PUTTING IT BLUNTLY: How To Play Video Games

Thanks for joining me. Last year I wrote a very helpful piece that assisted many in learning how to use their mobile/cell phone properly. I’ve now taken it upon myself to address how many fail with another facet of life. You’re welcome!

Yeah, yeah, hang on. I’ll get to all these daft points, and more!

Putting it Bluntly: How to Play Video Games

Today we’ll be looking at how some are making themselves miserable with their gaming technique/mentality, and how one can fix these issues and be a happier little gamer. Whether you’re playing the game wrong or playing the wrong game, fear not. I’ve played video games for well over 30 years now, and I’ve made several keen observations in my time. I’ll happily share what I’ve learned with you.

Oh yeah, how rude of me to forget…

Rewarding people for doing nothing gives the illusion that they’ve done something worthy of a cookie/pat on the head. Becoming conditioned to needing what turns into simple reassurance, transforms many into needy little bitches. Not a good start.

EZ Mode? Hacks? Get Good or Play Another Game!

There’s been a bit more talk lately regarding video games offering a journalist/easy mode. Many games offer a choice in difficulty setting already,  but some don’t. It’s these titles that have caused massive outrage (and tantrums) to the loud, angry few.

The shriek of “accessibility” is often heard in attempts to shut down this discussion before it happens. I’m afraid that I, like a few others, aren’t buying it! Lethal Lightning (above) shows that I’m far from the only person laughing at the infantile mentality.

If we’re talking about making the hardware more accessible to people with physical handicaps/disabilities, I’m all on board with that. Even software issues like font size and colour filtering options are fantastic.

I myself like to keep foreign games in their original tongue with English subtitles. Watching the action and reading instructions/dialogue can be tricky enough sometimes for people that don’t have vision or processing issues.

#MyStupidExHuman has worked in specialised care and I’ve learned of some really groundbreaking stuff because of him. Bridging gaps with technology delivered some of the best moments of the job. What he didn’t do, once something was set up for someone to use, was DO IT ALL FOR THEM!

As expected, anyone that has discovered a means of playing a game (or activity in general) they previously couldn’t even TRY to be involved in, would not be happy with you taking their opportunity away from them.

Inclusion is about making sure people have the opportunity to partake in a game or activity.  Manufacturing an environment and manipulating the variables (participation awards/trophies and journalist-mode) in an attempt to ensure everyone has the exact same outcome/experience is not the way to go about this. Molly-coddling never did anyone any favours in the long run.

If you want to argue you view games as art in a similar way to watching films, go watch a streamer finish a game you like the look of. If you can’t be bothered to keep trying to overcome something in a digital test of your skill/reflexes/problem solving, don’t expect EVERYONE ELSE to change for you.

Games were a lot more fun when they weren’t just 20-hour long cutscenes with the occasional “press X not to die/to keep playing” quick-time events chucked in there.  If you want to emulate that experience, just binge a DVD boxset and double-press pause now and again during fight/action scenes and pretend you were responsible.

With regards to hacking, well, you’re probably a little bitch if you need the computer to cheat for you and auto-lock opponents in first-person-shooters such as Call of Duty and Apex Legends, to name a couple. I don’t play them anymore, but I’ve watched enough friends play against many very suspicious characters. The type that only needs one shot to kill you, even though your 50 bullets did nothing to their regenerating health.

The same goes for those that just set up an autoplay bot in MMORPGs; having something that makes all the decisions for you and moves you out of range when needed isn’t really testing you. Copy and pasting someone else’s list of gear to get, and actions to perform pretty much just turned you into another NPC, congratulations! “Playing” like this may seem like a good idea as everything’s a cakewalk…until something happens with your plugin and you’re left using your brain and faceplanting your keyboard/joypad because you don’t know any better.

If you’re cheating on a single-player game, that’s on you, I suppose. I’m not angry, just disappointed.

It should go without saying that the best way to enjoy playing a game is to…well, actually play the bloody thing!

Play to Win.

Except nothing else. Why bother if not? I’m not your babysitter, here to kill that boss that’s too tough or to solve that puzzle on Zelda you can’t be arsed to attempt.

