Frustration is a big part of playing video games. It’s what makes the game challenging, what makes us come back time and time again to beat it. However, there is a big difference between a tough enemy or a tricky puzzle and just bad game mechanics. I can suspend my disbelief pretty far for games, since I know it’s tough to code in everything a human body can do or write a series of puzzles. But these are a couple of things that will always break my immersion when I see them happen. They infuriate me, and usually drop my opinion on the game.
Are My Hands Broken?
There’s nothing more irritating to me than when you are trying to do something in a video that is extremely simple and easy, but the game requires you to find or build a specific tool to do it. It’s a weak and lazy short cut and a pretty obvious attempt at padding a game when they couldn’t come up with enough actual puzzles. Point and click adventure games are particularly annoying for this. I distinctly remember one time I had to open a envelope to read the letter inside, and I couldn’t do it until I got a letter opener. Use your damn hands, you weirdo! It’s not like I needed the envelope later for any reason, so I could just tear it to shreds. I can understand if I needed to do it without the intended recipient knowing, but it was not the case.
I also tend to have a problem with this when it comes to weapons in RPGs. It’s less of a concern, but realistically, if I was living in a radioactive wasteland or a mysterious fantasy land, everything is a weapon. Pots, pans, sharpened pencils, beer bottles, the list goes on forever. I understand that putting that into a game would be tricky, but it’s just an example of times when realistic behaviors are ignored.
Too Good to Crawl and Climb
Here is a good example of a problem that I can understand not being able to have in every game, but it doesn’t stop it being entirely frustrating. A good chunk of obstacles in video games involve getting into a place that is locked or protected in some way. However, most of the time, there is blatantly a space in the structure where you could fit, at least you could if you were willing to get your hands a bit dirty. If the player character was a bit more willing to crawl around or squeeze through tight spaces, you would get places to much faster and easier!
I see this all the time in Fallout games. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love and respect Fallout franchise very much, and this hasn’t honestly dampened my opinion of the games on the by and large. But there has been so many time where I should have been able to climb through a window or rip off a rotted board to access something behind a lock or terminal. I mean, come on, it’s the apocalypse! Most of the building either barely withstood the bombs or have been slapped together with rusty nails and Wonderglue. If I’m capable of lugging around 8 different guns, enough food for 10 months, a sledge hammer, and four alternate outfits, I can pop a few doors off their hinges.
10 Billion Points or 10 Points
Another issue I take with games that is completely irrelevant to actually playing the game. If you’re playing a game with a hard score, like an arcade style or hack and slash, and the scores are counted in astronomically large numbers for no real reason. If you are scoring more than a thousand points in a game, chances are there is no single thing that will change your score from 1000 to 1003 and clutch you the high score. It drives me mad when there are completely unnecessary zeros at the end of the scores. I want to be able to pronounce my score in less than 10 syllables, unless for a good reason.
In my always humble opinion, there should be an action you can take in a game that can change every digit of the score. If all your points end in 0, then they could all be one digit smaller. If you can score an amount between x1-x9, then it makes sense to have the extra digit. but as far as I’m concerned, 10 + 50 + 20 + 40 can be simplified to 1 + 5 + 2 + 4. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really grow up in the arcade age where high score lists were the same thing as social status, but I’d rather understand my score than have trouble saying it out loud.
Let Me Skip The Cut Scene! Please!
I’m a pretty competitive person. I’ve gotten better at it through the years, but I can still throw a solid tantrum if something is frustrating me. And nothing makes me crazier than having to re-watch a cut scene after I’ve already watched it, failed, and restarted the level/boss/area/etc. Also, a cut scene between you dying and actually getting to reload is also infuriating. The biggest example I can think of is a game that I didn’t actually play but watched Nick play, and that’s the Batman Arkham series. If you were defeated in those games, the screen would fade to black, and then whatever villain you were fighting would step out of the darkness and say some sort of derogatory one-liner about how pathetic you are and how great they are. I wasn’t even playing and I wanted to just scream at the television to shut up already. I can understand it maybe playing that the first time you died to that villain, but every time? That’s just going to hurt my self-esteem.
I feel like this is a bit more of an antiquated thing, something that maybe happened more in the past. The last time I experienced it was when I was playing Luigi’s Mansion for my retro video game review blog. The game at large is quite simple and a bit repetitive, and I only died a couple of times total. But then I got to the final boss of King Boo and his Bowser costume. I must have died to that boss about two dozen times. And every time I did, I would have to walk all the way back to the boss room, which was through a room full of dirt piles I had to vacuum up, and then watch the confrontation between King Boo and Luigi happened again. And again. And again. It’s a conversation that requires my button presses to skip through the dialogue, so I can’t just do something else until it’s over either. It was so frustrating that I literally ended up crying over it. I don’t think it would have been that traumatic if I hadn’t been forced to deal with the 5 minutes between failure and try again. (Also if I wasn’t so melodramatic, but never mind…)
Between A Rock and An Invisible Hard Place
Video game maps can’t go on forever. I get that. Even the most open world and exploratory game needs to have an end eventually. But there is a different between randomly deciding the character can’t walk that way, and giving a real reason for the end of the character’s reach. I’ve seen it done right in a bunch of ways, so I know it’s possible. Fallout: New Vegas is a good example of that. There is almost always a realistic reason why the Courier can’t go past a certain point, and it’s not a pop-up saying “You cannot go that way.”
Unlivable environment, over-powered enemies, an island setting, the list goes on. This also applies to unreachable areas in games. Instead of invisible walls, use the environment to make sense. There are times when I should have been able to climb up a mountain or climb over a fence, but I just…couldn’t. No reason why, no explained difference between it and another similar time that I was able. It’s frustrating and completely breaks my immersion. It’s like screaming in your face this is a game and you are not in control here. Honestly I’m just waiting for the ability for maps to circle onto themselves like a planet.
So those are probably my most shallow and nit-picky problems with most video games. I just wish that these little quirks had been worked out by now. Of course, it’s easy for me sit here and criticize when I’m not the one who does the writing or designing or coding for these games. But hey, is a gamer who doesn’t moan and groan really even a gamer? Let me know what grinds your gears when you’re gaming in the comments.