What do you consider to be "dumbing down"?

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This is a qustion aimed primarily at folks who feel that games are getting "dumbed down", often with reference to console players.

Now, I am a PC gamer through and through, but some of my all-time favorite games were from the consoles, particular those before this generation (PS2 and earlier, basically). I cannot imagine not playing truly stunning games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid. Going back further, the original Sonic games, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Gunstar Heroes... I could go on forever.

So, what aspects of current games and gaming trends do you feel contribute to "dumbing down"? Do you feel dumbing-down is even occuring?

Dumbing down is when something is changed from an existing archetype to make it less complex and interesting to appeal to the "general public."

As far as video games go, I think the Wii is very guilty of this. The Wii is undoing every bit of work done to this point to have video games seen as art rather than toys. Companies like Activision are perfect examples. They won't venture any risks which don't have "clear sequel potential."

At least companies like EA are trying new IPs like Mirror's Edge.

As far as other games go, anyone who plays Magic knows what it means now...

I do not enjoy having my hand held through a game whatsoever. That is the ultimate dumbing down of a game in my opinion as of late. I do not want cute little gems showing me the proper way to get through the maze. I do not want a little voice to pip up telling me how I can do better at every moment. And unless it is an important part of game play, I do not want a "HIT HERE" symbol painted on the center of a monster's head.

This trend has been particularly prevalent since cut-scenes took over most of what makes a game around 2001 until now. Yes, cut-scenes are pretty, but when it gives me a cliche plot with watered down character personalities, lands me with a cheap game play mechanic, and overall gives me a bland game, what is the point?

I hate that term. It's so damned elitist.

I do believe that games are being dumbed down, and Shadow of the Colossus is a perfect example. True, the game may be stunning, but the gameplay is tedious as hell: There are boss monsters with easily discernable weak points that must be hit several times before the player achieves victory. This seems to be the way of all boss fights in recent times: The enemy is almost always meant to be defeated in one, extremely specific manner.
And, if games are not made to provide the least possible challenge, they are made accessible by the eradication of any interesting or controversial plot points. As much as I love the series, Halo is guilty of this crime. The storyline is not complex, and never are we given more reason to dispatch our foes other than "They are Evil. Believe us." Never is the player forced to think.

ohgodalex:
I do believe that games are being dumbed down, and Shadow of the Colossus is a perfect example. True, the game may be stunning, but the gameplay is designed for morons: There are boss monsters with easily discernable weak points that must be hit several times before the player achieves victory. This seems to be the way of all boss fights in recent times: The enemy is almost always meant to be defeated in one, extremely specific manner.

I have to disagree. While it may not have been hard to find the weak points, actually defeating the bosses was anything but easy. And to be fair, the weak points were only visible when you got near them, right? So you kind of had to scale them to find the points. That's not so bad.

ohgodalex:
This seems to be the way of all boss fights in recent times: The enemy is almost always meant to be defeated in one, extremely specific manner.

I think 90% of bosses have been like that since.......ever.

Either you shoot them or hack and slash them or trigger some objects until they die. It's not complex and i would not like it any different

ohgodalex:
I do believe that games are being dumbed down, and Shadow of the Colossus is a perfect example. True, the game may be stunning, but the gameplay is designed for morons: There are boss monsters with easily discernable weak points that must be hit several times before the player achieves victory. This seems to be the way of all boss fights in recent times: The enemy is almost always meant to be defeated in one, extremely specific manner.
And, if games are not made to provide the least possible challenge, they are made accessible by the eradication of any interesting or controversial plot points. As much as I love the series, Halo is guilty of this crime. The storyline is not complex, and never are we given more reason to dispatch our foes other than "They are Evil. Believe us." Never is the player forced to think.

Have you thought that the game Shadow of the Collosus was meant for something rather then challenging the player? It's made by Eastern developers, whos train of thought differs from ours. They believe in Design over Development, while the West believes in Development over Design.

To the point. The game, much like Ico, was to invoke an emotional response. It was meant to be an experience to be enjoyed and wondered rather to test our skills. The fact that these "monsters", huge lumbering beasts of beauty, was meant to be destroyed by our hands was to invoke a human emotion.

