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You Know what else needs to go? Intros. You know what a list blog is, you're smart, I trust you.
(No, I'm not being lazy...)
You know what I love to do in my openworld games built around traversing the environment in fun non-restrictive ways? That’s right, very slowly following someone as they obey all the rules. Waiting for them at red lights, watching them stop to have conversations, staying perfectly still and not pressing anything because every button does something that “draws attention”, starting all over again because you got too close or too far away, nothing frustrating about tailing missions, no siree!
Worst Offender – Assassin’s Creed: Tailing missions are one thing, but Assassin’s Creed forces you to wrestle with its “stealth” mechanics while doing it, and insists that you must keep your target on camera at all times, and that you get close enough to eavesdrop, next thing you know you’re in a bush creeping on Gorge Washington and wondering what the hell happened to this series.
Overindulgent Shotgun Reload Animations
I think everybody who plays shooters has at some point considered the potential of more in depth reload mechanics, like what if reloading early wasted the rest of the clip instead of magically adding the spare bullets to your total? You’d have to manage your ammo consumption and fight your OCD need to reload after firing one bullet. But I can only assume these mechanics turn out to be too frustrating in practice since no one has implemented them. That is, except for the shotgun.
There we have to watch the lavishly detailed animation as you slide every individual shell into the gun, most current games even let you interrupt the animation in emergency situations to fire off the shells you’ve already loaded, tactical depth and resource management all in the middle of a shootout! Sounds fun? I agree! Except it’s only shotguns, making them a massive crutch compared to other weapons. Why can’t every weapon have this depth? There’s an entire boss fight in MGS3 dedicated to the boss figuring out how fun this could be. Seriously, half of Ocelot’s best quotes are about how much fun it is to reload guns. Let us do it!
Worst Offender – Every Shooter I guess: I mean, it’s not going to be racing games.
For the unfamiliar, which might be everybody since I just made up this term, stun waggle is when your character is grabbed or incapacitated and the game forces you to violently jiggle the analogue stick to regain control. A nice idea in theory, your brain associates the left stick with movement and shaking it is a nice way to represent the struggle to break free or snap out of a daze, much like shooting with the shoulder buttons – it should just feel right.
The problem? It’s going to break my damn controller! It has already! More than once! Let us mash a button or something instead, anyone who’s familiar with character action games knows all too well about the dreaded “CLACK CLACK CLACK” sound that counts down the lifetime of your analogue stick.
Worst offender – Platinum Games: As if having to buy new a console to play each of their games wasn’t bad enough, having to buy a new controller for new game+ is pushing it.
A little trick games are pulling these days for immersion is to smother sound depending on where it’s coming from in relation to the player. It really draws you into the experience if you’re wearing headphones or have a decent sound system, it really takes you out of the experience if you have to turn on subtitles or stop and turn the camera at whoever’s talking so you can actually hear what they’re saying.
Worst offender – Naughty Dog: “What’s that Ellie!? You had a really insightful comment about the tragedy of the human condition? Sorry, I missed it because I’m down the hall looking for scissors in this toilet!”
Wow, it even feels like a waste of time to explain it at this point but you all know the drill. Kill the bad guys and get to the big thing so you can climb it or liberate it to unlock part of the map which unlocks sidequests that get you more weapons so you can get more places and climb more big things etc etc etc.
It’s ironic that openworld games, whose selling point is freedom and emergent gameplay, have become the most formulaic and predicable in the last few years.
Worst Offender – Ubisoft: I don’t think I even need to buy any of their games in 2015, I’ve basically played them all already.
Okay, maybe it’s just me but I’ve had a next gen console for about two months and I’m really having trouble...seeing things, or rather, seeing everything, all at once, all the time, flashing, brightly, in my eyes, my eyes you guys, my eyes hurt so much. It’s a symptom of every new console generation, everybody wants to show off their shiny new graphics, but this generation is especially obsessed with lighting effects.
Bright explosions, flashy effects, bloom lighting, all have been turned up to eleven, even a muted game like Abe’s Oddysee had remade into a blinding lazer show. Hell, Dying Light’s main selling point seems based around recreating the “Ah, crap, the sun’s in my eyes!” experience.
