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.

4. Collectibles for the Sake of Having Collectibles

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.

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16 Comments on 5 Gaming Cliches We Never Want to See Again in 2012


On December 7, 2011 at 6:55 am

Amen to all that, brother! :-)

On my “top-five” list of irritants:

1. (The biggie) Insanely difficult boss-fights thanks to (a) ridiculously overpowered bosses or (b) wave after wave of assailants in (c) tactically-murderous killing grounds.

2. At a slightly lower level, “super-soldiers” as a substitute for better AI (MOH: Airborne, I’m looking at you!).

3. Weapons–especially handguns–with absurd ranges and accuracies (practically every “stealth shooter” suffers from this).

4. QT events that make it hard to advance short of lightning-quick reflexes. C’mon guys…QTE are supposed to advance the plot without breaking the immersion! If I have to do a QTE over more than once, how immersed do I feel at the end?!?

5. Stupidly-spaced checkpoints: you get a checkpoint every thirty seconds for every door you go through. Then you get into an insanely-hard firefight and don’t get any checkpoints until after all three, four, or more waves of attackers have been killed.


On December 7, 2011 at 9:08 am

I don’t mind the spiders, but I have to agree with you about collectibles. Imagine the game that Arkham City could have been if all that Riddler crap was replaced with story missions or what have you. Asylum handled it better, it was infinitely easier to just ignore those stupid green question marks and focus on beating up goons.

However, I have to flat out disagree with you about in-ear exposition bots. This not only something I appreciate in games, it’s something I wish I had in real life. In a world where you can’t help but be manipulated by everyone unless you’re some kind of Machiavellian genius, I’d rather the person manipulating me be on my side.


On December 7, 2011 at 11:58 am

good games


On December 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Stupidly spaced checkpoints!!! I hate them too!! I thought replaying the same section of level over and over again was a flaw with super nintendo / megadrive games back in the day. Why is it still happening??…. sort it out devs


On December 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Oh ye gods and little fishes…the flushable toilet cliche hasn’t died out yet?! That’s been around since the days of DOS for crying out loud. Case in point – the cult hit ZZT, which I otherwise like very much, literally has *hundreds* of user-made games with toilets that either:

A: Play an annoying flush sound.
B: Show a dopey one-line message.
C: Are plot-relevant in some “yeah, right” manner – keys hidden in the tank is a favorite.

…seriously, gamedevs, get a CLUE! This is not the 90′s and your audience is not a bunch of gradeschoolers. If you still think toilet humor is the height of humor, go work as a script writer for “South Park” or “Beavis & Butthead”.


On December 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Interrogation Frame Stories, black ops did it well.

Are you kidding me. Black ops pissed me off when they did it. Black was the first to do it and it was more than enough to me, anyone else doing it is just lazy.


On December 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Splinter Cell: Conviction did the interrogation very well. Black Ops was okay, apart from the voice manipulator, that drove me insane. Battlefield 3 made me throw my head at my controller. It was very poorly done and was extremely copycat-like from
Black Ops. Battlefield wasn’t a CoD killer, it was a copycat. … At least in the single player.


On December 8, 2011 at 9:32 am

A most interesting list! I agree with rather a lot of it!

Tyler rouse

On December 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

i agree and the desighners probably didnt even go to schol they just skiped it and are idiots!


On December 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I tend to think Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series does a fair job with checkpoint placement. They are certainly aplenty. And at least the Arkham games have midway boss battle checkpoints. I agree with Geoff: Arkham Asylum did a much better job with riddler trophies, etc. They felt more attainable, and not near as time consuming. The scope of the Arkham City playing field is partially to blame for the problem in that game, and there are 400 something items/goals!


On December 8, 2011 at 9:19 pm

all of this true but saints row the third got the survival mode all right with fun and new ways to play


On December 12, 2011 at 8:08 am

Okay, the giant spiders are there partly because, like giant rats, their size is an artifact of the sprite days when they had to be drawn big in order to show up (also, normal-size spiders don’t look as scary), partly because of Tolkien, partly because of D & D, and partly because so many of us find killing them VERY satisfying. And you want the “fight off endless enemies until you get bored” modes gone? Why?

And another thing: Things like the toilets aren’t going away because EVERY YEAR A FRESH AUDIENCE SHOWS UP! And besides that… Dark-Star, do you frequent YouTube much? Going by their comments these people may as well be gradeschoolers. “Hur hur, tits, hur hur”.


On December 12, 2011 at 7:17 pm

ZeldaTheSwordsman If anything the way you go off makes you look like more of a gradeschooler, other than that I agree with you that tyler is in grade school. :D


On December 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm

David, I totally agree with the uber hard boss fights (Final Fantasy XIII) though I find the placement of auto-attack features in RPG games much more annoying (Final Fantasy XIII).

(I actually like FFXIII, if only it was a bit easier. =3)


On December 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm

“And another thing: Things like the toilets aren’t going away because EVERY YEAR A FRESH AUDIENCE SHOWS UP!”

Ayeah…I want to argue so bad…but you’re probably right. They wouldn’t keep resurrecting that stupid little cliche if there wasn’t a constant crop of overgrown toddlers to laugh at it.

“And besides that… Dark-Star, do you frequent YouTube much? Going by their comments these people may as well be gradeschoolers. “Hur hur, tits, hur hur”.”

Forsooth, thou dost tell the truth. I don’t usually pay attention to anything except the top-rated comment. But now that you say it…


On January 2, 2012 at 11:34 am

Ok. good list. But the thing that I REALLY Dislike in games is first off…extreme carry capacity. I just dont like how you can be playing games like RPG s and be carrying hundreds of items then suddenly pick up some tinsel by accident, and not be able to move…?! Also, in shooters such as BF3 which regardless I enjoy very much…. when the multiplayer unlocks are ordered from impossible to see down sight, slowest reload ever, unholy recoil, and peashooter ammo all the way up to no recoil, 3 shot kill, and fast reload with the best unlock able attachments. This makes it so that the gamers who spend their entire lives on the screen are automatically the best. Honestly, it should be made so that the guns just have slightly different sights, handling, and recoil so that the noobs aren’t using the same overpowered gun(Famas in BF3) WTF!