Jackel86:

I have to disagree. While it may not have been hard to find the weak points, actually defeating the bosses was anything but easy. And to be fair, the weak points were only visible when you got near them, right? So you kind of had to scale them to find the points. That's not so bad.

Hm. I just realised that I chose my words poorly. "Designed for morons." I need to think before I type.

Anyway. I suppose that difficulty is all in the eyes of the beholder, but I found that simply seeing the Colossi was the most exhilarating part of that game. It almost felt like a sin to slay such amazing creatures in such a pathetic manner. I mean, attacking the weak point for massive damage? Really?

mentor07825:

To the point. The game, much like Ico, was to invoke an emotional response. It was meant to be an experience to be enjoyed and wondered rather to test our skills. The fact that these "monsters", huge lumbering beasts of beauty, was meant to be destroyed by our hands was to invoke a human emotion.

And, while I am willing to commend Shadow of the Colossus and Ico for stimulating me mentally, I see no reason that the gameplay should not be on the same par as the mood of the game. Is it just assumed that anyone who is capable of appreciating the beauty of a game isn't also a gamer? No, I refuse to accept a game as art until it succeeds as both a moving artistic piece and an excellent game. We should not be forced to pick which good qualities we want in our games.

Hardcore_gamer:

I think 90% of bosses have been like that since.......ever.

Either you shoot them or hack and slash them or trigger some objects until they die. It's not complex and i would not like it any different

But take Zelda's bosses for example. Every single god damned one is meant to be killed with one specific weapon, specifically whichever weapon was found in that bosses respective dungeon. This is moronic. Or bosses in more recent Sonic the Hedgehog games, which must be stalled until they reveal their weak points that then must be hit so the cycle can begin again. I am very fond of the "shoot this until it dies" style of boss, which might seem to contradict my earlier statement that I hate seeing gameplay dumbed down. Still, something huge and terrifying that is very good at hurting you takes skill to take down, while other bosses serve as remedial classes in pattern recognition.

I don't think games as a whole are being dumbed down, and the reference to console gamers is a bit elitist. I grew up playing NES, SNES, and Genesis...but I also played PC games like Fallout and Baldur's Gate. Now I'm almost strictly console because I don't have the cash to shell out on the kind of computer it takes to run the newest gen games at the highest frame rights. The nice thing about consoles is that the standards are uniform, so I don't have to worry about Mass Effect running at a poorer quality or crashing my computer.

But more on topic: I think there are plenty of new, original ideas in games today. Take the game I just mentioned, Mass Effect. This is a very intelligent RPG with a lot to say about politics, human nature, and emotions. I don't think a game in a previous generation has done as well with depicting a romantic relationship, either. Usually such "relationships" are a turn off for me, because they're little more than fan service. But ME elevates it to an emotional connection. Games are art, indeed. I love the original Baldur's Gate series, but ME elevates the RPG to another level.

Dumbing down as a good example would be when L4D was released having coloured bars representing ping rather than just the standard number.

Griever18:
I hate that term. It's so damned elitist.

This. I'm fairly certain that people aren't willing to admit that ten-fifteen years ago, they were younger and far, far more stupid than they are now. Of COURSE the games seemed harder back then! This is not dumbing down, this is players growing up.

I'm going to take, as an example, Sonic The Hedgehog 1. I love this game, I really do, but ALL of the boss fights are a mixture of trial-and-error to learn their attack pattern and (in the case of the final machine) pure luck. The levels themselves require even less luck - once you memorise them, you can do them flawlessly with very little skill involved - its all timing. Compare this to... Say... [Prototype], which I will use because I've been playing it all today. The first boss (apart from the Hunter army) is a combination of trial-and-error to learn his attack pattern and work out which weapon you need to use ('cos only one REALLY works...) and pure luck when swarms of enemies start showing up. The level is one huge area that requires exploration and preperation before you start doing missions, learning street layouts and areas where Infacted and Military presences are higher, and then, once you've got a mission, you can choose how you do it, requiring tactics and a decent measure of skill that you can't just get from rote-action repetition, even if your choice is "run in, kill everything."

Which one's easier there?

Jackel86:
Dumbing down is when something is changed from an existing archetype to make it less complex and interesting to appeal to the "general public."

