I’ve recently started playing Mass Effect 2, and without getting too far into the game (review will be up next Friday, folks), there is one glaring problem that I’ve encountered. This mistake, which is such a poor design choice that I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about it, is the appearance of the dreaded, superfluous mini game.
I have a long standing hatred of mini games. I’ve played some of the best mini games and some of the worst, but at the end of the day, all mini games make me feel empty inside, almost as if I worked at the DMV. And here’s the thing: most people think that mini games, like the DMV, are a necessary evil. How would society function without the mortar of DMV holding everything together (read: sarcasm)? But we have advanced beyond that, people. You can renew your driver’s license online or through the mail, and never have to wait in line for those smiling government workers.
Look at all the happy people
In much the same way, game design has grown since the days of Pong and Pac Man. Mini games now represent a way to artificially extend the length of the game, and that’s all. They are unnecessary and should be done away with. Most mini games are tedious and poorly integrated into the actual content anyways, and let’s be clear right now: mini games are no substitution for either storytelling or game play. If you find yourself spending more time in a mini game than playing the actual game, eject the game immediately, call the CDC, and keep yourself quarantined until the men in hazmat suits arrive.
So why do developers cling to these ancient relics of gaming past? Here are three possible reasons:
The most obvious of the three, laziness explains the reason gamers must trudge through the hours of crap in order to get to the little morsel of chocolatey goodness at the bottom (I had a bad mental image of Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka sipping out of that chocolate river for some reason).
Chocolate river? For his sake, I hope so
Laziness, my friends, causes developers to not fully integrate mini games with the main story. Think about it—what do mini games usually do? They reward the player for completing menial tasks that provide little to absolutely d*ck story progression. Why couldn’t the developers make something that advances the story, improves your character, and provides some semblance of entertainment? After all, these are video games, not video water-boarding.
2) “Extra” Game Content
The length of the average game ranges from 10-30 hours. In certain genres, particularly RPGs I would argue, the longer the game, the happier the audience is. I love RPGs, but the less epic the RPG is, the less inclined I am to truly get into it. It’s okay if it starts slow as long as it ends with a bang worthy of a porn star. What’s not okay is if it starts slow because of mini games. Adding mini games doesn’t actually extend the life of the game. It’s like using steroids to build muscle: sure, on the outside you might look cut, but everyone knows you paid for those muscles with your balls, and for that no one can respect you.
Now, RPGs are notorious for mini games. There’s typically a casino game that will earn you extra money, the occasional sports game which is usually badly designed, and some kind of Mario Party-esque button mashing for quick-time events. Why can’t these be integrated into the game? (maybe have your party member meet another character while gambling? Or have to impress someone by showing off their mad basketball skills?) Because then the game would be shorter. A one-time casino game only extends the game by a few minutes, and regardless of how much sense that would make—what, do all video game characters have a gambling addiction?—it’s not about sense, it’s about time consumption. After all, in the world of RPGs, quality isn’t measured by game play. Oh no, it’s measured by the number of discs you have. It’s like in the real world. Between guys, for example, it’s not about personal character or morality; no, it’s about the length and girth of their feet.
What? Where did you think I was going?
The third, and most likely explanation as to why mini games haven’t been wiped out yet, is Schadenfreude. That explains everything. In fact, you can ignore the last two hypotheses. We’ve clearly found our answer.
This story was originally published on www.moralitypoints.com by Neutrally Chaotic (Joshua Duke)