Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Complacency in Storytelling

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 26 Nov 2013 12:00
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joker arkham origins

I noticed it when I was playing Batman: Arkham Origins. The game seems to assume that you know the backstory of the Joker as told in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke as well as who Black Mask is and why we give a shit. But the unearned assumption that we're on board seems to extend to the gameplay as well as the exposition. You start the game with a bunch of the same gadgets from previous games and none of them are introduced, the game just kind of assumes you know how they're all used. The combat with ground-level mooks at the very beginning of the game is, I'd say, on a level of difficulty you'd have found at about half-way through Arkham City's campaign.

You might say that I would probably complain just as much if a game was overly tutorialized to the point of insulting, as with something like Ni No Kuni, and you may very well be correct to say that. But at least under those circumstances the player and player character actually feel like the centre of the fictional universe. At least that is a game that seems to be waiting for the player to catch up, not seeing them as a piece of baggage it's forced to carry with it, like a stain on their coat.

And anyway, tutorials are something I miss about games these days. It was nice being put through a small, disconnected prep school before getting your teeth into things. At least it meant that the tutorial didn't have to be worked clumsily into the beginning. And as it is now de rigeur for the start of the game to be an explosive action sequence, to draw in all the kids with shorter attention spans than a paranoid schizophrenic in a rifle range, we end up with this perplexing trend for game introductions being incredibly easy, low-stress sequences masquerading as action-packed high-stress ones. Where the invading barbarians are perfectly happy to wait outside while you figure out the button for opening the door to the escape tunnel, and where beams suddenly fall half-way to the floor just in time for you to learn how to crouch.

Sometimes tutorials could even be something beyond a dry introduction to the controls. This is a bit silly, but I replayed the Half-Life Hazard Course quite a few times even after I was fully mentally equipped to play the actual game. I liked the way it started a little bit of world building even before the story had begun to start. And I could also extract that cheap Cooking Mama-style appeal of performing simple tasks when instructed and being overly praised by a nice lady. And don't give me shit. Maybe sometimes I just want to be praised without having to save the sodding world for it, yeah?

This issue of games assuming that we're on board, like an obnoxious housemate leaving you with the vacuuming, is making triple-A games seem complacent. And that may well be one of the signs of a console generation winding down. They get the feeling that they've suckered in all the people they're ever going to sucker in and that they might as well let the facade drop and show absolutely no respect to their users whatsoever. Although considering the sales figures of the PS4 a lessening of respect for one's fellow man is something I can sympathize with.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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