Wow, I wish I could have put it that succinctly!

I pretty much a agree with the above, though I'd probably replace "less complex and interesting" with simply "easier" although that's perhaps being pedantic.

To expand on my personal 2p...

As a general rule I think console gamers like to play games they can (1) get the hang of in a short period of time and (2) play for short periods at a time. There's also the matter of the console controlers being ultimately less flexible than a keyboard and mouse.

With a keyboard and a mouse and the willingness to dedicate time to a game a PC gamer has the potential to enjoy deeper and/or more challenging games (especially with regards to SP games) but with more and more PC games being console ports there are fewer and fewer PC games which offer those sorts of experiences.

That's my personal take on it.

Zelda games are gettin alot esier.... For thos of you who disagree, think of twilight princess, now think of how long it took you to beat and how frustrated you got at the game. Now think of Majora's Mask, remember how difficult it was? I thought it was because of my age difference, but it's because kids are refusing to play difficult games, Just look at how hard KH1 was compared to KH2

PiCroft:

So, what aspects of current games and gaming trends do you feel contribute to "dumbing down"? Do you feel dumbing-down is even occuring?

YES YES I DO.

Games used to be hard as nails from the moment you stepped into them. Then, they started adding difficulty curves. The problem with difficulty curves is that you need to spend so much development time on the tutorial content that the actual game part of the game becomes quite short.

The RTS may be the root cause of this: the first 11 missions introduce 1 new unit or building each mission, so by the final mission you can really hit em with the works.

Tutorial: 11 missions
game: 1 mission.

LAME SAUCE. This mentality has spilled into many genres. Go back and play Super Ghouls and Ghosts if you want an example for how games started hard and stayed hard. Maybe thats a bad example... i think that game actually had a reverse difficulty curve such that if you could beat the 2nd level the rest of the game was easy by comparison...

Jackel86:

As far as video games go, I think the Wii is very guilty of this. The Wii is undoing every bit of work done to this point to have video games seen as art rather than toys.

What's wrong with video games being toys?

I have to agree with Quaidis. I hate it when developers (or more likely, some moron in the marketing dept.) start thinking about semi-illiterate under-educated slow learning 8 year olds being their core players. Especially in games rated for adults.

Dumbing Down - and no, it's not an elitist term - is everywhere in computer games. It's dumbed down when they spend months making weapons and vehicles appear as realisitic as possible, then 'relax' the mechanics of those items to be more fun. It's dumbed down when the puzzles and tasks are engineered for idiot children and it's dumbed down when you're forced to be led by the hand through a series of tutorial missions and errand running tasks you cannot skip. Hey corporate marketing guy, give me a decent manual and I'll read the damn thing!

I don't need to see numbers float out of a monster after I've hit it. I don't need text getting in my face every 5 seconds, or items to glow so I'll know I can use them. I don't need The-Button-I'm-Supposed-To-Press-Now to be bright red, a metre across and framed in a huge HUD with the words CONTROL BUTTON blinking on and off.

And dumbing down isn't just in the mechanics, it's in the culture.
I'm all grown up now so all the sexual adolescence is just really grating and I really wish my enemies were more than just two-dimensional no-name baddies from a Michael Bay movie. Oh yeah and can our baddies please have more personality options than just 'Sneering, Ruthless, Psychopath', 'Decadent, Cynical (And Possibly Sexually Ambivalent) Eurocrat' and 'Mindless, Stupid Thug' ?

You only have to look at those games that don't assume the player is a gimp (Portal, Alpha Centauri, IL-2 Sturmovik, Vangers, the Ultimas (but NOT U9) etc. etc.) to see that developers can make games for grown-ups and those games will still sell shiploads.

But I think these ladies say it best:
(http://www.viruscomix.com/page479.html)

:)

You wanna see dumbing down? Look into maryland public schools. I think games are doing just fine.

For those who say the older games were harder because we are younger: I have yet to beat Lion King for the Genesis.

But as for the dumbing down. I believe some games do, others don't. It's a matter of whether the developers wanted the game to be a challenge or artistic.

