Enough With the Loading Screen Hints

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In general my main pet peeve this console generation is games that hold your hand way too much.  The ultimate symbol of this for me that just won’t go away is those hints that clog up the loading screens of almost every game.

I’m not against helping people – we all have different skill levels and learning ability after all, but this is just a really tacky way to do it.  It’s the most visible method by which games yell in the player’s face all the time these days.

It’s gotten to the point now where whenever a game let’s me turn off hints, I’ll do it immediately, even on my first run through a game.  I wish I could turn off loading screen hints.

Honestly, in my opinion if a game has to spell out how to do something in straight text lest players will never learn it, then it’s already failed at being intuitive.  Worst of all it breaks a game’s sense of immersion.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Japanese games haven’t started doing this, and I hope they never do.  It’s gotten to the point where every time I play a Japanese game now I remark at how stylish the loading screens look.  Most Japanese console games I’ve played this generation have tried to do one or both of the following: have really nice loading screen art to take your mind off the fact that the game is loading, and find more intuitive ways of giving you the same hints.

Catherine does both of these things very well.  In-between areas the game displays a rapidly moving clock that settles on the current time.  It actually took me a few hours before I realized that was a loading screen.  You learn the game’s advanced techniques by talking to a recurring group of characters, and the act becomes a central plot point of its own.  Further hints come through text messages on the main character’s phone.

One of my favorite things about Shadows of the Damned was the loading screens – the little mariachi jingle you’d get from Yamaoka as the puppet caricature of Garcia walked across the screen.  The hints would come in the form of news articles that you could look at in-between levels and were written in-continuity. 

Bayonetta went one step further by letting you practice moves while the game loaded.  The best of all this generation might be 3D Dot Game Heroes’ homages to old game box arts in its loading screens.  By contrast, most western games I’ve played this generation seem to just throw information up there instead of treating loading screens as an important and virtually unavoidable part of a game’s aesthetic.

Every single time I see a loading screen in most games these days it reminds me of how so many games are just going along with the trends without trying to think of better ways to do things.  Maybe I’m just the only one who finds this trend particularly annoying.

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