Monday, June 28, 2010

a tall order, but no technological reason why it can't be done

Why do so many games have to suck in exactly the same way the real world does?

The stereotypical dweeb gamer is socially inept, always broke, and generally klutzy and incompetent. Contrary to stereotype, most dweebs don't want revenge in a sudden blaze of glory. They just want to get away to someplace where they won't be bugged. So why are most roleplaying videogames set up in a world full of taunting bullies, where you have to earn money and buy everything you need, talk to lots of strangers, and prove your worth -- usually with an element of small-motor coordination -- before you can even go certain places?

Don't tell me, "That's life." The whole purpose of amusement is to escape "life." I don't want to fantasize about overcoming the hassles; I want to eliminate the hassles. I want to be able to ignore the wound, not pick at it. No game can show all aspects of real life, anyway. (When was the last time during gameplay your character had to clip his toenails?) So why not have games that ignore money, social interaction, and the need for competence?

O.k., I'll admit that beating up, beheading, shooting, and exploding evil things is fun, but I'd like to do away with the rest of it. And even so, it would be nice to be able to stop shooting long enough to fully appreciate the gorgeously rendered scenery of modern games.

So here are some alternate modes I'd like to see built into every game, to make games more enjoyable for everyone.

Non-commercial Mode: No money. You don't have to earn it; equipment doesn't have to be bought. This doesn't necessarily mean no stuff. Treasure and useful items can be found, but you've automatically got the basic equipment.

Loner Mode: You don't have to interact socially at all. You still slay bad guys, of course, but you don't have to talk to anybody.

Tourist Mode: Access to all places without having to earn it; you don't have to possess or do anything special to get to any level or corner or room of the game. You can roam freely everywhere, looking at everything, interacting as you choose, without being in any danger or having to do anything you don't want to. You can approach nonplayer characters, but they leave you alone unless you do. Some games have a limited version of this, but it should be available at all levels, with everything unlocked.

Ghost Mode: Like tourist mode, except that as far as the game world and its inhabitants are concerned, you're invisible and non-corporeal. It's sort of like watching the game as a movie, except that you move your character through it, going where you want to go.

Hero Mode: In the classic age of adventure shows, the hero couldn't be killed. 'Nuff said.

Except for a few games in which the main character is a star, like Laura Croft or Leisure Suit Larry, character choice should be flexible, with mix and match physical features including sex, age, height, weight, coloring, style of hair, clothing, and name. Some games have this to some extent, but in many, "choice" just means a choice of a handful of characters, all of whom you'd rather not look like. There should be a couple of stock characters for people who don't want to take the time (or want a throwaway character while learning the game). There should be an anonymous mode -- especially useful if you have trouble thinking up names, don't want to use up a name on a character you plan to kill off quickly, or you can't stand the computer overusing your name like an annoying salesperson. Both male and female player characters should have the choice of dressing for comfort, practicality, and yes, modesty. All characters should be revivable upon replaying the game.

And all this with a look and feel that appeals to the inner adolescent, rather than the inner preschooler -- think superhero comics (and the darker ones at that) rather than cartoons. I like Sonic and Mario, but I can't take seriously being Sonic or Mario.

Other requests:

More creativity with settings. Much as I like standard outer space, future dystopias, and Celtic-based fantasy lands, I'd like to go somewhere else for a change. I sorely miss Heart of China (1930s China), Inca (Incas in space), and Space 1889 (steampunk).

No sappy stuff in hardcore adventure games. No child characters. No family, either living or recently dead. No romance. No emotions except fear, anger, and the glorious joy of blowing baddies up.

All non-online games should be, once installed, available at a click. No special discs to insert, no passwords, no copy protection challenges, no special boot-up or screen resolution changes. It should be possible to save at any time, and to store several saved points in case you want to go back.

And one more thing -- make all games always available for every version of every platform in existence. I want to play the original, wireframe Star Wars on my Mac.

1 comment:

    Never going to happen.
    So, you're saying take all the challenges out of video games, right? Every single "mode" mentioned above would immediately be labled as "cheap" or simply "cheating" by any other gamer. Also, for most people the social and monetary challenges in a videogame ARE a form of escape. Where else but in Redead Redemption can you earn a cool $10 for playing five finger flay? I know I'd cut a finger off before winning any of those bets. And in my world, I've not gotten the chance to save a prostitute from a knife weilding maniac. Of course, that's just me.
    Outside of that, it IS technologically difficult to have these endless possiblities and endless character options stored into the already packed memory.