At least that's what I believe. =/

Jackel86:
Dumbing down is when something is changed from an existing archetype to make it less complex and interesting to appeal to the "general public."

As far as video games go, I think the Wii is very guilty of this. The Wii is undoing every bit of work done to this point to have video games seen as art rather than toys. Companies like Activision are perfect examples. They won't venture any risks which don't have "clear sequel potential."

At least companies like EA are trying new IPs like Mirror's Edge.

As far as other games go, anyone who plays Magic knows what it means now...

Muramasa: The Demon Blade says no, the Wii is innocent.

image

So does Fragile:

image

And there are a wealth of WiiWare games on selection that disagree also, while we're at it.

Also, the vast majority of games are still toys, as their main object is to be played, not to be art, while art is still very much possible.

Zero-Vash:
For those who say the older games were harder because we are younger: I have yet to beat Lion King for the Genesis.

But as for the dumbing down. I believe some games do, others don't. It's a matter of whether the developers wanted the game to be a challenge or artistic.

At least that's what I believe. =/

I got to the last stage and got killed by Scar, I had one life. >_<

I played again, got to the last stage, and my house-mate kicked the console by accident, freezing the game.

There is nothing in that game that is difficult by poor game design, it's all meticulously placed for punishment purposes only. That game wants to see nothing but you and your family suffer.

Nintendo as a whole. The wiimote had potential to be innovative, but the games that use the motion controls right are all a gimmicky collection of mini games. In any traditional game all it does is replace a couple of buttons with flicking your wrist, which takes considerably longer given its slow reaction time, and the developers account for that by overcompensating and making games insultingly and boringly easy.

Guitarmasterx7:
Nintendo as a whole. The wiimote had potential to be innovative, but the games that use the motion controls right are all a gimmicky collection of mini games. In any traditional game all it does is replace a couple of buttons with flicking your wrist, which takes considerably longer given its slow reaction time, and the developers account for that by overcompensating and making games insultingly and boringly easy.

All of them are gimmicky minigame collections? What kind of foolish sweeping generalisation is this? There are a number of games that use it right, I know this from experience and you hopefully should from observation alone too. The traditional game point is correct though.

Halo Wars

Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 on the Xbox 360

/thread

Interactive Cutscenes, or, to use the popular jargon, Quick-Time Events. 'Nuff said.

quack35:

Jackel86:

As far as video games go, I think the Wii is very guilty of this. The Wii is undoing every bit of work done to this point to have video games seen as art rather than toys.

What's wrong with video games being toys?

Kids play with toys. If you are older, you want something, I don't know, of your level and mental age.

Not saying you must play Ninja Gaiden on Master before breakfast, without getting hit once, smashing enemies into 2 in five seconds... But there must be a middle ground.

For me, dumbing down... most of the console games are dumbed done. For controls, mainly, sometimes for the audience.

To me, dumbing down is Deus Ex to Deus Ex: Invisible War. I don't mind when developers strip or rework extraneous components because they are a bother (ex: Mass Effect inventory), but when level length, complexity, and player strategy are downsized for whatever reason, I generally consider it a step in the wrong direction. It seems to me that many (though not all) developers nowadays are seeking to simply create bigger spectacles than what has come before, but to me that's not what games are about. If I want to see some crazy action, I'll go to a movie theater. Games should be offering new ways for gamers to interact with the virtual environment, to allow a true "interactive experience." I'm not saying all action games are bad, but if we want the medium to evolve people have to realize that games should become more complex to truly offer something new.

I consider nothing to be "dumbing down," when it comes to video games in general. The concept is absurd.

Then again, I'm one of those people who played Devil May Cry 3 before the original and was off-put by having to hold R1 to fire my guns at all. Thought I left that weird concept behind in Resident Evil.

Abedeus:

quack35:

Jackel86:

As far as video games go, I think the Wii is very guilty of this. The Wii is undoing every bit of work done to this point to have video games seen as art rather than toys.

What's wrong with video games being toys?

Kids play with toys. If you are older, you want something, I don't know, of your level and mental age.

Should we call them something different, then, to help our egos?

onelifecrisis:

Jackel86:
Dumbing down is when something is changed from an existing archetype to make it less complex and interesting to appeal to the "general public."

