Garnet Lantern

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Five Things Video Games Need To Improve

shadow-of-the-colossus-7-27-2012

I have been playing video games now for over two decades; I have seen them mature from 2D side scrolling games to massive 3D worlds such as the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V. I have played games such as Streets of Rage, where I never knew there actually was a story, to games like Mass Effect that takes an in-depth story across three games.

For the most part, video games continue to grow and get better with every passing year. More than any other media, videogames are praised for their innovation. Games that are not innovative enough are knocked for being “too safe” or not a “game changer”, games that try something new but failed are still praised for their attempt.

For all their innovations and changes, video games are still not perfect and there are changes that need to be made. I have compiled a list of five things that need to be changed in the industry, for a better experience and growth to take place.


Boss Fights

For some reason, one of the most pinnacle parts of any game has lagged in the innovation department. All boss fights can be broken down to the same thing: extra health then something special that the player has to do. This may be timing an attack just right, aiming correctly, or performing a specific act in a short amount of time. Unfortunately for gamers, most videogames have yet to stray very far from this model, and this makes boss fights feel more like a hurdle and an announcement, rather than the enjoyment they should be.

The boss fight should be the climactic moment of the game or dungeon; it is that moment that you as the player have caught up to the bad guy or about to claim the grand prize. It should be the pinnacle of fun, but some game designers treat it more as the last hurdle that we must get through. Instead of focusing on making a boss fight enjoyable, game designers seem to be focusing on ways to make boss fights more difficult.

I personally don’t feel like you need to sacrifice one for the other. Boss fights should be difficult; I mean this is the “boss” after all. I would feel cheated if I walked into the final fight against Ganondorf in a Zelda game and Link just demolished him. But at the same time, I shouldn’t be pulling my hair out because I was just a split second late with my attack and he one-shot me.

Unfortunately, video games are beginning to forgo boss fights entirely, but all it takes is one game to do it right and others will follow. Hopefully in the near future, boss fights will be the climax of games and not looked at as the final nuisance.


Mini Maps

Don’t get me wrong mini maps are very helpful, but almost to the point of being too helpful. More than once I have caught myself staring at the mini map instead of the actual screen to navigate. Game designers work really hard to create these beautiful worlds and many gamers miss a lot of the details because of the mini map.

The mini map has become so helpful now that in a way it’s easier to just use that to navigate then it is to navigate by watching the environment and character. Many of games are actually attempting to correct this problem with simple fixes, such as Bioshock Infinite or Skyrim. Instead of having a mini map, you simply have an indicator telling you where you need to go. This forces the player to use the environment, but still know where they are going.

I actually prefer this method. Sure, it is annoying when you mark a dungeon in Skyrim on your map and you don’t realize it is up hill and you missed the path you needed to turn down, but I feel more engrossed in the world and I get to enjoy the beauty that has been created for me.

Hopefully more games will take cues from the games that are doing away with the mini map and find a more innovative way to guide gamers in the right direction.


Story

For all the areas that video games have improved story telling hasn’t made it very far. Most video game stories still boil down to, there is a bad guy and he wants to do bad things, you are the hero and you must save the world, princess, universe or whatever. These stories are enjoyable and they serve their purpose very well, but too infrequently do video games result in gamers walking away saying “that was a great story”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some games that have pushed the limits in terms of storytelling, Spec-Ops the Line, Journey and Telltale’s The Walking Dead are a few that come to mind, but most games everyone already knows how the story is going to play out. Occasionally a few games will throw in a twist or turn, but there are rarely any games that fall on the same level as say “Game of Thrones”, “The Walking Dead” or even “Inception”. This is a shame, as video games are the ultimate storytelling media. Instead of being told the story, such as in movies or books, the gamer is actually living the story.

It is understandable the story takes a back seat in the gaming world since game play is the most important part of a video game. No matter how good a game’s story is, no one is going to play the game if it just isn’t fun. Hopefully in the future the great games will find a way to push the norm in storytelling, as well implement great game play.


Auto Saves

It has happened to all of us, you are completely engrossed in your game. You’re sneaking through a dungeon taking out enemies left and right and then you meet up with one you just can’t kill and you die, then it hits you “I didn’t save that entire time” and the last auto save was about 30 min back. For me it completely removes me from the game and in many cases I just decide to turn the game off and go do something else.

By now games should be able to have a smart auto save system. Gamers love to be fully engrossed in a game, and to force a player to stop and think about saving completely removes them. When there are hundreds of enemies in front of me and I am within reach of that one piece of gear I need, the last thing on my mind is saving.

Some games do an excellent job of auto saving, Tomb Raider impressed me multiple times with its auto save as I was playing. In this day there should be no reason for a gamer to have to replay a segment of a game because they forgot to save.


Removing Fluff

You just got done watching a cut scene explaining you must fight a champion in order to progress, you work your way down to the arena where you are about to fight and as soon as you get there another cut scene explains that in order to fight this champion you must collect three shards in order to summon him. This act of collecting the shards doesn’t add any depth to the game, it doesn’t add to the lore or have some impact on the story at hand, it is nothing more than fluff and a way to increase the length of the game.

Games today are so great there shouldn’t be any need for fluff. Gamers no longer are upset when a game lasts only six hours, provided that the game is engaging and fun to play. The best example of this is the Uncharted series, these games will on average take someone around six hours to beat, but the game is so gorgeous and fun that no one complains on how short of a game it was.

In fact, gamers get more enraged with games that artificially increase their playing time by adding in meaningless fetch quests or forcing the player to complete tasks over and over again in order to get to the fight.

Nowadays, if a game is going to take twenty hours to beat it should be because it actually takes twenty hours to beat. The story should be engaging, and the tasks should all have meaning and not feel like an artificial way of inflating the game.

We have seen game designers moving further and further away from the old mentality of having to make a game a certain length and inflating the game length by adding fluff. Games like the previous mentions Uncharted series, Skyrim, and even Halo 4 did a better job than the previous games in the series of removing unnecessary back-tracking, and instead continually pushed the player forward into the action.

Video games have come a long way so far, but there are still many areas that need to be improved upon. Hopefully the great game designers out there will continue to push the norm and bring us great, new and innovative games.

What are some other areas that games today need to improve on? What games have been the best innovators over the last decade? Leave a comment below letting me know.

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