Back In My Day We Jumped Uphill Both Ways
The year is 1987 or thereabouts. I get my first NES and start Mario Brothers. Now, this game was frustrating and annoying. You miss a jump, and you die. Miss too many and you have to go all the way back to the start. There is nothing worse than playing for hours, finally thinking you nailed it, screwing up, and being sent back to square one.
What did we do about this back in the day, you ask? Well first, we got frustrated, right? And then, because we wanted to actually get to the damn end, we bought guides (with cheat codes) or the Game Genie or Game Shark that allowed us to cheat our way to the end, just to FINISH.
But when you start reading about how to do it and cheating and whatnot, it immediately ends the sense of fun and wonder. You have to memorize strats and you’re no longer discovering things for yourself. You’re taking dictation and following instructions.
My HK-51 Questline
Fast forward to last week and I’m prancing through the Theoretika just as happy as can be. Sure, I could be using a guide, but I’m having a lot of fun poking at doors, and then backtracking as the order I did things in was the least efficient possible. Whatever. Oh look, there’s a thing to click on! Hey, there are 7 of these total. I wonder if I missed one in one of the rooms I already went in? I must find out.
I’m scooting around the ship and clicking on things to see what happens and all of a sudden, well I’m trapped. This is supposed to happen. I didn’t fuck up, but I’m trapped and have to get to the other side. How? You guessed it. JUMPING.
Well fuck. I suck at jumping. Nonetheless, I bravely searched the room until I found the most likely way to get above the ick so I could cross. After a few tries, I realized I had no earthly clue where to go from the top of the pipe where I was. I fell off things and onto things, and kept doggedly trying a jump that I didn’t even know if it was technically possible to do, even for someone skilled.
I gave up. I pulled up a guide. When I saw the instructions, I realized that it would have taken me a very long time to figure out the circuitous path.
There was alt tabbing. There was, of course, falling, and with falling comes copious swearing. I was halfway through and fell and I remember letting out one of those half-sob sighs, like OH NO I have to START OVER.
Why This Is Not Fun
Something that is supposed to be fun should not require instructions. Instructions are for assembling furniture. Instructions are not fun. The instant something becomes frustrating enough to turn to instructions, it has lost a bit of the sense of discovery that attracted people to the game.
Something that is supposed to be fun should not require endless repetition of the beginning to get to the end. This is why we have speeders at the start of raids, so when you’re halfway through and you wipe, you don’t have to run past all the stuff you killed. It’s why in WoW you can extend your lockouts and don’t have to re-kill every starter boss every week in order to keep working on the last boss. Having to repeat the first few jumps multiple times is just a blatant time sink for no good reason.
Something that is supposed to be fun should not gate a certain gaming population. This is the whole reason behind story mode, that you let everyone see the content you created, regardless of whether they are any good at raiding. I want to access the HK content. At that point, there was a part of me that thought I might not actually get to have an HK. Or I’d have to take extraordinary measures like enlisting some really good jumpers to do it FOR me while I waited on the other side.
Eventually, I kicked the sorry ass of the jumping puzzle. It wasn’t an awesome sense of accomplishment. I was relieved and annoyed – more annoyed when people started telling me the cheater ways that you could get across using cooldowns. Well, why did they even think about trying alternate methods? Oh right, because the jumping was so difficult and lame that they were looking for ways to avoid it.
An Open Letter
No more jumping!