6 Annoying Gaming Gimmicks (You Didn't Know Were Super Old)
Modern gaming has come a long way from the brightly colored pixels of our youth, but not all of those changes have been for the better. There are times when many of us wish that we could hit the reset button on all the cash-grabbing DLC, the terrible licensed games, and the obnoxious motion-controllers that have taken over gaming in recent years and go back to the halcyon days of Nintendo and Sega. However, many of the things we dislike most about modern video games have been skidmarks on the industry for longer than the Super Mario Bros. movie.
Escort Missions: Wing Commander (1990)
For the benefit of those readers who are blissfully ignorant of the term "escort mission": Imagine for a moment that you're playing a video game. You've spent most of the game as an elite badass who shits plastic explosives, answers to no one, and isn't happy unless they're bounding from dangerous situation to dangerous situation with the type of wild abandon that can only be referred to as a death wish.
Then the game suddenly comes to a screeching halt, because now you have to play babysitter to some random computer-controlled character with the survival instinct of a drunken kitten and make sure they get to the end of the level without getting murdered by enemies or stumbling blindly off a cliff. This is called an escort mission, and it is the bane of gamers everywhere, because it takes the parameters for success or failure almost entirely out of your hands. After hours of attempting to pass this mission, you're no closer to escorting your new friend across Space Normandy, so you turn off the computer, sell the game, and begin abusing heroin, confident that it will be better for your stress levels in the long run.
Still beats the shit out of Fable.
Yes, escort missions are terrible affairs. At best, they're designed just to pad out a game's length. At worst, they form a vital part of the game's content, so much so that any good or fun aspects of the game are brutally clubbed to death like an angry gorilla with a table leg, like in Metal Gear Solid 2, a game that seemed to be created for the sole purpose of angering fans of Metal Gear Solid. Consequently, many gamers long for the days when escort missions were but a twinkle in the eyes of the terrible assholes who would eventually create them, and video games were all about you dominating a sea of enemies without having to be bothered with anyone's well-being but your own.
But Actually ...
Contrary to popular belief, old-timey games also suffered from the curse of the escort mission, most notably 1990's Wing Commander, a simple game about detonating spaceships cunningly disguised as massive blocks of pixels.
At various junctures within the game, you're asked to escort large, unarmed ships across enemy territory. Simple, right? Wrong. If you leave the ship's side for even a minute trying to shoot down the enemy fighters riddling it with bullets, your escortee will just speed off without you ... right into the path of the next group of enemy fighters, who'll succeed at blowing it into atoms because you're still 20 billion light years away.
In space, no one can hear you curse a blue streak because could you just hold up for one fucking second?!
That is, of course, if your escortee doesn't decide to ram you to death while you're busy trying to keep it alive:
"Hey buddy, how about keeping your eyes on the endless, blank void, eh?"
Along with serving as a reminder of how adorable old-timey games look, the crude nature of the graphics meant that the game couldn't reliably detect where you were in relation to literally anything around you. As such, going near the cargo ship would often register as a collision, meaning that you had to fly at a distance from the thing you were supposed to be defending, which helped the mission graduate from "stupid bullshit" to "impossible bullshit."
Celebrity Editions Of Video Games
Of all the ridiculous trends in modern gaming, perhaps none is quite as baffling as the celebrity video game. To clarify, we're not talking about video games based on movies or TV shows, featuring celebrities portraying characters they are known for. We're talking about games like 50 Cent: Bulletproof, wherein you play as the titular millionaire rapper as he blasts his way through an urban criminal underworld (or the sequel, Blood On The Sand, where Fiddy goes to the Middle East to hunt terrorists and go on archaeological digs for fabled springs of Mesopotamian Vitamin Water).
These games, seemingly released just to stroke a celebrity's ego, have you play through an elaborate fantasy based on a famous person's image rather than anything that person has ever actually done, such as the series of games in which you help Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen solve mysteries, despite the fact that we are relatively certain neither one of them has ever been part of a criminal task force. They're all just relatively new cynical cash-grabs from people with absolutely no business appearing on the cover of a video game other than "making shitloads of money."
The sole unlikely exception being Mike Tyson and his army of ethnic caricatures.
But Actually ...
