You know how when you like someone and they have this cute little trait or habit that might bring a little smile to your face now and then every time you witness it? Then after they go out with someone else or turn out to be a douche-bag you then HATE that fucking trait of there's, screw that little habit of there's, they can go shove that habit up their traitorous ass!
That mangled metaphor almost perfectly describes my strained abusive relationship with game over screens. They were once a cute little past time I was use to being met with upon death in a game but now I'm older and somehow even less impatient with a shorter temper for such fickle matters I now loathe game over screens.
So make yourselves comfortable in my theatre of ridiculous complaints as I cry and shout how awful game over screens are and why it's time we abandon, retire and abolish the nuisances.
Hey you know the phrase "Don't knock somebody when they're already down?" or at least something to that effect since my brain is farting out on me in which case I'm incredibly embarrassed. To put it another way it's sort of like "Rubbing salt into the wound", what I'm trying to get at is these two phrases perfectly sum up my feelings towards game over screens.
I can get incredibly childish and juvenile when playing games and will shout at them like the man-baby I am when I start messing up and keep on dying. It's already frustrating enough when a game is facing me with a difficult challenge so you know what sure as hell doesn't help to calm my mood in these situations? Giving me a patronising drawn out game over screen which feels the need to spell out to me that I died and that the game is over but I have the option to continue or quit. Now I understand this had its use in the arcade days, get someone worked up so they want to play even more to spite the game and then they put more coins into the machine.
But I'm not playing games on arcade machines, I don't need to slip a coin into my PS3's quivering eager disc tray to start a game, I've already bought the game, why use an out-dated concept for something I've paid so much for?! Also I already know that I failed when I died in the game, never before have I been left confused when I've been killed and the game has mysteriously put me back to a checkpoint. You aren't informing me of anything I didn't already know, it just feels like the game is assuming I'm an idiot who can't hold onto a single thought or concept for longer than a minute without having to be reminded about it!
But if it's not intended to inform then what else is it there for? Why do so many have to execute themselves in such a way that's en-ragingly patronizing and aggravating? This can be done through the means of simple irritating music, mockingly annoying characters calling you out for what a failure you are or the simple bit of text telling you that you failed because we somehow missed that in the first place.
I get needlessly angry when I die in Resident Evil 4 where I'm met with a blood red screen saying "Mission Failed" and then I have to wait a few irritating seconds for the option to finally continue pops up. In Sonic 2 when you run out of lives you'll have the words Game Over fly onto screen and then a horrible ear bleeding agonising tune plays in a way that says "Awwh sorry lil guy you screwed up, guess you'll have to try all over again, have fun replaying all those levels" SCREW YOU, my young self would shout as he angrily punched the Mega Drive then begun crying as the game froze due to the abuse it received.
Thankfully I was able to at least grow out of punching and smashing the consoles I'm using. So as the sort of grown man that I am I can step up and admit I do like one game over screen in a game. I can be the better man here.
I like that in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater you can fake your own death which starts up a Game Over screen only to then use the revival pill which then completely rewinds the Game Over screen and gets it out of my face. Yeah I liked that one a lot.
Now that I'm done being the better man though I'll strike my point deeper into your souls and minds. There are two games that speak to the extreme benefits of not having a game over screen and provided they did have one they may have not been as positively received. Super Meat Boy and Rayman Origins are my two cute little ducklings to talk about here.
Meat Boy is notorious for its insane difficulty whilst being highly addictive thanks to keeping just about every level bite sized ensuring one doesn't lose too much progress. But the lack of a game over screen propels the game into higher heights of wonderful perfection and joy. When you die in Meat Boy you are INSTANTLY thrown back into the level you are on ready to try again. Now wait, no delay, no slow build up game over screen, no horrible patronising music, just simple cutting back to the game at hand. Imagine if this game introduced long as game over screens that did all those horrible things? I can almost scientifically with evidence I definitely did not just make up that the game would be nowhere near as successful or popular had they included a game over screen.
Rayman Origins also benefits for similar reasons however it contains much longer levels but it fully utilises checkpoints exceedingly well. But when you're knee deep into the game the difficulty really starts ramping up to Megadrive bashingly hard levels. But I didn't mind this at all because again this is a game that INSTANTLY threw me right back into the action, it held no interest in wasting my time, death would be over in the blink of an eye and I'd be right back into the swing of things which gave the game a uniquely delicious sense of enjoyable flow.
Now you may argue these games NEEDED to not have a game over screen due to their difficulty levels, but I argue even the easiest of games shouldn't have them.
We live in a fast moving world where we've given up on hopes for hover boards, flying cars or toasters that can do your bills. We're in a refining age where technology is constantly being refined and improved upon to become quicker and more efficient for us impatient bastards. Which means it's all the more important that the media content that we consume does its best to not waste our not very precious time.
Game Over screens can often break up the pacing and flow of a play-through and can even be drawn out to what hysterically feels like an eternity. This is a huge waste of my time one that no developer should be inflicting upon me or its audience. I also don't get why it asks me whether I want to Continue or Quit. I'm pretty sure every single device on the market has a Home Screen I can return to with the simple press of the button, why in fuckity would I want to go through the games long convoluted system of quitting when all it does is take me to the title screen. I can also easily and instantly turn off my device if I've had enough of using it for that day!
So with that knowledge in mind why is the game asking me whether I want to continue or not? Well of course I do, the device is still on isn't it, you're still running, why ask me something I can choose for myself within mere seconds. Why are you wasting my time?
Yes I do realize the amount of our time that is being wasted is incredibly small but when a game also has long ass loading screens it begins to feel like you're in a Master and Slave relationship with the game, just when you think its granted you pleasure it then proceeds to whip you into submission with a god damn loading screen. At least if they abolished the game over screen I'd be waiting a little less time since loading sections of the game is actually necessary so that's forgiveable.
With all that said and done I realize this is an incredibly stupid topic to talk about, I sound like a huge cry baby who's banging his spoon against the table as he launches his plate into the air which proceeds to cover the kitchen in baked beans.
But its something I've never been able to get over all the way back since I was a kid, it made me angry then and it continues to make me angry now. Granted I should probably be more mindful it's just a game, cool down and not take things so seriously but in the mean time I can't help but feel these game over screens are largely useless. Games with arcade sensibilities or atheistic I can understand but little modern games dig deep into convincing me these are a necessary concept.
I guess until then I shall return to my crib and suck on my thumb till I descend into the land of lullabies and dreams...