Oh, it’s for a fee? Riiiiiight…where do you think you are? A drive-thru? Jog on and get good, you useless shite! And no, you can’t buy any in-game currency either.

Here lies a major problem in modern gaming and other means of entertainment. Too many have become accustomed to the black and white, borderline mentality that the internet exacerbates if you don’t look out for it and keep it in check.

“The customer is ALWAYS right” is a desperate mentality that has spoiled it for the rest of us reasonable customers. It’s good to listen to what the people purchasing your product has to say, obviously, but we can’t hold every single entitled tantrum as a genuine experience that reflects everyone else.

Too many have grown used to replacing any kind of effort or patience with the option to pay it away; be it the effort walking around the corner to pick a takeaway, waiting for a reasonable time for something to be delivered from a website, or waiting in line with everyone else at a theme park.

This mindset has carried over into what’s supposed to be our play-time, our relaxation time, our escapism. Grinding, being patient, and planning a long game are things some like to pay away with video games. This makes little sense to me in MMORPG’s and such, yet it happens.

I honestly believe that #PayToWin is about as much use as paying someone else to wear your clothes and spend an hour at your gym for you.

I play Final Fantasy XI Online and see this all the time. I’ve also witnessed it on World of Warcraft and Dofus and heard about it on others. I’m confident it happens just about everywhere else nowadays too.

Whether they’re cheating the game, other players, or even just themselves, there are a few reasons you see people turn up to a game and NEED to go from newbie to elitist turd in a week.

The game’s creators rigging the field. Some game developers enjoy exploiting people’s need to fast-pass themselves through a game in exchange for a few extra coins. With this in mind, it doesn’t take much to see and accept that the developers themselves would put additional obstacles in the way to “encourage” you to bypass overcoming something naturally. GTA V is allegedly notorious for allowing/possibly hiring people to prevent newer players from progressing properly, whilst offering a means around the problem, for a fee.

The fear of being seen as a Newbie. Some people do not like seeing too many people “better off” than themselves. This comes in many forms, levels, equipment, and content access. I do understand how attractive sitting at the top of a mountain and fending off the meanest monsters can be because you’ve seen others revel in it, but you miss a lot by rushing to “end game” content.

The desire to be famous/notorious. Some people watch a video game streamer hit it big while playing a certain game and believe all they need to do to reach a similar level of success is to be a beast on the same game. Wrong! There’s no magic formula to follow for fame. There are many more variables than “human plays videogame X” to making it big. Go play and stream a game you genuinely enjoy, even if you think others might not be fans. The games will come and go, people will gravitate to a real personality for as long as you show it…if you have one.

The misconception that games are vending machines. Many that have only played games in the last 10-20 years have enjoyed the “luxury” of being able to pay their way through the completion of a game, be it a straight-up “skip fight/level” option, or just turning a boss into a wimp/a level into a joke. Those who have been spoilt or have more money than sense will often take this route and vanish to another game once they’ve bought all the accomplishments.

The need to brag about/advertise yourself being into something more than you are. Ever seen someone at your local sports/hobby club with all the best gear, but no idea? Sure, they might just be really keen and have replaced their old stuff at the same time; I’d still suggest a semi-defensive stance. Doubly so, if they ever refer to themselves as “elite” or “hardcore”…

That’s Not Very Hardcore.

Playing every game released in a month for a couple of hours each and then moving on ISN’T the behaviour of a “hardcore” gamer to me. It sounds rather fickle and band-wagony, in all honesty. Yet, people that engage in this behaviour will happily project and call others casual gamers.

Those who dip their finger in for a taste, then move on as soon as they think they’ve been there and done that, are called tourists, they’re not hardcore, they’re not even close to hardcore.

There was even a game released on the PS2 for them…

Don’t give me an earful about “variety” gamers either. That choice in language sounds like a case of “whatever gets me over” to me. Like with gaming “journalists”, a quick read-up of the game’s plot/theme/reactions and screen-grabs for Social Marketing are all that’s needed to fill in the blanks for those that hide behind this manipulation of language.

I remember when the act of playing video games was enough to give some personality types permission to pick on/take the piss out of an individual. Now those same people pretend that they’re into these exact same things, just for clout…and money/fame, of course. This also applies to comic books/manga, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, pro-wrestling, non-chart music, even just the general use of the internet.

