Letters to the Editor

Beam Me Up, Scotty


In response to “The Curious Case of Me Jammin’ Buttons” from The Escapist Forum: I’m 34 and am developing the same sense of disillusionment with gaming. I LOVE gaming, but I don’t get the same sense of joy playing games as I once used to. I constantly think back to earlier times where my joy was pure.

I’ve been a Apple IIe\Amiga 500\PC gamer and never touched a console so my memories are different, but the feelings are exactly the same. When I was 24 I played Thief so much I started to unconsciously walk in the shadows all the time.

Going even earlier back it was Deux Ex, The Bard’s Tale, Wasteland and Ultima III and IV.

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few years about why I don’t enjoy gaming as much as I used to and I’ve come up with a few explanations.

– Familiarity –

A lot of content in our culture is rehashed over and over again by the media (and now gaming companies). I still enjoy watching films if there is some spectacle to them, but I’ve seen them almost all before. Not the exact same film, but something so close to it it doesn’t matter. You know how the plots going to out play out, and you’re sitting there saying, “Oh yes, here’s the next action\fight\love interest scene”. I pray for something to surprise me, even if it fails in the attempt.

Gaming has become like that for me to an extent. There are only so many FPS games you can play before they all blur together, RPGs with the same quests, RTSs with the same mechanics. In addition, the lack of innovation due to the expense of risk taking is exacerbating the problem. I mean it’s not just the same game mechanic, it’s the same game with a new roman numeral on the end and a higher polygon count.

I’ve started scouring indie games just to find something different that I haven’t played before.

– Lack Of Time For Long Gaming Sessions –

I also no longer have time for extended gaming sessions. I work as a software architect and have a young daughter, and between spending time with my wife, my daughter, my job and doing the never ending housework, there is only a bit of time left to play games.

More importantly, there is almost no time for those 6+ hour gaming sessions that you could play when you were younger. And I think it’s those sessions that are the key to the experiences we crave. Even if I get my hands on a great game (e.g. the first third of BioShock), I can only play in one or two hour sessions. It breaks the immersion, and so the game becomes more about the game mechanic (nothing special) and less about the story experience (which was special). It’s only when my best friend comes back from overseas and my wife takes care of our daughter for a day, that my friend and I will sit down and game for a big block of time.

What do other people think? Are they having the same experience as they grow older?



In response to “Digital Déjà Vu” from The Escapist Forum: I’m surprised that, as far as I’ve noticed, no-one’s mentioned the word ’empowerment’ yet. For me that’s what it’s all about, there’s something deeply empowering about going back over a situation and redoing it with, (eventually, hopefully) perfection.

So often the most badass character is let down by the skills of we the controllers- Snake gets seen, Kratos gets stabbed, Lara falls off a cliff. Because of their personal narratives, we know these things aren’t THEIR fault, (they get on perfectly well in the cutscenes!). It’s OUR fault. By going back and doing it right you put your character back on the line of their destiny, and to everyone but you it’s like the cock-ups never happened. You become badass too.



Shamus did a video in regards to this subject. It went along the line of a learning curb that involved either being punished for your mistake and starting completely over again, or learning from it, and being givin another chance to try again.

I think its a situational thing, in the past it seemed that designers by default would just restart the level cause that was pretty well the only solution… the player fails, they must then restart the whole challenge, and get it right to recieve thier rewards. its a formula that can still work provided that the challenge rewards balance with the punishment of restarting.

Today it seems development has grown, and as players we are now offered the oportunity to spend less time punished, and more time to learn the challenge at the point of failure, as opposed to everything up to and including the failure.

I like the idea of trying again at the point of failure. saving your game before a seemingly challenging oponent in oblivion for example can save alot of headache, however if you dont, then the autosave may be your only ‘saving’ grace, wherever the autosave happened to be. repeating what you do well isnt so much a waste of time as its is just boring. Im playing the game to be entertained as well as chellenged, and if im just being givin a challenge i know the answer to over and over again, its not a challenge, its just boring.

Its a double edged sword though. An excellent example is Prince of Persia: City of Light. Its just as fun and challenging with its ablility to allow the player more time to learn by restarting at the point of failure, however it does make the game ‘easy to read’ and the challenge in the bigger picture becomes less apealing because you know that you will never die. (fun game though)

In short, I think both formula are worthy, just in the correct context of the game in question. Repetition I can do unless its just a broken record.



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In response to “A Persistence of RAM” from The Escapist Forum: For me, the shift between day and night is simply a part of the background aesthetic. Unless it adds something to the gameplay (as per Fallout 3) I pay as much attention to it as I do each individual rock and blade of grass. I admit that sneaking around Megaton late at night and nicking everything that wasn’t nailed to the floor is one of my favourite memories in gaming, but the fact that I have a magical time lapse feature makes it too simple and breaks the flow of the game. Giving the ability to control the progression of time to the player renders the realistic flow of day to night redundant because the player simply chooses the time necessary for the objective and is never given the opportunity to appreciate what the day and night cycles actually do to the inhabitants and environments of the game.

It certainly speaks to the diverse philosophies of play that the first two responses about day/night cycles wound up being so diametrically opposed. In fact, that in itself almost calls for its own separate article..

I suppose that the opposite viewpoints may have simply been generated by the specific games that those two played. Poorly implemented day and night can easily ruin a game while well implemented cycles can add a whole layer of immersion.


I hate day/night cycles in games, all they really tend to do is make you wait around bored for the right time for whatever you’re going to do next.

I’m going to have to agree with this. I’ve played several games with day/night cycles and while it starts out as a fairly interesting aspect of the game, later you find yourself sitting around doing nothing because the game wants you to do something at a specific time of day and its not that time yet. Etrian Odyssey, Pokemon Gold/Silver (which added specific DAYS, hoo-frickin-yay!), Rune Factory 2 come to mind. In all three of them I didn’t mind or even notice the day/night cycle, but as the games go on and more events require waiting for specific times/days it got incredibly tedious to the point where I was just about ready to stop playing. In Rune Factory 2 specifically it got so bad that I’d leave the game going while I’d watch youtube videos or read.

Frankly, I think day/night cycles shouldn’t be tied to in-game events so much unless they’re incredibly minor/not at all required for the plot. Otherwise, its up there with forced level grinding, fetch quests, and repeating dungeons/levels/stages/etc as a device that exists just to lengthen gameplay rather than enrich it. I don’t want to wait for the sun to set so I can get the mystical Moon Key to keep going, I want to be able to go at my own pace, and I don’t see why that should be such an absurd demand.



In response to “Slower Than a Speeding Bullet” from The Escapist Forum: Despite all it’s criticism as of late, I’m glad that there are still some people out there who hold some optimism for slow-mo. Truth be told, bullet time is still being used for innovative purposes (one of the levels in Braid is a perfect example of this.)

This article is a brilliant and nostalgic look at bullet time in video games. Bravo Mr. Deam!


What I appreciated about Bullet Time in Max Payne is that it was a way of making gameplay easier for the player, while at the same time boosting the player’s ego.

Normally, scaling down game difficulty is a downer: You feel like a noob because you can’t handle the game’s normal challenge. Think about how people react to pausing or slowing real-time strategy games. Or think about how you’d feel if a shooter simply offered unlimited bullet time “slow-mo” mode: You’d feel like a chump for playing it that way.

Max Payne made me feel AWESOME for playing in Bullet Time. Never has shooting slow-moving, easy to kill targets been such an ego boost.


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