Worst Offender – InFamous Second Son: I’m going to find whoever came up the Neon powers and follow them around with a laser pen for a week. Aside from burning Delsin’s silhouette into the back of your eyelids, they start to impede the gameplay flow, Neon (and the other power I won’t spoil) are so visually loud and dazzling that it becomes difficult to tell if you’re even hitting your targets anymore, especially during night sections.
Oh my God this is so boring stop doing it! It’s literally just standing in place and waiting for a button prompt, unless it’s one of those advanced fishing minigames which somehow become extremely stressful by introducing reeling mechanics and line breaks.
Worst offender – Japan: I suppose an island nation would enjoy their fishing, but it is beyond me why every Japanese game with even a semblance of freedom or openness insists on including a fishing minigame. God help you if it’s the kind that requires you catch a certain type of fish that can only be found in a certain part of the map which requires a certain type of bait that is only sold by a certain merchant if you want to unlock the True Ending.
Pacing is important, and a steady pace can be difficult to maintain for any game over eight hours. Usually the best way to achieve this is to set up a long term goal and guide the player there with smaller, achievable short term goals. Zelda games however, and those who take inspiration, take this to a ridiculous extreme, where short term goals become massive road blocks that plague you at every turn. While fundamentally similar to any other progression blocker in gaming, Zelda Pacing brings with it a persistent feeling of being set back or delayed, a continuous shifting of the finish line, and a weight on the shoulders. When you finally complete something it turns what should be a feeling of accomplishment into exasperated relief. As an example, let me explain a personal stand out moment from our Worst Offender – Darksiders 2.
You’re told you need to reach the Well of Souls and to do this you must contact the Lord of Bones who is reached by climbing Serpents Peak to summon the Eternal Throne which itself turns out to be a giant traversable dungeon. But just before the throne room you’re stopped by The Chancellor who says you must go to the Gilded Arena and fight the Arena Champion before you can get an audience. So you go to the Arena and are told you must assemble three Animus Stones to summon and fight the Champion, after this you can finally talk to the Boner Lord who won’t grant your request until you find his three Dead Lords. Aside from having their own dungeon, EACH, one even demands you find him three Lost Souls before he agrees to go with you and I don’t know what happens after that because that’s when I deleted the game, realising I was on a sub-sub-sub-subquest. Keep in mind that these five to six hours of hoop-jumping are all for the purpose of getting someone to just talk to the protagonist properly and let him know what he’s actually supposed to be doing.
Death blur: Making it really hard to see what’s killing you by drowning out colour and smearing the screen with blood, this is literally the worst possible time you could obscure someone’s vision in a game.
Audio tapes and notes: What was once an interesting way of fleshing out characters is becoming a crutch, aside from the believability of everybody constantly writing and recording their actions and leaving it scattered everywhere (err, aside from social media), notes and audio tapes are becoming exposition dumps, telling us what they should be showing us.
Co-op integration of single player story mode: If you aren’t a Souls game you aren’t doing it right.
The word “Badass”: Come on, stop saying that, people are watching, you're embarrassing yourself.
Piles of furniture blocking staircases: Once you notice it you can’t un-notice it. This is especially prevalent in post-apocalyptic settings, as though “duck and cover” was at some point replaced with “push your sofa halfway up the stairs”.
At first games were held in contempt, a toy for children and nothing more, and to an extent they were right, but gamers and the medium grew up together and came into their own. When the moral guardians told them they were sick or pathetic they held our ground and proved them wrong. When the Jack Thompson’s of the world blamed tragedies on gaming they were told where they could shove their baseless accusations.
Basically what I’m getting at is that gaming has had a lot of shit flung its way, and today is no different, except the shit-flingers are coming from within, and their audience is sick of it. Now I’m not going to warn you about the gaming “boogie men” or “conspiracy”, boogie men are scary and conspirators are smart, these people are neither. These are the more hilarious examples of what we’ve had to put up with for the last few years, the reason there was so much animosity built up for games journalists who push political correctness, the other four thousand straws before the one that broke the camel’s back if you will.
