Press button to proceed

Eskil Steenberg, currently hard at work on a very pretty new MMO called “Love“, made an insightful comment on the tendency in contemporary game design to replace gameplay with more or less elaborate PAUSE and PLAY buttons.

I’ve recently played some MGS4 and GTAIV, and it is clear they are filled with press button to proceed, use item to proceed, honk the horn to proceed, or simply just follow the line on your map. GTAIV feels at times like a pac-man, except you don’t have to make any choices where to go.

It is clear after playing these games that what the designers really wanted to do was not a game but a movie, the interactivity is just a annoyance on the way. As someone who is also into film making I can understand this, but the problem is that it is ruining the game. Even with film aspirations, they don’t have even the basic film 101 knowledge down like pacing, avoiding exposition, to show rather then tell, tension leading to resolution, building up an event or character before not after they appear, and giving the viewer a fair chance to figure out the resolution before hand.

Reminds me of our realisation some time ago that game design was still largely considered a problem that needs to be solved rather than an opportunity that can be exploited. Rather than looking at the medium with a clear head and then figuring out what to do with it, many game developers come to the medium with the preconceived ideas and then they force the design to cater to these ideas. Even if the medium doesn’t lend itself to them very well. Even if the medium may be capable of much more interesting and spectacular things that are completely unthinkable in any other medium.

8 thoughts on “Press button to proceed”

  1. I’ve had difficulty finding any information on “love”, could you post where you find yours?

    I think the notion of gameplay as a problem is interesting. In fact, i think we all as artists look at different parts of our crafts as “problems.” I know i’ve read hundreds and hundreds of pages on how to accurate render skin in paint, etc. It’s considered a “design problem.” I think sometimes I’m guilty of looking at it as a problem in the sense of limitations when really we should look at it as a problem like the great mathematicians looked at equations. Like beautiful locks that it takes an artist to open.

  2. So talking about “love”, what do you all think about it? I love the idea to have a world that trully changes with the player’s actions, but I’m really scared with the “bullies”, that may destroy all of you’re actions really easilly. I guess it’s the consequence of freedom.
    But since there isn’t much information on it [yet?], I have a hard time imagining it , but leave the players mark one place, the game letting you create you’re own towns, and the fact that when you destroy one donjon, its not going to come back for other players might be risky for persitance of the world, but gives a difference with the other mmogs that tend to be all the same…

  3. This is a common malady among many new platform games. It stems from an attempt to lure in new (non) gamers by removing the fundamental stumbling block for people not normally interested in video gaming – that being the game itself. The result is something along the lines of an old-school rail-shooter, where you follow a storyline while pressing jump and attack but have no real interaction with the environment beyond “use gun on baddie”. Metal Gear is notorious for releasing so called FPSs that boil down to little more than short puzzle levels bumped by half-hour cutscenes packed with straight narrative and exposition. Devil May Cry may be a worse offender, running full-length cinematics in the middle of actual combat. These linear style games have become less about play-time and more about spectacle. These games hold the player’s hand and carefully lead him through a series of puzzles and cinematics, all the way through to the credits. Games like this may be a fun way to spend an afternoon, but have little appeal to hardcore or old-school gamers.

  4. Metal Gear is not a FPS, neither it’s “notorious for releasing so called FPSs”. It’s “Tactical espionage action”, mostly in third-person. Especially the first 2D, not so solid Metal Gears.

  5. That Eskil Steenberg has a very interesting blog! Thanks for the link. :)

    Your mention of game design as “a problem that needs to be solved rather than an opportunity that can be exploited” reminds me very much of how Jonathan Blow contrasted architected games (forcing design to fit plan) with those that are designed with receptivity to what possibilities actually come up during development, like how a digital painter might make a speedpainting starting from a few scribbles. Also reminded me of a post I just read on Eskil Steenberg’s blog, “All true renegades walk alone.”

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