What 2016 Taught Me About Games

In the grand scheme of things, twelve months isn’t much. Luckily for us, knowledge can come from the most unexpected of places, and quite suddenly. Here is what this year taught me about games.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

I’m not the only one bored of serialised franchises

It was a few years ago now that I grew weary of serialised franchises. I think it was Assassin’s Creed: Revelations that broke me. Assassin’s Creed 2 was amazing (I personally was a huge fan of all the optional cryptographic puzzles), and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood injected some fantastic extra mechanics and multiplayer into the title.

Then Assassin’s Creed: Revelations rolled around. And it was just so boring. More running around on stuff. More stabbing hundreds of unsuspecting guards. All for what? A gripping reveal of reverse time tech racists?

I’m glad I checked out when I did, as the next game was Assassin’s Creed 3. And we all know that sordid tale.

We got some more Assassin’s Creed’s after that, but obviously the constant barrage of time travelling antics has taken its toll. Ubisoft announced that Assassin’s Creed won’t be seeing a release next year, or possibly even the year after. Far Cry also looks like it is being given an extended vacation.

While this has yet to trickle down to the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, I think their days are also numbered. Maybe not next year, or even the year after that. But some time soon. I can see players turning to single games that will see many iterations or updates, probably with something like Overwatch, but in a framework that sees it live on for many years like World of Warcraft has.

Fallout: New Vegas

DLC can be amazing when done right

At the start of this year I finally sat down and played Fallout: New Vegas. I had received the Ultimate Edition as a present that Christmas so I had not only the base game but all four DLC additions to get through.

Fallout: New Vegas and its DLC does something I can’t recall having seen before. All four DLC adventures stand alone as their own tales. However, within them are threads which weave into not only the games main conflict, but also into that of the player characters story.

Through the first three DLC packs the player learns of a mysterious stranger. Somehow he seems to precede your movements, or maybe you are subconsciously following in his footsteps. Either way, you get to view the aftermath of his travels. And then in the fourth DLC pack, it flips, and you get to see how he views the aftermath left by you.

It’s an ingenious twist on not only the story, but on what DLC can mean to extending the core aims of a game. Especially a game that obviously wants to address certain real-world issues like Fallout: New Vegas does.

So DLC doesn’t just have to be brand new adventures in new lands. Or letting players build a massive, redundant house. It can be a gateway into expanding the players viewpoint on the world.

Bizarre Earthquake

Even bad games can offer a positive learning experience

Previously I never actively avoided bad games, but I didn’t seek them out either. You know the ones, those that you can just tell from looking at them and reading the description that they aren’t going to be fantastic.

Of course, seeing that reviewing games is part of my job here, I have got to look at games of all stripes. And some of those were truly awful. Take a look back through my reviews and you will see some low, low scores. These are the games that fail to deliver on almost every level.

However, the old saying rings true. Every cloud has a silver lining. Or in the case of bad games, even they can teach us something.

Maybe it has tried to introduce an interesting mechanic, and while not really pulling it off terrifically, there is something there that others can build on. Perhaps awesome artwork is let down by lousy controls. Or it could be as simple as a game showing exactly what not to do.

If you are interested in not just playing games, but understanding and learning about the medium, then bad games can offer as much a positive experience as an award winning title. As long as you pay attention and accept the game for what it is.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

I’m not sure if games actually hold our hands that much

One of the things gamers often complain about is how much current AAA games hold the players hand. That tutorials have infiltrated every game, and on screen button prompts or messages are now de rigor.

Let me tell you about a friend of mine. At the beginning of the year he bought an Xbox One, and Rise of the Tomb Raider. He showed the machine off to me, and we played through the starting part of Tomb Raider, taking turns doing sections. When it transitioned into the main storyline area, in the snow, is where I tapped out and left him to experience the rest himself.

He got a small way in before he hit a wall. And was stuck there for months. This wall? A bear. Even though prompts came up on screen about what to do, he just couldn’t do it. He didn’t understand.

While he likes games, he isn’t a mad ‘hardcore’ gamer like so many. He doesn’t know what a RB is on his controller. When it prompts to press X he looks at the button pad. And I don’t think he is the minority of game users, particularly on console.

Now I know you, dear reader, can recall dozens of control schemes at whim. You are a gamer. You are hardcore. But while modern games are made to cater to us, I think developers and publishers realise that we aren’t the largest audience of them.

So these constant prompts, these mind-numbing tutorials, are for them. They are there so that people who don’t spend four hours every night (at a minimum) playing games can suckle some enjoyment out of a title.

And when this is the larger group of users, I can see why it is important to be included. This hand-holding is how developers and publishers bring you, the hardcore gamers, the fantastically grandiose AAA games that they do. Because there are dozens (if not hundreds) of people below each of you struggling to gas a bear in a cave.

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