4 Insane Ways Video Games Changed During My 9-Year Hiatus

#2. They Spoon-Feed You Everything


Imagine you're in first grade, and the teacher mentions that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. Always good to know. Now imagine every teacher you see for the rest of your life repeating that fact, every time you see them. Wouldn't that get a trifle old and aggravating?

Asli Cetin/iStock/Getty Images
"Two plus two is four. Remember, it is not three, or five, but four. Are there any questions about two plus two equaling four?"

Modern gaming tutorials are the same deal. Instead of quickly teaching you the basics and then freeing you to learn the rest on your own, games now reinforce the basics from start to finish, telling you what buttons to press and when to press them, no matter what you've done in the past. They also tell you exactly where to go and what to do, like Dora the Explorer's map entered your home and never, ever shut up. Effectively, the game is holding your hand the entire time.

You've got Fable II's "golden breadcrumbs," which tell you exactly where to go to progress in the game:

Microsoft Studios
Because who really plays adventure games for adventure?

The Legend of Zelda's recent sidekick characters spoon-feeding you obvious hints every 10 seconds:

"Treasure is valuable. That is why I said you'd want to hear this information. You heard this information because there is air in this room, and that is how sound travels."

The rebooted Tomb Raider, which doesn't believe mashing buttons until something happens comes naturally to gamers anymore:

Square Enix
"Now breathe. Then breathe again. Take another breath. Another breath. Take a breath ..."

Assassin's Creed III, which takes place during a war for independence, something you the player have not earned:

"We're kidding about "finding" it. Just follow the green circle like a good little derp."

Call of Duty: Black Ops, which reminds you who you need to follow and where to find them. At all fucking times.

Just like real war!

#1. Cutesy Mascots Are an Extinct Species


If you worked at a game company in the '80s and '90s, you needed a colorful, adorably cartoonish mascot in your advertising arsenal. And they were everywhere: Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, Link, Crash Bandicoot, Kirby, and so many more that I could write a sequel to this article featuring nothing but their names.

Whenever I opened up a gaming magazine (it's like a gaming website, only you could poop while reading it), out popped at least 10 new goofy characters. It almost didn't matter how good the game was; if its main character was adorable enough, it was going to sell some copies.

Well, most of the time anyway.

But now? We'll be lucky to get five new mascots this century. The concept of using cutesy, silly, colorful cartoons to attract kids is all but extinct. I'm not talking about Mario and company; those guys get new games more often than famous people get retweets after typing absolutely nothing. But how many new characters have popped up in, say, the past 10 years? We've got Little Big Planet's Sackboy ...

Sony Computer Entertainment
"The zipper is actually my genitals!"

... and shit, I think that might be it. Unless you find the Big Daddies from BioShock utterly huggable, that is.

2K Games
They're good with kids, so that's a plus.

Honestly, though, Big Daddy, Master Chief (Halo's 7-foot, half-ton-in-armor, mute military man), and all their gritty compadres have become the new mascots. It's like companies realized that people like me, who grew up on their endless parade of digital thumb-wrestling matches, had given up the controller in favor of work and family. They had two options: pay me a couple thousand bucks a week to just sit on my butt and play all day, or offer me grown-up sprites to gawk at because I'm mature now. Sadly, they chose Option B, although A's always on the table. I'll even take one thousand. I'm not greedy.

I can't help but fear that game companies are shooting themselves in the dick by ignoring the new generation of kids who still like colorful cartoony shit. I see my son happily playing New Super Mario Bros. and wonder how much he'd enjoy a dump-truck load of cutesy characters straight out of the Nickelodeon reject bin, like I did at his age.

Then I see him use the Super Guide to finish a stage without doing anything, and I get depressed all over again. Then I go outside for a while. It's probably for the best.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Sit on chair and press DRINK ALL THE BEER to enjoy sunset and advance to next level."

Jason Iannone's just kidding about going outside; he would never do anything that silly. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, which are all conveniently indoors.

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