Celebrities have been dipping their toes into the sweet sweet video game market for extra walking-around money for decades, since the earliest days of video gaming. For instance, there's the archaically racist Bruce Lee (1984), which casts you as the legendary martial artist as he attempts to kick a sorcerer to death while being chased by a ninja and a sumo wrestler. Please note: Bruce Lee had already been dead for several years when this game was released.
Making it Game Of Death the game (of even more death, we assume).
Then there was the weird trend of giving rock bands an entire game, regardless of whether the plot read like a peyote-induced nightmare. For instance, there was Journey, in which players were asked to help reunite the members of the titular band with their instruments (sadly, there wasn't an option to say no and spare the suffering of the virtual audience), as well as Frankie Goes To Hollywood, which asks you to spiritually develop your character while trying to solve a murder, because apparently those two things were very important to the band.
In 1994, this genre reached its dark nadir with Revolution X, a light-gun shooter in which you have to rescue the members of Aerosmith from a terrorist group presumably planning on using the chemical sludge collecting in Steven Tyler's liver as a poison to wipe out mankind. Among other things, the game challenged players to be able to distinguish between the band's female groupies and the actual members of the band.
Virtually indistinguishable from '90s Brad Whitford.
However, the mother of weirdly shit celebrity video games is Fonz, a 1976 motorbike racing game starring everyone's favorite shark-jumping delinquent. The game was just a rebranded version of an earlier video game, Road Race, which Sega quickly bedazzled with publicity shots of Henry Winkler once they realized they were part owners of the intellectual property rights over Happy Days.
Jiggle Physics: Fatal Fury 2 (1992)
Games featuring minimally clothed, ludicrously big-breasted women have helped create a generation of people who legitimately believe that human spines can support the weight of a small car.
It's a trope that has appeared in every popular series of fighting games. There's Ivy Valentine from Soulcalibur, the sorceress from Dragon's Crown, Quiet from the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and the entirety of the Dead Or Alive roster -- you name the game, someone saved a shitload of money while having these characters' outfits designed. And thanks to the power of next-gen video game systems, we have an entire physics engine (appropriately dubbed "jiggle physics") whose sole purpose is to make all of those boobs bounce joyously around like tubby poltergeists.
"This arena was built on top of the remains of an ancient Iroquois titty bar."
But Actually ...
Believe it or not, there's a good chance that jiggle physics are older than a substantial portion of the people reading this article. Fatal Fury 2 was a fighting game released in 1992 that introduced Mai Shiranui, a fighter with so little clothing covering a pair of breasts so meticulously animated that we suspect they're constantly huddling together for warmth.
Her costume options mostly involve different colored spinal braces.
The game was also one of the first to introduce the field of jiggle physics, an abuse of science and technology so spectacular that we're expecting gravity to just collapse and send us flying into space out of mercy for the species. So, to be clear, it was more important to video game developers to design in-game breasts that would move independently from a character's body with the same weight and physical characteristics of real-life breasts than it was to figure out how to make a Superman game that wasn't a big piece of shit.
Quick Time Events: Dragon's Lair (1983)
Quick time events are, essentially, interactive cutscenes that frequently kill players without any warning whatsoever, either because there's no indication that the cutscene was about to become interactive or because the player got up to use the bathroom. Missed prompts result in nothing less than a gruesome death ...
Nothing makes you feel more like a bold, capable adventurer than being instructed to mash a D-pad.
... or hilariously overwrought scenes that make Transformers look like Schindler's List by comparison.
"Tap 'A' quickly to reflect on the beauty of impermanence, or press 'B' to throw a grenade."
It's a bizarre convention designed to add cinematic setpieces while still trying to make them appear like they're part of a game (instead of, say, just having the players actually play through a huge action sequence). Interactive cutscenes have been referred to as "press X to win," because they're every bit as interactive as reading a book -- you just turn the page when you're prompted and the scene continues. It's an annoying trend in recent gaming that all but single-handedly ruined Resident Evil 6, so much so that Capcom actually released a patch that allowed players to disable them, because they are the opposite of fun.
But Actually ...
