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The Lock is Broken


We players sure put up with a lot when it comes to game design, and playing through Silent Hill: Homecoming has been a constant reminder of this. It has been an invariable truth in the Silent Hill history, and itís both understandable and extremely frustrating.

The impenetrable door.

I think the problem is especially noticeable in the Silent Hill franchise because there are just so damn doors. Whether itís the glass doors of shops covered in nothing but ash or the flimsy wooden doors that line the halls of every indoor environment, doors are everywhere. And you want to open them. The game, however, has a different plan for you.

In the vast majority of player-door interactions, youíre instead met with a message like ďThe lock is broken. It wonít budge.Ē or the decidedly more vague ďThe door is jammed.Ē After all this time, Iím tempted to let the game make its little red squiggly line over the door on my map and be on my way.

But I canít help but consider the ridiculousness of it all, especially when paired with the justifications that a game gives me for why it will not allow me to progress through these doors. Perhaps if the door were simply noninteractiveóno message, no sound effectóthen Iíd be able to accept it more readily. But the game opened the door to this sort of critique by, rather than attributing these locked doors to the limitations of game design, instead decided to give me a ďrationalĒ explanation thatís as thin as the wooden doors that my huge fucking axe could cut through like paper.

Yeah, this isnít axeproof.

The simple solution for Silent Hill: donít put a door there. Will it detract from the game experience that much if a few doors are instead converted into walls? I doubt it. Unless youíve got two doors in a massive hospital, I think all will be well.

Of course, outside is a different story. You canít have a town with no doors, windows, or gates of any kind. But, for some reason, I donít give a shit about these placesómostly because the game doesnít tell me to give a shit about them. These little shops arenít marked on the map, nor do their doors stand out, in terms of their artistic appearance, as interactive objects. Iím happy to pass them by.

OK, thatís a door that knows the deal.

Itís easy to lay the blame on the innocent doors themselves for their many lock failures or their propensity toward jamming for no apparent reason, but the real culprit is higher up: the doorís creator. For it is the doorsmith who so readily put that door there with reckless abandon, effectively littering the environment with the dregs of the door population.

I, for one, refuse to stand by and watch as doors are relegated to such a low status. After all, what the fuck is a door if not something to use in order to pass from room to room? Please, developers, give doors back their purpose. Let us open them, or give them a damn good reason for their failure.

Proof of concept.
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About Andrew Kauzone of us since 5:10 PM on 04.30.2009

In loving memory: PAX 2009 (thanks ZombiePlatypus! And WalkYourPath, of course)

I'm Kauza, which is pronounced like cause-uh. My real name's Andrew Kauz, if you'd rather go for that.

I like talking to Dtoid people, so please add me on your favorite social networking site:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kauza
Gchat: santakauz[at]gmail.com.

Basics: I'm 25, and I write things.

Eternal thanks go out to Y0j1mb0 for the amazing header image you see above. So, thanks, sir!

Look at some of the things I've written.

Things on the Front Page:

Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Moon Unit, and more: An interview with Jennifer Hale
The Future: Demanding more from the voices of videogames
Love/Hate: A plea to play as a female Shepard
A warning: Regrets from a former life and experiences yet unlived
Top ten games for people who hate Thanksgiving
The wrong thing: Being evil should be more like sex
Staying dry in a sea of spoilers is a matter of building a boat
Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
Come, take your pilgrimage to gaming's one true mecca
Here's to you, random-JRPG-dialogue-writer-man
The forgotten: Crushing disappointment at the hands of Crash 'n the Boys
The people who have the power to change the world
Improving game communities: Enough with the negativity
The draw of exploration: Antarctica to Oblivion, Shackleton to Shadow Complex
I suck at games: BlazBlue and a slapdash attempt at fisticuffs
I, the Author: My Everest
Untapped Potential: The Gamer's Education
Other Worlds than These: Our World, Only Different

A series sort of thing about status effects
Toxic Megacolon and other fresh status effects
Curse you, status effects, stop confusing my heart
Status effects are poisons that turn my silent heart to stone
Also check out the related forum thread.

The Fall of the Titans (wherein I talk about dead or dying gaming companies)

The fall of the titans part 3: What once was shall be again
The fall of the titans: Sega died so that we might dream of the future
The fall of the titans: Why do the giants of gaming die?

Stories from the Past (a series about my experiences playing certain games):

Stories from the Past: Tobal 2, Tomba! 2, and console double-vision
Stories from the Past: Diablo and the Dark Ride
Stories from the Past: What the f*ck, mom?
Stories from the Past: Xexyz and the battle aboard Turtlestar Lobsterica
Stories from the Past: The One-Balled Man-Bear
Stories from the Past: The Battle of Olympus
Stories from the Past: Suikoden 2

Storytelling (a series about, well, storytelling):

Storytelling: The Problem of Genres
Storytelling: Mass Effect, Vonnegut, and the Fourth Rule
Storytelling: Doing Nothing in "The Darkness"
Storytelling: The Power of a Single Line (Yeah, it was my first post.)

Other stuff that is good:

Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
A consuming power: The demon and the borderlands
Can games transcend good and evil?
Nothing is sacred: We won't let you go alone, but we have made a tragic decision
How Destructoid single-handedly changed my motherís opinion of gaming
Why Tecmo Super Bowl is the greatest sports game of all time
Seven reasons that I will end you in creative ways if you don't play Folklore
Mother Nature and the Impending Death of the Gaming Spirit
Times Games Forgot: The Dark Ages
The Sins and Successes of In-game Collectibles
The Lock is Broken
When Music Surpasses the Game
Truckasaurus Rex and the Humor of Games
I Want to Cry (storytelling related, but not part of the series)

I have others as well that you can check out on my blog. You'll enjoy them or your money back.

Since it seems like the cool thing to do, here a list of my favorite games that is coming straight out of my ass and onto your computer screen, and in no particular order.

Fallout 3
Uncharted 2
Suikoden 2
Mass Effect / ME2
Metal Gear Solid followed by any number you can think of
Tales of Somethingendinginia (OK, and the Abyss)
Battlefield: Bad Company
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PSN ID:santakauz
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