You see them a mile off if you’re not breaking your neck to make friends 24/7. Sometimes it’s a brand new Star Wars t-shirt, sometimes it’s a borrowed WWE championship belt, sometimes it can be heard when someone recites a cult classic game’s synopsis from Wikipedia. Whichever it is, they often keep it vague and like “all the things”.

This is proof to another industry of how (too much) money can ruin a good thing and just gives me more caution when someone actively/forcibly proclaims that they’re a “gamer/geek/nerd/etc.”. They know the words, but not the music.

A Manufactured Side-Industry.

The games industry itself has gone downhill drastically because of too many fat cats being involved, and not enough genuinely creative/talented people. Just like with the music industry and their battles with record labels, everybody wanting a piece of that lucrative video game pie causes problems for the games themselves, and for those that are playing the games.

That being said, it seems that two negatives have made a positive and the occupation by too many snakes, weasels and greedy pigs in and around video games has turned many long-time observers into active participants.

Re-makes, Reboots, and General Creative Laziness.

What happens when people run out of ideas but still want to keep pumping out endless content? That’s right, the same thing that happened in music, film, wrestling, and now video games. Once people accepted The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim being re-released one console after its original release, it was evident some people would fall for re-purchase anything!

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I have been for a long time. While I’ve got a lot of good things to say about the games, more so in the earlier days, I’ll also kick up a fuss if they start taking the piss. As you may know, the creators of this once near-perfect franchise have gone to the well once too many times with several of their titles; their most famous mainstream success being the biggest victim.

Final Fantasy VII has been milked so hard, it even caused Tifa to drop a couple of cup sizes.

I thought we were against having our ladies de-sexified! And here we are cheering on Square Enix stripping the title of sexiest character in-game from a curvy gal that’s a specialist in hand-to-hand combat and handing it to a pretty boy that needs a sword twice his size to deal with his problems.

The Final Fantasy VII Remake is my most recent irritation regarding gorgeous, yet shameless franchise-milking. I’ll avoid spoilers the best that I can, but there may be a couple of scraps of crucial information that slips through.

Square Enix decided to take ONE (sort of) old Playstation game, split it into THREE new games, stick a $60 price tag on EACH, then jack off publicly over the modern graphics they’ve got on today’s consoles and hyped the absolute shit out of it for over 10 years.

If you purchased this monster in hopes that they’d wrapped the original game in a modern skin, preserving what many have argued with me is “the best game in the franchise/world”, then it sucks to be you, big time.

As well as the original PC version, there was already a respectful remaster of Final Fantasy VII available for official download. I have much fewer issues with this PlayStation 1 title being shown a little love and cleaned up for modern TV screens.

No drastic changes, no remaking anything from scratch, and no eye-bleeding pixel-seizures because you insist on having a 100 inch TV. The other games from that generation, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX were also given this treatment.

In addition to these, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII were re-released on disk and digital. However, because they were initially released on the PlayStation 2, I deem their PlayStation 3 release as unnecessary and greedy. Sony is also at fault for preventing backward compatibility with these games on their respective consoles, but more on that later.

It seems Final Fantasy VII received the “Dragon Ball Evolution” treatment when being remade. By this, I mean that someone has just picked at a franchise like at a buffet table, taken what they liked, removed what they didn’t, added new things they felt now belonged, and changed things they wished had gone differently. This also happened with the X-Men/New Mutants film and any anime/manga that Nonceflix Netflix butchers.

Following that recipe doesn’t even sound like it’s a remake of one thing anymore. It sounds like some desperate, shallow, un-proofed fan-fic to me.

The storyline/defence of SE’s behaviour goes, basically, that the timeline from FFVII/Advent Children has been messed around with and that’s why we’re getting this revisionist history. Not because people don’t know when enough is enough.

They should have just called it Final Fantasy VII-2. Now it just seems like a lot of effort went into making something so a handful of people could relive that confusing semi-hard reaction they got over Cloud crossdressing but in HD!

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was fantastic as a follow-up and fan service. We didn’t need all the extra shit that’s been milked from it. Just leave things the fuck alone and come up with something new.

