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Spamfish
3:32 AM on 02.17.2012

Come watch Spamfish and The Melted Fridge, every Monday to Friday at 6pm GMT, Midday Central US, 10 am Pacific http://www.twitch.tv/destructoid


We have all been there. That point in a game where you have absolutely no clue what to do, and seem to have exhausted every possibility. Running around in looping circles, pressing the same buttons over and over and over again. You continue to try things despite the fact you know they won't work as you have attempted them ten times before already. You are stuck.

This is a perennial problem faced by gamers, and one that is generally dealt with in two ways. The easiest, and probably most common, thing to do is quit the game. Just do it, rage quit. You know you want to. Maybe throw the controller at the wall, or swear under your breath. You could shout some hate-filled bile at your closet loved-one, family pet, or even that wall that just recovered from a controller to the face. Some gamers even punch cushions, or kick chairs in order to vent their frustration levels that have been building up for hours. You tell yourself that all you need is a break, get refreshed, and when you reattempt it later somehow the answer will present itself towards like a finger pointing to your destiny. Many gamers will play a more relaxing, less mentally challenging game just to chill out and let-go, and will take up the cause of advancement at a later date with renewed aplomb. That brings us to the second option, a dark and shadowy path many gamers will travel along, but not many willingly admit to it. After a period of futile experimentation and tempered frustration, you relent and look it up on-line, or ask a friend. You succumb to the power of the walk-through. ''It's OK!'' is what you tell yourself, it will be just this once, and you won't use it again.

Getting stuck has been a staple component of many games since Atari ruled the world. Back in the day, there weren't on-line guides, FAQs, or websites devoted to intricate game tactics and step-by-step strategy. Games would punch you in the gut, stamp on your face and kick sand in your eyes and expect you to like it. You would simply dust yourself down, and try again. Then you would die again, but at least this time you made it slightly further along. You were making progress, and given the fact that you only had two other games and there was no other way of finding out what to do, you waded through the bog of unending frustration one inch at a time.

Those times have changed. The explosion in popularity of gaming over the past decade has brought with it many new elements to the gaming experience. Developers and publishers now have to appeal to a far wider spectrum of people, and this has resulted in what can only be described as a severe dumbing-down in the amount of problem-solving you are expected to participate in. Most games these days will hold your hand for a huge amount of time, showing you what to do, what those buttons are for, and explain in meticulous detail every mechanic and operational function in the game. If you actually get stuck, all you have to do is look around for that shiny/glowing/flashing/pulsing piece of scenery, or maybe even just press a button and follow the vibrant neon trail that appears on the ground. Sometimes you won't even need to push a button, as their is a constant bread-crumb trail for you to follow so you could not possibly get off course. If after all these hints, tips, way-points and guides you are still struggling, getting lost and forever dying, you could always just pause the game and let the games artificial intelligence do the rest. Just sit back and watch an N.P.C complete the level for you.

What have we become? What is the point of even playing games anymore? We have got ourselves in such a situation that complete blueprints are released before the game is even out, and many games will have an official guide as a bundled extra. Whilst it is good to have these options, and it is up to each individual to decide for themselves how they want to play a game, it seems that getting stuck simply isn't a dilemma for people to even contemplate anymore. There are too many other games to play, too many other distractions to fill our day. People just don't have time to be stuck anymore.

The next time you do get stuck in game, try and embrace the difficulty and frustration. Rather than automatically look for the hint button, or click on that website for tips, just take your time. Run around in endless circles, keep trying the same thing over and over and over again, and most importantly - get annoyed. It is only through struggle that we can improve, and sometimes it is good to be lost in the darkness. The only things worth achieving in life (and games) are difficult. It is supposed to be that way. The battle and strife through the wilderness just makes the moment you see the path again all the more profound.

No-one should want to have their hand-held whilst being pointed towards the bread-crumbs on the illuminated pathway. Go and get lost in the virtual woods, you never know what you might find.
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