Editorial: Back in the Day

Is it just me, or does it seem like game companies are expecting less and less from gamers? When I first started to play Final Fantasy X some years ago one of the first things that stood out to me was the fact that all of the places I needed to go were marked clearly on the map. I moved mindlessly from point A to point B and nothing was left to the imagination or the intellect. 

zeldaIt seems to me that this has become a growing trend. Instead of games giving players hints as to where they must travel next and leaving the rest to the player’s ingenuity, games are built in such a way that they almost literally hold my hand as I am playing. Of course, there is the occasional puzzle thrown in to make me feel like I am actually using my brain, but I cannot recall the last time I was utterly stumped by a recent release. 

Are gamers becoming less intelligent, or is deductive reasoning just something that gamers no longer desire in their gaming experiences? I happen to be fond of games that give me a map, a mission, and then tell me to get to it. At the same time, however, I am painfully aware that my gaming experience has not been lessened, or hurt, by this recent hand-holding.

So what is it, exactly, that caused this change in trend? Is it bad? Is it good? I am not entirely sure myself, this just happens to be one of the things I notice every time Shawn fires up an old school game.


  1. As Lusipurr himself once said (in regards to RPGs anyway), I prefer games to be relatively easy except for the boss battles which should be a distinct challenge.

    But I’m aware you’re not just talking about that. I really only started playing games around the N64 era, and Ocarina of Time was my first Zelda, and that’s the one that old school fans complain was way too easy. So I don’t know if I’m really qualified to say which I prefer, because I’m not so aware of the spectrum.

    BUT, going back to Team Ico, I really like the way Shadow of the Colossus handles it. They don’t hide the fact that the path to the colossi is laid out for you, but there’s no rush to get there, and when you get there, the puzzle IS the monster. And some of the ways to kill those beasts is mind-bending.

    But otherwise I agree that games generally hold your hand, but I think that as long as the game is fun and captivating, it’s not necessarily a fault. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing a healthier mix.

  2. Ico is an excellent example of a modern game which, for the most part, doesn’t hold one’s hand. Sadly, it is rather uncommon in this aspect.

    To be fair, even in Zelda III (pictured in the article) there is a degree of handholding going on. The places one has to go are always indicated on one’s map, though the ability to ‘get there’ is usually something which one must figure out for oneself. For example: it is well and good that the Tower of Hera is the location of the third pendant, but how is one to get into it? That is a rather easy puzzle, but it is quite early in the game–later puzzles are more difficult.

    Ethos is perhaps taking my comment out of context. When I said the above quote, I was referring generally to battles, not to the puzzles and other material in a game. The average monster should not pose a significant threat to the party if random battles are common; but a Boss should be quite difficult and require the use of tactics, strategy, and every ounce of the party’s strength to beat.

    Puzzles, however, should be difficult; increasingly so as the game progresses, though never so tedious or inordinately complex that they become a frustration rather than an enjoyment. This is obviously a difficult balance to strike considering the fact that different people have different tastes, but nevertheless some sort of common ground should be possible.

    My complaint is the present is that the puzzles have all but been abidicated except as a formality. Those in games these days are so outrageously easy that they offend no one, and yet they qualify as puzzles just enough so that the producers can say they are present.

    I’d like to see some real head-scratchers in games. It’s a pity that I have to wait for the offerings of Team Ico for such things.

  3. Honestly I don’t think leaving gamers directionless (Dragon Quest)is a particularly good design choice, as the talk-to-everybody-in-town model of advancement is an odious relic of the past. Further, location pointers on a mini-map are a great help when trying to get back into a half completed game. I don’t feel that they really detract from the game, as you still have to explore the environments for secrets and treasure. That said it wasn’t really necessary for FFX, as I doub’t it would be possible for anybody to get lost in that game.

  4. SMT: Nocturne did a pretty good job of combining lack of handholding while being linear enough that it wasn’t a purely Dragon Quest-like “go find a hole outside town and go explore it.”

    It was also very light on plot which probably helps with that too.

    @SiliconNoob, Dragon Quest 8 had a nice “talk to party members” feature that really helped me to figure out where to go when I re-picked it up again over a two or three year period.