5 Gaming Cliches We Never Want to See Again in 2012
Every year, the video game industry produces towering triumphs of design, creativity, and technological achievement. Every year, it also sinks to new depths, wallowing in the mud of tired tropes, wooden-headed decisions, and plagiarism. Every year, around December, I convince myself that things will be different after January 1st rolls around. Finally, they’ll learn! Read on to learn which 5 gaming cliches I never want to see again in 2012.
5. Giant Spiders
Sure, I get it. Spiders are scary. Or, they were scary, before I killed approximately eight thousand of them over the course of Dragon Age II, Skyrim, and countless other RPG’s. The ubiquity of giant spiders represents atrophied creativity, pure and simple. Instead of bothering to invent a cool new creature to fill their dungeons with, game designers just take a common spider, and, well, embiggen it. Ever since J.R.R. Tolkein sent the Shelob train skittering into motion back in the 60′s, people have been content to simply steal his idea. They never even bother to explain why the spiders are giant, either. It’s fantasy — they just…are. Never you mind that the other animals — the dogs, the horses, the bears — all stayed the same size.
You don’t have to be arachnophobic (or have an arachnophobic girlfriend who has to endure constant “don’t accidentally glance at the screen right now!” warnings) to oppose Giant Spiders. You just have to insist on more creativity.
A small segment of the gamer population will gather every feather, and chase down every orb, simply to feel satisfied. Judging by the design of many recent video games, however, it appears that game designers think that these obsessive collectors actually constitute a large segment of the gamer population. A message to game designers: they don’t.
Developers also use collectibles to give people an incentive to explore their giant open worlds, which they spent so much time and money designing that they forgot to fill them with anything fun to do. A message to game designers: a game with a world of size x filled with interesting, varied content makes for a better game than a world of size 4x liberally strewn with hard-to-find, repetitive bullshit.
Even Worse, these self-justifying collectibles kill immersion. 2010′s Alan Wake was the biggest offender, breaking up an atmosphere of tense psychological horror to send its protagonist raring off in the woods to grab collectible coffee thermoses. In 2011, Cole Phelps could take time off from saving L.A. from a vicious serial killer and a far-reaching conspiracy, in order to pick up film reels for no particular reason. Batman: Arkham City at least attempted to explain its profusion of Riddler Trophies. Though when the fate of Gotham City is in the balance and you’ve mistimed your jump for the thirty-eighth time trying to snag that pesky green question mark, you start to feel pretty goddamn stupid. A message to game designers: before you seed your meticulously constructed world with 100′s of useless collectibles, ask yourself this question: “why?”
3. Unnecessary RPG Elements in Non-RPG Games
RPG’s are great. I like them. Practically everybody likes them. I don’t, however, want to play them all the time. A brief respite from the Pavlovian XP-reward ratrace can be refreshing, to be honest. So why do I have to watch some piddling experience bar fill up when I’m trying to play FIFA 12? Why do I have to level my bloody character just to compete on a level playing field with all the single-minded boors who play Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 all day and never touch anything else?
Dead Space 2 (above) sports a needlessly convoluted upgrade system that rewards hours of gameplay with piddling upgrades. Deus Ex: Human Revolution mostly got it right, integrating the idea of augmenting your character right into the story, though some of technology available to Adam Jensen is useless. Batman: Arkham City is a big offender, using a confusing interface to introduce a long series of inconsistently useful upgrades that only contribute to the game’s already out-of-control feature bloat.