5 Plot Devices That Make Good Video Games Suck

#2. "Your weapons won't work here! You are going to have to go sneaky for this one."

Perhaps you've been captured by the bad guys, who've taken away your weapons. Perhaps the snipers are suddenly super accurate or deadly. Or perhaps the hero's balls just drop off. One way or the other, the hero must get through a level when fighting the enemy head-on (that is, using the techniques you spent the entire game mastering) is impossible.

This one turns up in some of the greatest games ever made. Call of Duty 4 forced you to crawl around on your elbows for an entire level because you were massively outnumbered. Resident Evil 4 put you in the frail, unarmed, teenage body of Ashley as your reward for mowing down a castle full of badasses to get there.

In Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, Link loses all of his weapons (and fingers apparently, as it seems he can no longer pick up enemy weapons, either) forcing him to sneak around in a frustrating stealth sequence. Yes, a freaking stealth sequence. In Zelda. Are we going to get one of these in the next Mario game, too?

Not quite how you'd expect the savior of Hyrule to roll.

Seems Like a Good Idea Because...

In movies they do this all the time to raise the tension. The hero needs weaknesses, otherwise we start to think of them as invincible and thus boring. You need to see Iron Man with his suit disabled, or Bruce Wayne attacked by the villain while out of his Batman costume. So why not do it in games?

Doesn't Work Because...

Gaming is different. We're not watching the hero being frustrated by his powerlessness, we're playing as him, and thus feeling the actual frustration. And we're doing it in a game where, up until then, the primary reward for advancing was we got better weapons and abilities. Taking them away is literally taking away the things that had kept us playing up until then.

Also, these levels often wind up with an instant-failure aspect to them (get caught by a bad guy in Wind Waker, or get seen by a spotlight, and your punishment is you have to do it all over starting from a jail cell). Suddenly upping the "difficulty" of a situation in a movie has you on the edge of your seat. Upping the difficulty of a game has you replaying the same level over and over.

It's not drama, it's infuriating tedium, and you only keep playing so you can get to the part of the game where you get back the freaking weapons you already earned.

It's Sort of Like...

Having a dream that you're Batman, then your mom wakes you up to take out the trash.

#1. "Now you can either kill Boris and become evil, or let him go, and become good! It actually doesn't matter either way."

Remember Fable? Remember how nobody could get lead designer Peter Molyneux to shut up about the morality system and complex character interactions and how every one of the player's actions would effect the game's story? Remember how that turned out?

"Me! I do!"

In the actual game we found if we were nice to everybody, we got a halo and people were nice to us. If we were mean and killed people, we got devil horns and people screamed and ran away. That was pretty much it. As for the consequences of player actions, if you ate a bunch of pies you would get fat. That's essentially what the consequences system was, a glorified overeating simulator.

These days we have games like Infamous, which once again played up the state-of-the-art morality system in its pre-release hype. What we got was a series of laughably bipolar choices ("Will you save the bus full of children, or shove it into the vat of acid?") and only minor modifications to your powers as a reward either way.

Even GTA IV (aka The Most Expensive Game Ever Made), gave you the option to kill or spare the life of some victims. Sparing someone's life tended to have one of two outcomes:

1. You meet them later and they thank you

2. You meet them later and they try to kill you

Wait, a second! We're starting to think the whole morality thing is just a series of cheap gimmicks intended to make us play the same game a second time!

Seems Like a Good Idea Because...

The whole "morality system" is the newest fad in gaming for a reason: It sounds awesome. You get to make real choices, and deal with the consequences of them. It's like a different game every time you play! Now there's something books or novels will ever be able to do!

Eat that, novels!

Well, unless you count those cheesy Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. And in reality, the morality system in most games is about as complex as those were. Maybe a little less.

Doesn't Work Because...

Real choices, the kind you get in real life where the consequences completely change the trajectory of every event that follows, will never be practical in video games. It costs enough to program a full-length game that will keep you entertained throughout. They're not going to program the equivalent of 10 or 20 games just to give you a whole bunch of branching paths that 90 percent of gamers will never see since they'll only play through once.

It's Sort of Like...

Having a girl ask, "Why do you think I'm not speaking to you?" and realizing your answer actually has no effect on whether or not a fight is about to ensue.

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For more hilarious (yet totally serious, you guys) insight into video-gaming, check out The 7 Commandments All Video Games Should Obey and The Next 25 Years of Video Games.

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