October 2019

The dumbing down of games

This is a topic I wonder why not many people already talk about this, it is the dumbing down of games.

It is probably because most gamers today are young and they don't know how it was in the past and for the older people maybe because their memory is not working anymore. However let me tell you how it was in the past and go through each step you needed or did go through in order to play a computer game:

1. Go into the store, buy a physical copy.
2. Go home unpack it and put the physical copy into your physical CD or whatever drive and press install.
3. In the meantime you may even check out the handbook that was in there in physical book form and read a bit.
4. When the install is finished, you would go into the graphic options menu and adjust the graphic settings to something that your computer can run decently.
5. You may also go into the options and check out the controls and eventually remap them or adjust them to your preferences.
6. Then you may even go into the audio options or whatever options there may be.
7. Finally you would do the first test run of the game and eventually you would have a good experience playing the game.
8. For a multiplayer game you would go into a server and game mode browser where you can pick a server and settings you like.
9. If you don't find any multiplayer session you like, you would just host one with all settings how you like it.
10. You will invite friends to join it.
11. If you have problems you may go back to reading the handbook or adjust the options again.
12. You would use eventual in-game editors or modding tools to adjust the game further to your liking or create new content so you can play exactly what you like.
13. You would join other people playing custom created content or mods to have even more fun and variation.

And this is how it is now:

1. Buy the game digitally which most people do now and it will automatically install.
2. Most people nowadays don't bother about going into the options menu and if they do, large portions have been removed anyway.
3. Click play and hope it will run and you will understand what is going on automatically as there is no handbook.
4. Get annoyed about the forced unskippable instructions put in your face since there was no handbook.
5. Singleplayer like multiplayer mostly just have a simple play button now, that will put you into a game with almost no choice anymore.
6. Enjoy having a magic match making algorithm throwing you into random games with random players on random gamemodes and enjoy having almost no influence, except some kind of voting menu, that does not work most times anyway, so it will be random again.
7. You cannot join servers, friends etc directly, you have to rely on matchmaking algorithms to put you somewhere with someone you want.
8. You cannot host own games.
9. No modding allowed and even if, it is not encouraged or people are too dumb to do it anyway.
10. If mods somehow get created and become popular they are not encouraged by the developer or they get commercialized.

So in summary, yes there are good parts about how it is now as it is more convenient to not having to buy physical games, but some people still like to do, but then they will get punished as they will have to download 80 or whatever additional gigabytes anyway. Also the simpler options and integrated tutorials may lead to being able to get into the game easier and faster, but now it gets to the part I really despise, the removal of freedom of choice. Modern games just throw you into the games giving you almost no choices anymore, I have seen games so dumbed down so they only had a play button and you had no influence over what happened next at all, there were even no graphics or control options anymore, there were very few options such as how loud your audio should be and that was almost it. It was a multiplayer game and it would throw you into a random game with random people, leaving you almost no choice except ask you if you want to play alone or with friends. Sure I may have played a bad game in that regard, but the trend towards that is in almost all games now. Sure having matchmaking algorithms may be a nice feature, but why you have to remove everything else then?

Let me try to come up with some analogy how retarded matchmaking algorithms are:

Imagine you want to play physical soccer in the real world, but in order to play a game, you can only tell a guy you want to play, not where or with who you want to play. Then that guy will put you into a car with a blindfold on, so you have no idea where you are going, you are also not allowed to talk to the guy in order to influence him to go to some place where you would like to play. Then you get dumped off a random soccer field with random players and you will have to play that. If you don't like that, you can only do the whole procedure again and hope it turns out better. Also the team you will play against can be anything from the worst amateurs you will beat so easily it will be boring as hell up to the best professionals that will totally destroy you and make you cry. Of course that does not happen since it is an "intelligent" algorithm that knows what you want, of course, so you likely don't have to play against a team of super professionals, with a team of bloody amateurs, no what will likely happen is that your team will consist of amateurs and professionals and the other team will also, so not only will it be frustrating to have unequal enemies, but also your own team will fight against each other, because the professional players will get angry about the newbies and the newbies will get frustrated about the professionals.

Yes that are some worst case scenarios that do not happen, some people may argue, because the algorithms are so "intelligent", but what happens if you want to play specifically against newbies to feel superior or specifically against strong players, even if you weak? There is a whole range of possible free choices that just get eradicated from you. Sure some people may argue again, why you would want to play not recommended settings and I say, why not, it is just a game and the nature of games is, to play meaning to try things out, since there is no consequences. The whole reason to have games is, that you can just do anything you cannot do in real life without consequences. That is the meta level of gaming and also an important part. In the real world you are often powerless, but in the video game world, you can do anything you want and you can make the rules, but oh I forgot, screw you, that has all been removed now. The only choice you now left with is to press the play button, but that could be removed as well, since that is what you will press anyway, as there is no other choice than to press that button.

Those pseudo choices are also stupid, many modern games give you lots of pseudo choices, like that play button or even if you press play, the game will ask you again, if you want to really do that and of course you want to really do that. Some people here again may argue, that this double check is because, you may not really want to play a new game or a new match, because it may lose your current progress which has not been saved and of course cannot be manually saved anyway, since save options have been removed, but why the hell does the game have to ask you if you want to save, if you cannot save anyway and the game will automatically save everything anyway? You see typical pseudo choices.

Modern games try to be more social with integrating friends lists and features like that, so you can make friends and play with them, but often there is no direct way to do so, except a button that you can press and the game will try to put you into a match with your friends which of course often does not work as expected. In the past you would mostly socialize with other people outside of the game and then directly join games coordinated from outside of the game. Now you have not only one social platform you socialize with, but two or even three, one outside of the game, one inside of the game and maybe even one on the platform of the developer, then you get all confused as people message you through the game, through the developers community and through external social media you have on your computer as well. However of what kind of use are all those "social" features, if you have to rely on the games algorithms to put you into games with people you want, leaving you no direct control?

I should have made this into a list as well, since I come up with more and more issues, another one for example is the error, bug, crash behavior of games, in the past games would give you specific error codes or console outputs with very specific details what exactly went wrong, where nowadays the game mostly just tells you an error message for ever error that goes like "Oh something went wrong, please try again later" How you are as a customer are supposed to deal with that? Search on the internet for "Something went wrong"? Or just mash the play button and wait and hope it will work again.


OK let me try to come to a short summary, since it will become too long now and isolate it down to the core problem, which is the dumbing down of games which happens mainly through the removal of freedom of choice of the user, which also boils down to the core question of open source software and it is:

"Do you control the software or does the software control you?"

And we can see that this is not only a problem with games, but with all software, it is just especially visible in games now, this is why open source software is also important in gaming, but sadly the nonexistent open source game developer community has failed on almost every level to provide with sufficient open source game alternatives.

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