All video games have elements that feel out of place, gratuitous, or just unnecessary. While some of these issues come down to preference at the end of the day, a handful of video game mechanics have overstayed their welcome.
If not retooled, these archaic video game mechanics should disappear as soon as possible. Game developers, take note!
1. Shimmying Through Crack
Starting off, the game mechanic of shimmying through cracks made sense at one point in time. Back when games just started experimenting with large expansive areas and needed ways to funnel players into the next mandatory spot. Shimmying also serves as a nice way to hide loading screens, but as game development philosophies and technology changes, the need for this has diminished.
With solid state drives becoming commonplace, load times have shrunk by magnitudes. Funneling players into specific zones also has less of a role in games now as they focus more on choice, freedom, and explorable spaces. Not to mention, shimmying has just played out, and now that gamers know why these video game mechanics exist, they distract more than anything else.
2. Forced Stealth Sections
Out of all the ways for games to mix up their gameplay and keep the player guessing, betraying the gameplay that players bought the game for fails as a good one. Developers might mention that they want to protect the pacing of an action game by inserting some mandatory stealth, but more gamers than ever would retort that forcing stealth into a non-stealth game disrupts the pacing more than anything else. In other words, if a game’s action feels fun, interesting and varied enough, it should be able to carry the game without forced stealth video game mechanics.
3. Invisible Walls
Much like the other items on this list, gamers know why invisible walls exist as video game mechanics. Developers want to give players the illusion of being in a much larger area than they can create. Having some invisible walls here and there can prevent the player from breaking the game and going beyond where they’re meant to. Fair.
But now that expectations for immersion have risen and the ability to develop massive worlds has become real, invisible walls feel more like a copout than a necessary evil. They undermine the immersion the game exists to establish and need to go away.
4. Obtuse Puzzles
Obtuse and cryptic puzzles have a place: puzzle games. Outside of that, they run a very real risk of ruining an otherwise enchanting experience. While some exceptions to this exist, with games like the Tomb Raider and Uncharted series contextualizing puzzles and making them an organic part of their stories, for the most part, they subtract more than they add.
Puzzles don’t make a lot of sense as video game mechanics either. Who would go through the trouble of setting up convoluted mechanisms of keys and clues to hide a key in their basement? It’s almost laughable. Important items hidden or obscured somehow makes perfect sense, but stumping the player for extended periods of time to progress past that point does not.
5. Gratuitous Quick-Time Events
Quick-time events have long been the subject of criticism as video game mechanics. They serve a noble purpose, though, as they let players pull off complicated tasks without having to do those complex tasks, but more often than not, they overstay their welcome with incessant and gratuitous presence. Once quick-time events get long in the tooth, they drag the experience down. Plus, the timing element associated with them can be punishing for gamers who just happen to not have great reaction time!
6. Unskippable Cutscenes
While most gamers will watch a game’s cutscenes the first –maybe even second– time through, beyond that, they become obstacles to the fun. This becomes even more true during challenging sections that require a lot of repeated attempts, thus, triggering the unskippable cutscene over and over again. This can drag a game down for those with limited gaming time, and serves no real purpose other than annoying the player.
7. Time Gating
Some games can pull off time gates, but most can’t. Locking a player out of progressing through a game with time has become one of the biggest pet peeves among players. Thankfully, developers have gotten the memo on this, so it pops up less in games where it doesn’t belong. But it’s always good to reinforce this point.
8. The Radio Buddy
Radio buddies in games became a mainstay a long time ago. All things equal, it makes sense for the game in which it’s implemented. That said, after playing decades of games with people on the other end of a radio guiding gamers through the game’s narrative and gameplay, it can feel a bit lazy. Perhaps developers can come up with something better than this, something more organic to the experience at hand, that fits a particular game more than just reusing the same video game mechanics for everything.
9. Meaningless Leveling
Leveling up remains an age-old way to provide a sense of accomplishment to gamers, but if it doesn’t yield tangible results, it can lose its luster fast.
Inundating players with progress bars that inch upwards creates a nice feeling, so developers should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. They need to mean something. Whether that means unlocking new skills, skins, weapons, or something else, some reward at the end of each level feels needed to make that progress mean more than just a higher number on the screen.
10. Overly-Complex Uis
As games become more complicated, so too do their user interfaces. Menus can end up littered with options and sub-menus these days. The problem comes in when games throw all of this information at players in an unorganized fashion. The sweet spot lies somewhere between overwhelming the player with too much on-screen and dividing everything up with too many sub-menus to find what players need. Designing the great UIs doesn't seem easy. But gamers would appreciate developers aiming a bit higher with these video game mechanics.
11. Repeated Bosses
This one feels obvious. Great video game bosses feel like a surprise spectacle, a culmination of all the skills learned and challenges faced up to that point. Like an exam preceding the advancement of a student to the next level of study, a good video game boss requires a demonstration of skill on the part of the player to qualify for the next section.
But when a game reuses a boss, that feeling vanishes. On top of that, it insults gamer intelligence when the repeated boss emerges as a different color, but still plays the same. At this point, most gamers would prefer less boss battles, than a large number of bosses that feel redundant and unnecessary.
12. Gratuitous Currencies and Crafting Materials
Granted, some games manage to make sense of a large number of materials and currencies. More often than not though, when games go much further than the basics, it feels more like interference from publishers than coherent game design. Aside from trying to mask micro-transactions, multiple currencies become annoying.
They also instill disappointment when the player thinks they have enough to buy something but instead, get told they’ve come up short with a different currency that they didn’t even know existed. The same goes for crafting materials. At some point, it just becomes bothersome trying to remember the differences between 27 different materials as players try to advance.
13. Exposition Dumps
A good video game story must feel interactive. Video games don’t feel as passive as movies, though, so the best video game stories remain the stories that players unravel themselves.
A great story can still fall flat if the entire plot gets dumped on the player by a hologram character in the last 30 minutes of the campaign. So, while the trick of doling out drips of story in a consistent and satisfying way requires a lot of work and collaboration between writers and game designers. Players prefer an uncoiling story rather than a deluge of one.
14. Bullet Sponges
This mechanic dovetails with the “repeated bosses” point, and often occurs in the same games. Bosses that absorb hundreds of magazines while they marauded around the level get boring fast. Even in co-op shooters, where the social aspects of the experience can keep things from sinking too low, multifaceted bosses would better engage players.
There’s nothing wrong with bosses taking plenty of damage before going down, heck, that’s intrinsic to their very nature. Still, video game mechanics need to instill some sense of progression. Bosses need to change things up, switch stances, increase their attacks, or do anything other than just shuffling around while players chip away at their massive health bars.
The line between gameplay variety and busywork can change from game to game and even player to player. But even still, most agree a difference exists. Games that want to feel longer than they otherwise would can often assign menial tasks that can feel loosely related to the storyline at hand, if they feel connected at all.
As such, developers should always avoid video game mechanics that feel like busywork. As gamers become more open to games with less content, the busywork will become even more apparent. Longer doesn’t always mean better, and being busy doesn’t always equate to having fun.