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Dumbed Down Games… Dumbed Down People…Or Simply A Matter Of Habit?
Posted on Friday, October 5 2012 @ 14:33:49 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

[This blog was actually posted on Sept. 24, so it is referring to an article during that time. ~Ed. Nick]

Dear Jonathan,
 
       I took the opportunity to read your article this afternoon and had a few more comments than the comments section would allow. You made the following statement:
 
Dishonored is a game that rewards creativity. Shame that years of dumbing down games has made everyone a bozo.”
 
I guess this is one way of looking at the situation. Consider, that maybe the games have not been dumbed down but rather after years of playing video games people have developed personal preferences for style of play. All video games are by no means directed at the gaming industry as whole but rather specific niches within the gaming community population. I am an instant gratification type; I started with Castle Wolfenstein 3D on an Apple IIE. The origins of my play style were set with press button->see character shoot->see enemy explode with shitty blood and gore graphics. Around this same time another game was released, and it was called Myst.
 
Myst, for those unfamiliar, was a point-and-click adventure game with the novelty of the game being how creative you had to be to figure out why the hell you were “playing?” this “game?” I don’t recall receiving any instructions and I think I may have spent all of 30 minutes before saying "to hell with this… not my type of game". This occurred prior to the “years of dumbing down games” as games were not even considered an industry at the time. What it speaks to is personal preference.
 
To come back to Dishonored which while during the testing phase:
 
“People would just walk around during playtesting of the ‘Lady Boyle’ mission, they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t even go upstairs because a guard told them they couldn’t. They’d say, "Okay, I can’t go upstairs."
 
To me this doesn’t speak toward people being bozos, but rather a misperception by the development team in terms of the cues average buyers are going to need to understand what their actual options are. Have you ever written a paper and looked at it for so long that you thought your point was obvious, only to have an editor/peer look at it and say “What’s the point?" This seems like a typical stage in beta testing where you need to see how your end user intends to use the game. Ironically for a game which rewards creativity, when the end user makes the decision to just walk around… it’s deemed as incorrect creativity?
 
From the developer perspective, in order for the end user to understand the freedom of choice which, unlike in real life, is limited (freedom of choice in this regard is freedom to do the actions programmed within the game), a better job of demonstrating gaming conventions and the deviations from those conventions within the context of this game needs to be more clearly effectuated. It’s easy to say, “Just figure it out, you can do whatever you want to accomplish the mission," when in actuality there is a set numbers of ways to accomplish any given task.

For instance…please try to do an upside down Sam Fisher-type stealth kill in Dishonored and you will quickly learn that that specific gaming mechanic was not incorporated into the game, so how creative can you get within the context of this game? This issue can be alleviated through a tutorial which takes you through the first mission in a couple different play styles. At the beginning of the game, give the player several different fleshed out builds and walk them through the same scenario a few different ways. This primes the player for abilities and uses that may deviate from the norm, and after the first mission, let them have at it. They could also implement, a la Uncharted 3, the little YouTube video box in the corner of the title screen which shows users going through the first board using different weapons, powers, and tactics. This would further emphasize creativity through actual end user performance.
 
In conclusion, I think your points were somewhat flawed, but I think the target audience for this game will enjoy it (the target audience not necessarily being the CoD or WoW fans). But not every game is for everyone and that’s okay too. It should also be noted that regardless of how in-depth the level of abilities and tools at your disposal, if the easiest/most efficient way of solving a problem is to blast on through ask question, maybe then you are still going to have a bunch of gamers who on their first playthrough rely on the tried and true. You will also have those “creative” players that have the time to look at the situation and through trial and error come up with some ingenious ways to accomplish the mission objective with the skills and tools at their disposal.

Games and gamers haven’t become dumbed down
people simply have a better idea of what type of media they prefer and it falls heavily on the developer to create a game that their users enjoy but also matches with their expectation of the originally conceived game idea. It’s a balancing act.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly $20 Vox Pop prize. ~Ed. Nick
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