Wow, I wish I could have put it that succinctly!

I pretty much a agree with the above, though I'd probably replace "less complex and interesting" with simply "easier" although that's perhaps being pedantic.

To expand on my personal 2p...

As a general rule I think console gamers like to play games they can (1) get the hang of in a short period of time and (2) play for short periods at a time. There's also the matter of the console controlers being ultimately less flexible than a keyboard and mouse.

With a keyboard and a mouse and the willingness to dedicate time to a game a PC gamer has the potential to enjoy deeper and/or more challenging games (especially with regards to SP games) but with more and more PC games being console ports there are fewer and fewer PC games which offer those sorts of experiences.

That's my personal take on it.

Okay, my bullshit meter just went of the charts by reading your post. I really am pissed of by PC elitests. Console players can't dedicate time to play deeper and more challenging games? I fail to see the logic in that statement. Just because a majority of console players now do fall into what you described, does not mean all do. Also, the whole keyboard/controller debate is a huge waste of time. Its all about preference. If you grew up playing on a keyboard and mouse, your better with that than you are with a controller. If your like me, you grew up with the game gamepad, therefore making you better with it than the keyboard. Sorry 'bout that outburst, but seriously, you don't hear me bashing a comic book reader, claiming his little picture books are nowhere near as deep and complex as a Mark Twain novel.

My version of dumbing down when relating to gaming: When a game is made to appeal to gamers that have not experienced that type of game, like how Halo Wars is a dumbed down RTS game so FPS fanboys can play a genre previously unknown to them.

Or, when looking at it differently: dumbing down is putting as little effort as possible into a game with as many copies sold as they can get.

Haydyn:
My version of dumbing down when relating to gaming: When a game is made to appeal to gamers that have not experienced that type of game, like how Halo Wars is a dumbed down RTS game so FPS fanboys can play a genre previously unknown to them.

I'm trying and failing to see how that's a bad thing.

The only time it bugged me was when Spideys swing mechanic from Spidey 2 was dumbed down for Ultimate.

according to my friends WoW is getting dumbed down..... a lot

NeutralDrow:

Haydyn:
My version of dumbing down when relating to gaming: When a game is made to appeal to gamers that have not experienced that type of game, like how Halo Wars is a dumbed down RTS game so FPS fanboys can play a genre previously unknown to them.

I'm trying and failing to see how that's a bad thing.

I never said it was always bad. Sure RTS fans might not like it as much, but Halo Wars' target audience are Halo fans.

My idea of dumbing down. Hmm. Perfect example, a game I started playing (ok so it's again but anyway) today at 11:30 when I got up. I skipped cut scenes, it's not 17:00, and I've finished the Force Unleashed for the PS2.

Ok, so that's no great feat.

I died only twice, none of the times to Vader or the Emperor.

WHA?! No game should have 6 hours playability (I stopped a few times for lunch etc.), let alone a game that cost me over $70 when I first bought it.

Other games like this are just annoying. The worst thing is people seem to be ok with them.

By the way, I did what others did and just sunk all my points into Force Lightning and Choke.

The_Deleted:
The only time it bugged me was when Spideys swing mechanic from Spidey 2 was dumbed down for Ultimate.

Meh, well I liked the Spidey 3 swinging :P

Anyway, games being 'dumbed down' is just such a stupid fad going around.
Most of the stupidity and difficulty of NES generation consoles was the developers being inexperienced, and complete dickheads.

Say you have a platformer, and it uses the common platformer spikes-you-have-to-jump, but they are almost impossible to jump unless your some compulsive psychotich.

This does not make the game Jaw-Droppingly unique and amazing, it makes it hard and frustrating. And this itself doesnt make it FUN either.

What I like from a videogame is Enjoyment, nothing more. The godfather II, for instance, could be considered a dumbing down from the 4th gen, but this doesnt mean I dont find it fun.
I mean, the hand to hand is like what would happen if you took the hand-to-hand combat from condemned 2 and put it in a 3rd person game - Its like you can feel the force of the punch going up your arm when you do it. It might not be very sophisticated, but your able to jam a crowbar in a guys eye socket. I for one find that enjoyable if not entirely realistic.

Is fun really so bad?

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