seven sins of video games are annoying practices that mar even the best games today. Old habits, lazy shortcuts, and easy patch ups that the video game industry just can't seem to stop doing. I submit that if a game makers want to ensure quality in their games, they would do well to avoid these sins at all cost.

Unskippable Cutscenes
This one is a classic complaint but video game designers continue to inflict this prideful pain upon their players. Sometimes I’m re-playing the game. Sometimes I’ve died and am trying again. Sometimes the designer has just written a bad story I don’t care about. It doesn’t matter. The player should be able to skip over any content that isn’t actually interactive with the press of a few buttons. Games are meant to be played. Don’t prevent them from being played by deciding cutscenes, tutorials, and panoramic scenery shots are more important than a player’s wish to actually play the game.

Fat Price/Lean Game

The notion that games shouldn’t be judged on length and price is absurd. For $60 dollars, I want 10 hours of entertainment minimum. For this cost, I could go see 7 new movies, buy 8 paperback books, or buy several DVDs which I will watch several times each. All of these would provide well over 10 hours of entertainment. If you know you’re making a 5 hour game, give it a 5 hour price.

Rinse Repeat Game Design

Aaaand if a game is coming up a little short on time, the way to fix that is NOT to just add in more pointless wandering, longer levels, or forced backtracking. It doesn’t matter if a game’s got the worlds coolest main character, awesome graphics, and intricate enemies, things need to change up on a regular basis. If level 2 is basically level 1 with slightly different enemies and a differently painted back drop it should be cut or replaced. Repetition with little or no variation kills the pacing and the fun in any game.


Sniveling Tactics To Avoid Piracy and Resale

When a game’s sales tank, whiny designers like to blame piracy and used game sales. They writhe with envy believing that someone has “gotten away with something." The response? Obnoxious copy protection and forced downloads. Sometimes content that clearly should be a part of the game is chopped out and made into a download. Sometimes players must jump through several hoops to satisfy arcane copy protection. Either way, the game makers is a jackass and needs to knock it off. Make a better game or market the game better. Any other tactic just punishes loyal customers who paid for the product. It makes it more difficult to enjoy the game and harder to recommend it to a friend.

Zero Tolerance For Failure

A true fun-killer. One missed jump, one ridiculously powerful enemy, or one unfair level and all the fun comes grinding to a halt while you once again traverse familiar and increasingly boring terrain hoping this time you won’t make the same terrible mistake. Bizarrely, modern games still like to throw this in at the end of the game to present a “real challenge” and create a “climatic moment”. All it really does is kill the fun for everyone. Games need to keep a good flow. Either reset the player less than 10 seconds away from the failure point or better yet, find a way to let them fail, suffer a consequence, and continue playing the game anyways.

Meaningless Collectibles and Sidequests

Games are often filled with collectibles and sidequests in the hopes that they will divert the players attention from the main game, extend the length of the game, and add some variety. Too often, however, these diversions offer no real value to my experience. They feed on my desire to fully complete a game and my lust for a hidden widget that might be interesting. They also drive me to distraction. I find myself resenting the game for encouraging me to waste hours on useless junk hunts. True I don't have to pursue these optional goals, but the designers are often so good at drawing my attention to the least fun part of their game.

Bad Endings

If I’m going to go through all the trouble of finishing a game, it would be nice if the designers had taken the trouble to finish it first. Too often a game's epic experience sums up in the worst way possible. Endings are too short, non-interactive, and come across as a complete afterthought. A game's ending needs as at least as much consideration as it's opening. Reward the player for playing through the entire game. And P.S. Cliffhangers don't work in video games. Ever.


  1. Insightful post! Though I don't really play video games anymore (some exceptions), I have growled over all these things more than a few times. This is a fun way to lay it out; I like it!

  2. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I wasn't sure about matching my complaints to the actual 7 deadly sins but I in the end I thought it was a bit more fun that way.

  3. I agree with most of your points, and in regards to "Envy" in particular. Nothing irks me more than being a good little consumer and getting my games (or other media for that matter, "Envy" is just as applicable there) through legit means only to find that I have to wade through draconic authentication schemes while the folks who pirated the same game get a hacked copy that requires no authentication and loads faster because of it. No game should have it's performance hampered by the presence of authentication. I wish the publishers would really listen on this front as all these measures do in the end is promote piracy.

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