Blonde Shepard: Don’t judge a woman by her looks unless we do.
EA, realising the large fan following FemShep had garnered, decided to revamp her default character model for inclusion in ME3 promotional material, however EA was also aware that the unpleasable wasp nest that is the Bioware fanbase would hate whatever they came up with anyway and decided to leave it up to the fans for vote for their favourite themselves. Some people in the game press took issue with this, drawing comparisons to a “beauty contest”, some might consider this silly considering we’d already had two games to get to know this character, and that nobody would be forced to use this model since the it would only be the default in a game with a character creator. But lines were drawn, it was wrong to boil the glorious Commander Shepard down to just appearances.
That is, until the blonde won the vote...
“Blonde Bimbo” “Barbie faced personality vacuum” “that is the face of a woman who cares more about her glue-on nails and handbag Chihuahua” these were the accusations levied at the chosen winner, who is still exactly the same person she was before. The issue of voting on appearance was dropped in lieu of badgering the world for not choosing the “right” type of girl, it was simply unthinkable that Shepard could become an example of “western world Caucasian beauty” (coughunlikeMaleShepcough).
EA went into damage control mode and announced “Phase 2” of voting, now for hair colour, and it was fine to vote again, so long as you made the choice that made her look like the old default they were going to import anyway, and so we ended up with a hastily pallet swapped Femshep who looked like she bleached her skin and had a terrible dye job. But would blonde prejudice ever rear its ugly head again? (Spoiler alert: yes, it’s number three).
E3 2014 Panels: Not enough crippled minority lesbian presenters.
Polygon’s Danielle Riendeau took exception to this year’s E3, the problem, in her eyes, was that there were more severed heads than female presenters, and by “more” she meant “two”, there were two more severed heads, and considering the games shown included Mortal Kombat and an Assassin’s Creed about the French Revolution I’d say that’s coming out pretty well. In Polygon’s eyes the lack of women or “people of color”, because it’s still the 50’s apparently, “sends a message”. Is that message “Most of these people are the company’s executives giving a talk at a trade show”? Is it “Many minority execs are from non-English speaking countries and can’t go on stage”?
Nope, just “sends a message”, which much like it’s cousin “problematic” is code for “I want to call this racist but don’t have any real substance to do so”
Most peculiar though, was the complaint that too many presenters were “white, male and able-bodied”, speaking as a disabled person this is an incredibly odd statement to make considering that (1) not all disabilities are visible, and (2) maybe being disabled might impede someone’s ability run on and off stage while giving several impassioned speeches for upwards of an hour. But then, that would imply that Polygon actually gives a shit about disabled people instead of looking progressive.
Far Cry 4 Boxart: Return of the Aryan oppressors
Far Cry 4 was accused of racism after the reveal of its boxart, many claimed the image evoked (and therefore, wholeheartedly endorsed) white supremacy, cultural eradication, and just for good measure, homophobia, it’s an awfully bright suit after all. Personally, I think making a bunch of loaded accusations based on stereotypes like that seems kind of...well racist, but the best part? Nobody in that art is white. In fact, we knew next to nothing about the game at the time the art was released, but that didn’t stop anyone making wild accusations, most of which were based around dyed hair.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who finds it hilarious that those most eager to scream racism literally couldn’t recognise an Asian when he was staring them in the face, not to mention sitting on a Buddhist statue in the Tibetan mountains while stroking another Asian on the head.
Far Cry 4 at E3: Silence is sexist
Sticking with Far Cry 4, narrative director Mark Thompson was questioned at E3 2014 by Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson about what he would have done differently “If you had been able to work with a playable woman character in Far Cry 4”, Thompson declined from answering, no doubt feeling that he was being asked a leading question that Kotaku could twist into a manufactured controversy. Thompson was wrong however, Kotaku didn’t even need an answer to begin the manufactured controversy.
