The lights are on
We usually have a good idea of what we're supposed to do
when we play games. Shoot the bad guys. Score more points than your opponent.
Craft and quest. And yet, why do we feel lost?
It's a very common occurrence in this office – and I'm sure
you've had a similar experience with your friends – where someone comes in
with important questions for others who've already played a game. How do you
perform this attack? Which weapon is the best to use? Which skill tree should I
avoid? As gamers, we're obsessed with doing things "right" – whether that's to get
a correct ending, see the full game, get achievements/completely fulfill an
objective, or simply not to waste our time. Even if you've played a lot of games, it's easy to feel like you're doing
things the wrong way.
For instance, a lot of people I talked to who played
BioShock Infinite weren't sure which weapons they should keep or discard. Given
that you can only carry two, ammo for your specific weapons isn't always
around, and that you never know which kinds of enemies you are going to face, I
felt uneasy early in the game until I talked to the other editors who assured
me that it didn't really matter.
But how was I to know? Obviously I would have eventually
found out, but it could have saved me a lot of unnecessary hand-wringing and I
wouldn't have altered my playstyle at the time if the whole system was designed
better. I guess I still have memories of getting burned in older games where I
ran out of money or spent skill points on a useless branch of a skill tree.
Sadly, these kinds of guessing games persist to this day. Poorly explained objectives and gameplay systems – as well as unbalanced
components like how a game doles out health, ammo, or money – befuddle players
and leave them guessing. This goes beyond a particularly hard puzzle or
inexplicable bugs in a game. It's strange that as evolved as our medium has
become and how much time and money is often put into integrating all the
elements of a game, it's natural for even experienced gamers to be left in the
Thankfully, there are always fellow gamers out there willing
to help; who are empathetic to your struggles and happy to point the way.
Despite unfortunate circumstances and the fact that you'd think even triple-A titles
would be constructed better, I guess it's just another objective/mission/puzzle
to conquer in games that are already full of them. As always, we're up for the
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.