Speaking of re-hashing old material, the games that release annually (FIFA, WWE 2K, etc.) have been at the point for a while now where they’d probably be better off charging a subscription fee and updating monthly, MMORPG style, instead of pretending to make a new game from scratch each year.

Look at the occasionally unplayable, broken mess that the rushed WWE 2K20 was released as. That disaster likely wouldn’t have happened if we were just waiting for new patches to be released as and when they’re ready.

Everyone notices they‘re essentially just updating and adjusting from the previous game anyway. It’s not like they wouldn’t make a shit-tonne of money from subscriptions and cosmetic DLC.

Play games YOU want to play.

There’s even more pressure on people to follow the herd thanks to gigantic advertising and marketing campaigns, even in video games!

Don’t just play something because others told you to and/or you think it’ll make you look cool. If you’re genuinely interested in something, have at it, but your happiness doesn’t necessarily come from the same source of other people’s happiness. Different doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different!

It doesn’t matter if you happen to enjoy some obscure little number you found in a second-hand game shop that no one else has even heard of. Perhaps your genuine enjoyment of it will encourage others to dip their toe into untouched waters and enjoy it too, then you’ve got someone to converse with about it. Or they could just start shopping for themselves as well!

I really don’t see that much enjoyment being had when 9999 people are all talking about the exact same release and expressing themselves in the exact same way, like some predictable automatic-human response.

It’s almost as sad as people that solely listen to the radio and simultaneously tell people they’re music lovers. You hate to see people fall for it, or any kind of marketing trap.

Speaking of which…

Console Wars.

Don’t buy into it! You’re just whoring their underwhelmingly over-priced products for them, and falling out with each other in the process.

If Sony and Microsoft really wanted their customers to get the most out of their products, they’d allow all the cross-platform interaction (it’s not that tricky to do, c’mon, man!) and there would be NO exclusive releases.

Here’s an idea for the console-makers. Design and build a flawless console and SELL IT ON ITS OWN MERITS! Don’t rely on manipulating the market and your customers by making the game selection to be the decision-maker. Also, backwards compatibility should be a standard, you greedy fucks. It’s pathetic how people get excited at console companies just teasing the idea. It’s like they want us to play PC games. It’s not like we’re using uniquely shaped cartridges and trying to connect devices together with cables anymore.

When I was a kid, there was a similar, yet admittedly childish mentality on the playground of us picking sides/tribes between Sega and Nintendo. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’m pretty sure others enjoyed the times they went to someone else’s house to play on a game/console that they didn’t own; often enjoying the encounter of a new/different experience.

In an ideal world, I’d suggest getting consoles out of your life and building a beast of a PC instead. That way, you can upgrade it when you want to, how you want to, and only when you need to, and not because Sony or Microsoft has announced it’s time to get your hands in your pockets again.

Graphics don’t make up for gameplay.

It’s a shame that this still has to be said, but just because something is pretty, it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be good. Conversely, just because something has less than a “perfect appearance”, it doesn’t mean it’s something bad.

The most notable victim of this in recent history has to be the Nintendo Wii. That console had so much going for it, but people refused to acknowledge this, or even give it a chance, simply because it pre-dates HD resolutions. It was blessed with two Legend of Zelda main titles, Xenoblade Chronicles, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the legendary Okami, and many, many more!

An additional note to those who snubbed the Wii for being different and NOT just being another fashionable Fisherprice-my-first-PC-style mockery of a console, my hands have never gamed so comfortably than when using the Wii remote. Yeah, some of the games required some light/specific physical activity (boo-fricking-hoo), but not being forced to have both my hands drawn together was lovely.

However, picking the “right” platform does come into the conversation when looking at something that’s not meant to be on a handheld device.

3D-battlers on handhelds/mobiles are stupid; the initial Final Fantasy Dissidia games that were released on the Playstation Portable, for example. There was too much, too frequently going on for such a small screen that you were nose-pressed against. In my opinion, since they were aiming for it anyway, Square Enix should have just made them for consoles from the start.

When dealing with tablets and phones, the creeping demand in technology needed to keep up with some game’s updates is inevitable…and eternal.

