Top Ten Overused Game Ideas
We love our games, we really do. From screaming ‘GOOOOAL! SUCK IT, [friend name here]!’ in FIFA to the creeping, cold-sweat-inducing dread we get from sneaking about the Shalebridge Cradle in Thief: Deadly Shadows, the themes, mechanics and gameplay usually work harmoniously together to draw us in and hold our attention in a vice-like grip. But there are just some themes and mechanics that have become so overused that they bore, to paraphrase Garda Gerry Boyle, the hole off you.
11. Fetch Quests
Go to location X, collect Y, bring back to stationary character Z. Or, just to mix things up: Go to location X, murder Y, bring back to stationary character Z. Now you know how 95% of any MMORPG goes, and you can avoid wasting €15 a month for the privilege. This one has a lot in common with point 10 below, only you actually get something out of it. It’s usually a slightly shinier pair of studded leather knickers, but at least it’s something. Still, it’s tedious in the extreme, it takes forever, and it raises serious questions about the game world, such as why the postal system in Azeroth is so fucking atrocious they need level 50 deathknights to do all the work.
Developers often wonder how to make their game last longer. There seem to be two solutions. They could add extra content to make the game longer without sacrificing story, immersion or entertainment value. Far more often they go for putting worthless collectible items in hard to reach places and then claim the game is twice as long because of the hours you’ll spend hunting the fiddly little bastards down for the sake of a ‘collect all the maguffins’ achievement. Collect all the Assassin’s Creed flags? That dog won’t hunt, Monseigneur.
The Matrix was 13 years ago, people. It’s just not cool any more. The only novel use of bullet time since The Matrix was the recent Dredd movie. It’s certainly not a defining mechanic when every damn game keeps using it in exactly the same way. Max Payne is the only game that’s really tried something interesting with the mechanic by letting you leap all over the shop all John Woo-ey, but over a decade later, it’s still using the same old schtick and nothing new. Everyone else just does the ‘game slows down for a few seconds’ thing, and it usually adds nothing to the experience.
8. Really bad comic relief characters
Christ on a stick, they’re awful. They’re invariably designed by committee, and thus all their jokes fall flat as roadkill. Remember Norton Mapes, the fat obnoxious guy from FEAR? With the RTFM belt buckle?Yeah, that’s the kind of gobshite I’m talking about. That idiot Swedish guy from Just Cause 2, oh, how I wanted to slap him to death with his own facial hair. Don’t even get me started on poor Nico Bellic from GTA IV being constantly harassed by his cousin, bullied into going to a strip club to see ‘beeg Amereecan teetees’. We’re gonna lump every damn guard from Skyrim in here too. YOU know why.
Every other game seems to be about the zombie apocalypse these days. Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, DayZ, Resident Evil, Zombie Panic, Zombie Cooking Mama… give it a rest, will you? Zombies have completely lost their impact from overuse. They’re almost comically wimpy low-level enemies and cannon fodder, and speaking as a dangerously-enthusiastic zombie fan, that’s a goddamn shame. Leave them to rot for a few years, THEN try a zombie game. It’ll sell better once zeds become scary again, I guarantee.
6. Sandbox environments
Freedom and exploration are fine things in games. Morrowind and Skyrim provide some frankly stunning fantasy worlds for you to explore, and the fact that they don’t stop you going anywhere provides a tremendous sense of adventure. But sometimes actually hampers a game. LA Noir gives you a whole city to explore, but there’s absolutely shag-all to do besides visit a few landmarks. The game would’ve been better if they’d cut out the wandering about and stuck to the linear story. There’s a balance that needs to be struck between freedom and narrative. Too much of one, and the other will suffer.
5. Morality meters
These things are all the rage lately. Mass Effect, Infamous, Fallout 3, they all have them, and for the most part, they add nothing beyond a different cutscene at the end. Sometimes they don’t even give you that. Fallout 3 made only the barest token effort at it, starting with ‘Do I blow up this town because some rich idiot asked me to or not?’ and having few places to go after perpetrating/avoiding mass genocide. I want more ambiguous shades of grey, folks. I mean like the Witcher games, not that crappy EL James book.
4. Overly simple puzzles
These days it’s incredibly rare to find a puzzle that’ll halt your progress for more than a few minutes, even in a puzzle game. The Elder Scrolls games rarely require you to do more than stand there and pull that lever, then that one. The more complex puzzles come with a complete step-by-step manual, usually in the form of bad poetry. How in the hell have these places remained undisturbed for millennia when a nine-year-old could solve their mysteries? Even Portal 2‘s puzzles were never particularly challenging. I blame the lack of Monkey Island style adventure games. Games these days just don’t force you to think like a game dev up to his eyeballs in LSD.
3. Brooding power-armoured dudemarine
Gears of War didn’t create the shaved ape in powered armour with less personality than an autistic jellyfish (Halo‘s miserably shallow Master Chief, I’m looking at you), but it sure perfected it. Hulking slabs of meat with no feelings, who do nothing but kill shit in the face with improbably sized penis extensions, and we are expected to love them. Then when these emotionally stunted simpletons are put in a terribly written ‘emotional scene’, we are expected not to laugh at how stupid they look trying to feign depth and complexity? Heh, pull the other one, it has bells on.
2. Damsel in distress
If the video game world were to be believed, 99% of a princess’ job would be ‘getting captured by some evil bastard’. Princess Peach was particularly bad at it, Nintendo have been cashing in on her inability to sort out her own problems for over 20 years. It might be because many game writers project the image that they have yet to know the gentle touch of a woman, but the captive helpless female is horribly overused at this stage. Alyx Vance lacks the resources, training and education of any princess, and yet in the intro to Half Life 2 she knocked out half a dozen Combine soldiers WITH HER BARE HANDS. Power-armoured Gordon Freeman has to hit those bastards several times in the face with a crowbar before they drop. What a wuss.
1. Quick-time events
On a par, atrocity-wise, with at least five consecutive Holocausts, QTEs are the product of a diseased mind and pure unadulterated laziness. Granted, when the entire game is made of them, like with Heavy Rain, they can work, but in every other instance you’re not expecting them, you usually miss them the first time, and you end up not paying attention to any cut-scenes in case ‘press X to not die horribly’ flashes up for a split second. You can’t enjoy a Resi 4 cut-scene in case some ex-military loon jumps out and stabs you because you didn’t waggle the Wii-mote in time. And we like Resi 4.