If you need a direction to point your rage, look no further than the game that started it all: Dragon's Lair, a 1983 game that isn't a game so much as a choose-your-own-adventure movie where you press the occasional button or joystick direction to stay alive. You were a knight tasked with rescuing a princess from a castle, and the game ruthlessly attempted to kill you in innumerable ways. Because of the game's many branching paths, no two playthroughs were ever the same, which made remembering what button presses were required for each scene intensely difficult:
Also, please note that this was the entire game -- the cutscenes didn't lead to a challenging platform section or a righteous boss battle. It was just one long interactive cutscene. Regardless of how many times you completed the game, you watched the same movies and pressed the same buttons and lamented not playing a better game every damn time. Still, it was fully animated by Don Bluth, the creator of The Secret Of NIMH, so at least it toed that weird line between kid-friendly and R-rated.
Motion-Controlled Gaming: Le Stick (1983)
When the Nintendo Wii was launched in 2006, it was heralded as the dawn of a new era in gaming that would draw in casual and hardcore gamers alike. Nearly a decade later, we're still feeling the effects of the Wii's explosive release, which is a phrase here meaning "hundreds of shitty sports and exercise games designed for old people."
Finally, the masses can enjoy the thrill of bowling without the impossible burden of finding $7.
The motion-controller craze sparked by the Wii somehow heroically managed to avoid producing a single quality lightsaber game, although if your lifelong dream is to play a video game about Frisbee golf, you have a few options at your fingertips.
But Actually ...
To be fair, we're actually several decades overdue for a game that allows you to swing a motion-controlled lightsaber to decapitate virtual enemies of the galaxy. The first incarnation of the motion-controller was Le Stick, a joystick-esque controller designed for Atari and Commodore consoles.
Having 90 percent of units mistakenly end up in sex shops
may have kept it from realizing its full potential.
Like its modern-day counterparts, Le Stick worked by moving it in whatever direction you wanted. However, instead of using weights or a light sensor, Le Stick operated using a motion detector triggered by an internal reservoir of goddamn mercury. You can say what you will about PlayStation Move, but there was never any danger of catching Minamata disease from playing too much Killzone 3.
So, essentially, the world's first motion-controller was a poison-filled robot dick with a glowing red button placed angrily on its tip. One of the biggest problems with using mercury as a sensor (aside from the possibility of it leaking and splashing into your fucking eyes during a particularly heated virtual tennis match) is that it could never accurately gauge the strength of your hand movement. If you wanted your character to walk slowly, tilting Le Stick in that direction would result in your character flying off into the distance like a human cannonball. As you more seasoned gamers probably realize, this is not a quality you want in your controller.
Microtransactions: Double Dragon 3 (1990)
If there's one thing that typifies how shitty modern-day gaming has become, it's microtransactions -- an attempt by a game publisher to force customers to spend even more money on a game they already purchased. Whether by offering better weapons, novelty costumes, or additional characters and levels, the scourge of DLC and microtransactions has tainted the current generation of video games like no shitty industry convention has before.
Why can't modern-day gaming be like the good ol' days, when games didn't ship until they were completed and buying a copy meant you owned every piece of content there was to play?
But Actually ...
Well, if we're being perfectly honest, those days never existed, at least not for as long as most of you have been playing video games. Take, for instance, Double Dragon 3 (1990), an arcade game that somehow managed to turn a game about punching people to death into a money-printing machine.
Nothing says "gritty street brawl" like crossed rapiers.
See, throughout the game's levels were stores where players could buy items like extra characters, extended health bars, and secret fighting combos in exchange for slipping the racist stereotypes who staffed the boutiques a real-life quarter. That's right -- you could only get these items by putting more money into the machine.
There's also a time limit to spend, because why not screw you both coming and going?
However, although it's easy to get angry about this practice, it still bears repeating that players got this fancy bullshit for only a quarter. Although billed as extra characters, those people you unlocked served as the equivalent of extra lives, while the fight combos ranged from your standard jump attack to hurricane kicks, which must have blown the minds of post-Reagan youths.
And it's not like games didn't ship broken. Super Metroid, GoldenEye, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy VI, and countless other triple-A games from the good ol' days are rife with infamous glitches and bugs, some beneficial and some game-breaking. The only real difference is now developers can patch busted games, whereas games back then that shipped broken stayed that way forever. There was also much less horse armor.
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