This can be understood and accepted to a degree, of course. But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn of mobile/handheld device manufacturers and game developers being in bed with each other. Although, I’m not going to name any names!

If this behaviour does happen, it would obviously be financially beneficial for both parties to continuously move the goalposts, much as they do in other areas.

Say no to pre-order:

Stop rewarding the IDEA of a game and all the mental masturbatory hype that PR departments whip up when people’s energy could be better spent.

Stop trying to look fucking cool and ahead of some kind of curve. You’re just demonstrating your skills in doing as you’re told and shopping for video games, piss off!

I’m sure we’ve all now been witness to enough instances where the pressure/obligation/arrogance of someone setting a release date for a game that’s way too soon, yet they fail to do the sensible thing and delay it until they’ve got all the creases ironed out.

Instead, because time (often years) and money have been spent hyping the shit out of a product, pre-orders are already in and they suggest the game is already a success; causing effort and/or care to be less of an issue as that release date closes in.

I mentioned the buggy botch that is WWE 2K20 earlier. For the comparison with a standalone game that dug its heels in to deliver on a launch date, Cyberpunk 2077 made the glitchy WWE 2K20 look a finished and polished masterpiece.

At this point, they haven’t actually made money on the quality of the game, just the hype that has been built leading up to its release. It’s worse than the issue I have with going to the cinema. Just because I’ve paid through my teeth for a ticket, been fisted over nachos and cheese, and sat down in the appreciated darkness, it doesn’t mean I enjoyed myself.

Like a lot of these issues, other areas of entertainment have been infected with this broken mentality. The advent of games being launched has become similar to waiting for a religious event, people collectively and desperately clinging to something they can be a part of.

The problem with these events is that they are forgotten about in a week or two and there’s always another one just around the corner.

Stop Selling Me Shit!

For those that partake, the Retro Games vs Modern Games debate is a rather silly thing to fall out with friends over. As long as it’s understood that a good game has the potential to come from anywhere, on any console, from any year.

I won’t stand to hear “game X is great because it looks beautiful, game Y is dog-shit because it looks like a 16-bit lasagne, game X is bad because it’s modern”, or that any of the Guitar Hero games were of any use to anyone. Well, other than acting as an obstruction between someone finding out if they were any good on a real guitar, or not.

With those rules in place, modern games don’t come off looking great when they stop to sell you something every 30 minutes or so. Whether it’s overpriced cosmetics, product placement, or a shitty ideology getting in the way of the rest of the game, there’s a good chance the game will be fragmented for more sales.

Whatever it is, it probably should have been included in what you already paid for. But instead of holding your ground and declaring you’ve already paid for the game, you’re gonna open that mouth for a thoughtless spoon-feeding and call it something else that doesn’t make you feel like an absolute sucker. “DLC”? Got it!

What Have We Learned?

Greedy people seem to be at the root of this last, and most of the other points illustrated in this guide. Whether it’s people craving all your attention, tribal loyalty, indirect advertising ability, personal data, or even just your cash, it seems we can’t always sit, relax and escape with a video game anymore. At least without having half a defensive stance on display at all times.

Although there were many red flags with the event as a whole, when I covered E3 2021 for Geeks + Gamers earlier this year, I learned that a few game developers are noticing that there are more and more people like me out there…or at least, people with the same complaints and constructive criticisms as me.

As well as titles that ensure that you only pay once for your gaming experience, some companies are reverting back to the exclusive use of physical media too.

A few games that had already been out a while had new updates announced. More than just fixing the bugs that were missed from rushing to meet a deadline, some games are intended to last much longer than the week or two I mentioned earlier.

It’s nice to see that some balance is being established by a few and that it’s not only about raw advertising power 100% of the time. There needs to be some heart to the games released if people are supposed to connect with them.

Failing that means the unquestioning consumers will just endlessly go through the motions and do their own state of mind no favours.

If you’re being treated as an appreciated customer, great stuff. Get involved and show your support back. If you’re being fed shit and told to learn to enjoy the taste, maybe you’re blindly following the wrong people, and misunderstanding the idea of games in the first place!

Digest and discuss! Feel free to do so below, and/or get in touch on Twitter!

Sources & Further Reading:

-Background Artwork Designed & Provided by Rachael Hope Media.

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