If you’re playing Resident Evil 6, BioShock, or any Modern Warfare title, stop and pause the game for a second.
Do you feel someone holding your hand? Does it seem like that person is pushing you toward your goal?
Hit start and return to the game. Take a look around as you battle your way to your objective.
You see it? That big arrow? That target?
Yeah, it’s that reoccurring and seemingly in-demand destination pointer.
I’ve seen them in in the Call of Duty franchise. And that was OK. I didn’t mind being told where the goal was. The games presented straightforward campaigns.
BioShock featured something similar. The arrow, working like a compass, helped me figure out where to go next, but at the same time, it didn’t help me get past the threats that plagued me along the way.
Recently, I took a stab at the Resident Evil 6 public demo. And once again, this GPS thingy was lurking around in Capcom’s latest survival-horror adventure.
Why is it needed?
Resident Evil is all about making it on your own. You have to figure out its puzzles and endure its hellish counterpoints. You find hints along the way, but without an arrow swinging around your radar, the experience feels more realistic. You don't have a big, bright icon indicating where to escape from an army of zombies. You have to find out yourself.
A majority of current-generation games are more forgiving. They hold your hand no matter the consequences. The game’s difficulty doesn’t count. You see, when I grew up, video games kicked our asses. The only alternative (or nice pedestrian who helped us cross the road) was the third-party Game Genie add-on. And that was more than a pointer. It was what I like to call “El Cheapo.” Think of it as the equivalent of hacking at its finest.
Titles were less complex and more straightforward back then, but you didn’t see this absurdly big arrow in role-playing games or platformers. It was more like, “Have fun and good luck. Call Nintendo Power’s Counselors’ Corner if you need help."
I also believe that modern-day navigation takes away fun, and it slaps our general logic in the face.
If you’re going to point where to go, you might as well point to the secrets and off-trail scenery I’ll probably miss out on. Why? Because you’re telling me where to go, stripping me away from what I should be doing: questing off as the hero I’m supposed to be.
Games are meant for enjoyment, and a large portion of that fun (for certain genres) is exploring. We are diving into another dimension. We want to put ourselves into the shoes of the hero or heroine while navigating into the vibrant world so many digital offerings provide.
Marines sure as hell don’t have a target icon to follow during a real-life war, so maybe if developers want to be accurate, they should make experiences more lonesome and not remind me that I’m playing a game.
In-game navigation seems to be mandatory now. Sure, technology has changed tremendously. We all have trackers on our iPhones and carry our GPS devices while traveling. But I still cringe at the idea of current adventures providing these helping hands.
I mean, why make your game so complex if it’s not worth the time to scour all of its pixelated environment?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is great, and it is how long-enduring RPGs should be. But please, give us the opportunity to delve into its complexity without any help.
I can understand Grand Theft Auto IV. It’s vast. It’s beautiful. Finding the next objective on your own could result in countless hours (or even days) of running around. But I didn’t want to miss out on every nook and cranny. Finding secret packages while scouring the city with my own knowledge made the game more rewarding.
Did MacGyver have help building a simple stick into a bazooka or traveling in the wilderness? No, he didn’t. He sucked it up. He grew balls. He did it all with his own skill.
Aren't we supposed to be the knight in shining armor that singlehandedly saves the world, rescues the hot chick, or escapes the undead?
If you want a fairy to tell us what to do, at least give us the option to turn it off. Some of us still enjoy taking the road home by ourselves, just like a lone wolf.
It's not a voyage without discovery.