#3. Racing Lines Matter
Didn't Get It: Blur
The best racing game in the world is Mario Kart, and every asshole whining about the blue shell doesn't realize that's the only reason people are still playing against them. You wouldn't be winning without it, you'd be alone without it, because it turns out people who don't play games much don't enjoy being lapped by an obsessive. But mixing weapons with real racing lines is hard, which is why Mario Kart tracks have turns the size of small countries. In 2010 two games tried to combine attack with real racing lines, and only one deserved to die. That one was Blur. It started with a gaming campaign mocking Mario Kart, which is like a presidential campaign promoting communism.
Mocking Mario Kart is how you tell gamers "I don't understand fun."
Then it ripped off the wrong parts of Mario Kart anyway. Blur combined random weapons and homing missiles with racing lines so strict that the "incoming fire" warning was just the computer's way of mocking you. If you didn't have the counter-item your choices were "take it and lose time" or "try to avoid it and lose even more time." No matter how perfectly you set your course, some bastard could just destroy it for fun -- which was a pretty heavy life lesson for a racing game to deliver.
Got It: Split/Second
Instead of glowing energy balls, Split/Second had "power plays," parts of the course you could blow up including "crashing cargo planes" and "the entire background." Some dismissed this as just another movie game (you play it once and you've seen everything) but it was a perfect fusion of racing with weapons. To even hit other people you needed to know the course, the whole point of racing. Even better, the game balanced the Michael Bay with the Michael Schumacher: You could take 1st by blowing up an entire airport but one bad corner later you're in 8th. And if you know the power plays it's possible to out-drive them with sheer skill, because screw you blue shell! In Split/Second detonating a building orgy of pyrotechnic destruction has the same value as taking a perfect corner, because that's how good taking a perfect corner feels.
Yes this happens, and yes it's awesome.
#2. Light Gun Games Are Porn
Didn't Get It: Time Crisis
Scientists are trying to build machines which can see into our deepest thoughts and dreams, which is weird, because Operation Wolf did that in 1987: we want to shoot everyone without getting into trouble. Light gun games are the porn of action gaming. You don't have to move, make decisions or organize equipment, you just get an endless series of money shots right in their eager faces.
Time Crisis is one of the most popular of these games and by far the worst. As the name suggests, it's a constant race against the clock, and the strict time limit makes it possible to shoot bad guys wrong. Imagine Riggs and Murtaugh dropping their guns and going to work traffic because they took 3.7 seconds to shoot the first four guys. Every stage is a frantic time trial and then, after whipping the player up into a violently impatient frenzy, the game forces in a goddamn story. A story where the voice actors are less enthusiastic than a porn set's janitor; and the script is what happens when a 5-year-old thinks Bond movies are too complicated. It's the most frustrating set of gaming delays outside Half Life: Episode 3.
Got It: Rambo
Rambo is the first movie video game to be better than the original movie, and several kinds of sex. The first masterstroke was using clips from the movies as plot, and the second was FUCK PLOT. Why has no other game ever thought of that? If you're making a game based on a movie you already have 90 minutes of ass-kicking footage, your only job is to let players kill people in between. And Rambo lets you kill three Luxembourgs per second and the spacetime continuum. The first level takes place years after the second movie but before the third just so that the game starts at the end of Rambo III, blowing up the entire Soviet army -- because in Rambo, "continuity" is for wimps who died but want to keep playing.
If you don't want to play this already it's because you have never understood balls.
The game is unadulterated adrenaline injected through your trigger finger. There is less than no reward for conserving ammo, you pussy. Your gun has a clip the size of the Empire State building and rewards rapid fire with RAGE! This rewards killing people and explosions with even more killing and explosions while Stallone screams RAAAAAAAAAGH! and the sheer testosterone instantly gives you an invincible and much bigger weapon. It also gives you a bigger gun in the game.
THE GREATEST TUTORIAL OF ALL TIME.
#1. Games Are Meant To Be PlayedGot It Wrong: War Games
Gaming is currently through World War III, the massive struggle between expert players who can not only tell the difference between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 but actually seem to care. So many people haven't been upset by such minute differences since Darwin.
One of the games.
We realize that talking about Modern Warfare 3's single-player is like reviewing Jenny McCarthy's medical training -- the wrong part of something only designed to be enjoyed on monitors by large groups of sweaty men -- but it's a symptom of the Hollywoodification of modern gaming. Big budget game directors think they're making movies and they don't want to risk any stupid "player" messing up their awesome set piece. Shooters used to have levels for you to explore. Now they have corridors where the wallpaper looks like world war. In Battlefield not only can your A.I. teammates shove you out of position (a capital offence in game design), the set pieces start when they're in position and it's your own damn fault if you didn't go where you were told.
The other one.
This is just the worst case of an industry-wide problem. Players are dealt with instead of entertained, and handed a few buttons to push during quicktime events so they feel they're still involved.
Got It Right: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls series has always understood that the games are toys, and if a kid enjoys breaking it then, hey, their toy. The series is famous for ludicrously unbalanced builds, with low-level characters more invisible than a Romulan warbird's air supply and even more likely to kill innocent people. Games like Skyrim realize that invisible walls and locked doors are the combovers and viagra of game design: horrible signs of insecurity in people who can't keep up with young people but still want to screw them.
Some players like to level up "massage" and "musk." Also: "accessorizing."
In Skyrim you can be as stupid as you like until something kills you, just like the real world. No hand-holding tutorials or grown-ups installed to say, "Don't do that!" My character is equal parts destructive magic and paper mache, a fragile shell which vaporizes everything with eldritch fire because nobody thinks to shake my hand first. The force of which would break my biscuity skeleton to powder. Other people play the game like a cross between Hoarders and serial killing, and a few even take on the main story because that's pretty fun too. And by "main story" I mean "that drinking competition quest." There may be some dragons somewhere too, but I've been too busy.
Yeah yeah, I'll get round to that.
Because Bethesda understands that a video games are meant to be played, not obeyed.
For more gaming disasters, check out 10 Days As a Skyrim Widow and The 7 Most Elaborate Dick Moves in Online Gaming History.