“Ubisoft Refused To Talk To Me About Women” was posted soon after, an article that spends ten paragraphs describing literally anything but the topic at hand, the sights, the sounds, the smells, at one point Loony Toons, anything to make it look like anything actually happened. Ubisoft’s refusal to answer leading questions on a hot button topic was all it took for Kotaku to conflate them with the issue.
Also, Look forward to my next article “Kotaku Refused To Talk To Me About Their Hand In The Rwandan Genocide”
Dragon’s Crown: Breasts Exist.
Game Journalists didn’t like when Dragon’s Crown, a game with hyper-stylised art inspired by everything from Renascence art to Walt Disney, had the audacity to exaggerate the female form. The character, drawing from the likes of Jessica Rabbit and the Swords and Sorcery trope of the buxom sorceress, was given impossibly large breasts, which is unacceptable at random intervals in the games industry. No effort was made to see where the character drew inspiration from, most ignored that almost everybody in the game is heavily caricatured, or as Penny Arcade’s Tycho put it “The only characters here who aren’t fucking mutants are the Elf and the Wizard”. Once again, it seemed like they didn’t care about the issue so much as that they could make it an issue, and the game was brushed off as the product of the artist’s juvenile fantasies.
...which is nonsense because anyone who’s played a Vanillaware game knows George Kamitani is an ass man.
Lara Croft’s PG rated traumatic experience.
Remember that time we had month long discussions over whether or not it was okay to depict sexual assault and rape in a videogame and then it turned out the scene in question was a guy touching her leg about a second before Lara killed him? That may have been blown a little out of proportion.
Starcoon: I don't even
A group of students in the Netherlands made a browser based game about a racoon travelling to the stars, they called it Starcoon. “Cultural differences – we have them” said Kotaku’s Mike Fahey as he imposed his cultural standards on some foreigners, insinuating that a portmanteau of “star” and “racoon” was racist. The developers eventually changed their name to avoid any discourse, which Kotaku used as fodder to write about why the Washington Redskins should change their names.
If you’re a game journalist and you’re wondering why your audience has suddenly turned on you, it might have something to with years of bullshit artificial controversies like this, and lines such as “We’re told all the time that the average age of gamers is getting older, but their emotional maturity and concept of life in a pluralist society seems to be stuck somewhere around the freshman year of high school. On average, it’s a demographic no more sophisticated than a meathead sports fan.” thanks Owen Good of Kotaku Australia, we’ll get right on that!
Any other words with antiquated racial connotations we should watch out for? Cocoons? Spades? The colour black? Halloween is right around the corner, can I still say spooky? What about the sambo, a type of gourd found in –oh for fuck–
Sambo: let’s keep racism alive so we can fight it.
Scribblenauts is a game in which any word you enter will appear in game, including the sambo, the name of a type of fig leaf gourd found in Spain which resembles a watermelon. As it turns out “sambo” was also an outdated racial slur for black people in America, and black people liking watermelons is also an old-fashioned stereotype, when connecting all the dots togther it soon became quite evident that 5th Cell did not sneak 1800’s racism into their videogame.
“Racial Term in DS' Scribblenauts?” – Protip: when a game journalist uses a title with a question mark at the end there’s a 90% chance they won’t answer that question. Bonus tip: if you need to dedicate over half your article to an American history lesson explaining why the name of a foreign fruit might be construed as racist – it’s not fucking racist.
Hideo Kojima said (in his poor grasp of English), that he’s been designing characters with cosplayers and figurines in mind, but expressed concern that he’d made Quiet too “erotic” to cosplay, either because the outfit is uncomfortable or because it would be hard to go around public events dressed like that. Somewhere along the way this got twisted into meaning that Kojima was making all the characters sexier so that he could perv over cosplayers.
Expect to hear more about Quiet in the future. You see, Quiet is the perfect character for the games press, she’s scantily clad, potentially a victim, and most importantly, she can’t speak for herself. Because at the end of the day, much like everything else here, it’s not really about her, it’s not about what she’s like, what she thinks, or what she does. It’s about them. It’s about earning brownie points for how progressive look, it’s about “enlightening” the audience who don’t know any better. All those accusations, all that outrage, and the character hasn’t even opened her mouth yet.