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Published on August 22nd, 2013 | by Tony Odett


Three For Thursday: Most Frustrating Mechanics in Gaming Today

The most recent generation of games has resulting in a proliferation of new mechanics and ideas. It has also been plagued by some bad ideas that just won’t die, or have newly crept into our consciousness, much to my chagrin. Like Snooki or one of those eight million Kardashians, these mechanics simply refuse to go quietly into the night, electing instead to cling to their fifteen minutes of fame like a tick, sucking the lifeblood out of our collective gaming experience. Here are the worst offenders.

1. 1st Person Platforming

Mirrors Edge

I like to leap and jump and climb. In games, I like to do the same. But, I like to be able to see my legs. The problem with first person platforming is that you don’t actually have legs (from your perspective, at least). All you possess is a dis-embodied viewpoint and maybe a gun/hand floating in front of you. This makes it impossible to judge your position on a narrow ledge or platform, without looking straight down (and being reminded that, once again, you don’t have legs). The trouble is, it’s tough to jump across a pit when you’re looking down. There’s a  reason Mario is played in 3rd person- first person platforming sucks. Games like Rise of the Triad throw it in as a pace-changer, but what first-person platforming really brings is rage-inducing frustration. Do an image search for Assassin’s Creed 3 and see how long you have to scroll before you see a mention of the first person platforming sequences. It’s a long time. Silly platforming. At least give me a sense that I have legs like in Mirror’s Edge. That’s all I ask.

2. Cover-based Shooting

 Star Trek

I understand the Gears of War was the premiere title for the Xbox 360 for a long time. I do: I get it. And I know that it was a cover-based shooter, a relatively simple mechanic that the game applied in many interesting ways. But just because a great game did something well does not mean that: A) you should do it, too and B) you can do it well. Gears of War spawned an entire generation of games lazily using cover-based shooting as their entire gameplay package,  as if that was all that you need to achieve satisfaction are a few chest-high walls and some targets popping up and down on the other side. Cover-based shooting is NOT A GAME FOUNDATION. It isn’t even what Gears of War is built around (that franchise is dedicated to making the player feel like an utter bad-ass).  But numerous offenders have simply constructed an entire world based around this one mechanic, resulting in bland, robotic gameplay (I see you cowering in the corner over there, Star Trek).  Oh, and by the way- no one designs rooms filled with equally high walls, furniture, and other objects. Way to make your world feel canned and ugly. Congrats.

3. Quick Time Events


I love God of War. It’s a fantastic game, and one, again, that has been repeated emulated (or downright copied, right Dante’s Inferno?). It’s most copied feature, sadly, is its proliferation of quick time events. I can push buttons, okay? Am I not proving this already by playing the game? I’m playing on hard: I’m an expert at pushing buttons by now. Why then, at the most interesting point of the battle, as I finish off my enemy in gloriously visceral and blood fashion, am I staring around the screen looking for random button prompts? So many wonderful finishing moves have been ruined throughout the recent history of gaming by huge button prompts flying up into the player’s face in the moment of reckoning. Let us enjoy it. Or, even better, model your mechanics in such a way that finishing moves are a natural part of the gameplay, and don’t require bludgeoning with PRESS X TO BEHEAD. Ryse, you’re up next…


About the Author

A longtime blogger/games writer with a distinct love of strategy, he brings the smarts and the sarcasm to the Perfectly Sane Show and to Critically Sane. Always going on about games with vast strategic minutia, Tony also writes as the Critically Sane Strategist.

  • Chris Scott

    Funny that you chose that picture of Mirror’s Edge to condemn first person platforming being as it has exactly what you are railing against. 🙂

    • Napoleon1066

      Much like God of War and Gears of War… it deserves the blame for this problem.

      • Chris Scott

        True, I just found the image funny because Faith does have arms and legs. 🙂

        • Napoleon1066

          And I said that in the article!!!

          • Chris Scott

            Stop yelling at me. I just found it funny.

          • Napoleon1066

            NO HUMOR ALLOWED!

  • BrianC6234

    How is QTE frustrating? Frustrating should be something that’s hard to do but QTE is pretty easy.

    • Napoleon1066

      I’m frustrated because the game in question has something awesome going on and instead of either watching or feeling like I’m doing it myself, I’m waiting for button prompts. I’m frustrated that because of this mechanic, I’m missing out.

      • JohnnyDavidson

        I think the QTEs are great in GoW, they’re only used in situations that couldn’t be done with traditional gameplay, like, how else would you tear a Gods head off? Gouge out a Gods eyes and snap his neck (L1 + R1 to poke his eyes out was brilliant!) etc. Also the game makes it clear when it’s going to transition to QTEs and having the button prompts appear on the side of the screen matching the controller means you don’t actually have to look out for them as you can see them through your peripheral vision and just simply react.

        It’s just a shame so many other games do QTEs so poorly.

        • Napoleon1066

          I agree with this. GOW did them well- other games, however (Dante’s Inferno, Battlefield 3 and others) killed them.

  • Wolf

    1st Person Platforming:
    Been around a long time though, not as an excuse but an observation. How many people remember the grenade/rocket hopping platforming sections from Bungie’s first Marathon game back in the late 90s? (I think Doom didn’t do it as much simply cause you didn’t look up and down)
    I ask what is the alternative? I HATE ladders in FPS games, almost always fail/get me killed.

    Cover Based Shooting:
    Kill Switch, game made essentially to test the mechanic, I was under the impression it was the first game to really do it?
    I actually prefer games that don’t have a cover mechanic, I like to dynamically use my environment for cover; part of why I always like the Resistance series.
    Good point about ‘chest high cover’ always being the same height! What if suddenly the next wall was only half as high? The ‘Gears’ would be doooommmmed!

    Pretty much agree with you here.
    Regarding your point about ‘distracting’ have you played the MGS4 battle with Vamp? There is a cinematic cut-scene battle between Vamp and Raiden happening on literally half your screen while you need to use a rail gun against bipedal mechs on ‘your’ half of the screen. Talk about freaking distracting! You can’t enjoy either ‘event’ cause the screen is too dam busy! I feel that has started to happen more often where a game/developers purposely try to overwhelming you, and that is, unless very effectively used, just annoying.

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