My Critical Eye Fails Me: Game Design Blind Spots

Even someone like me has blind-spots when it comes to the biggest names in game design, and today's look behind the curtain goes some of them.

As you know, I play a lot of video games of many different genres across all platforms, but there are some that I just can't get into for one reason or another. These games and genres may have huge fan bases, beaming reviews, and are constantly on a lot of peoples' must play list, but they do nothing for me. For today's post, we're going behind the curtain once again to take a look at some games that despite being a lover of game design, I just cannot play no matter what.

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1. Paradox Software:

If there was any major surprise on this list, it would be this one. Paradox Software is the maker of some of the most in-depth strategy games around; I know many strategy fans who love any and all of their games. For me, I've spent a grand total of 20 minutes combined playing every one of their games over the last 7 years.

I tried to get into Crusader Kings 2 and even watched about 2 hours of Let's Plays trying to figure it out. However, the second I loaded up the game, it was the "deer in the headlights" situation. They are also the perfect examples of some of the worst tutorial designs I have seen; each game causing me to bounce off of them within minutes of trying to piece together what the hell I'm doing.

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I've yet to crack any of the games from Paradox Software

Playing any of their games for me is like being Homer Simpson trying to do his job: Pushing random buttons and hoping things don't blow up.

Each time I've bought a game from them thinking that this would be the one I can figure out, and each one ends with me quickly uninstalling out of frustration and confusion.

2. Sports

This one may not be a surprise for some of you. The sports genre has always been one that has bored the hell out of me; both in video game and real life form. There was one brief time in 2002 that I got into football and actually watched it on TV and played Madden for one month; after that, I haven't touched it since.

I have played arcade games like NBA Jam, Mario Kart and other non-realistic sports titles, but even when it's not realistic, I still find myself bored with them.

Unlike the first point, I can tell you actually why sports games don't interest me. The problem is that the games I like are all about progression models and unlocking new content or mechanics. Sports games are typically one and done in terms of their learning, because it's about playing matches instead of exploring gameplay. I'm just not the guy who plays games for multiplayer matches or bragging rights.

3. Multiplayer-focused

Speaking of multiplayer, the next category are games built exclusively for multiplayer. This includes FPS, MOBA, MMO, CCG and any game where the primary draw are multiplayer groups or matches. Now, I'm technically lying, because there are a few that have hooked me: Left 4 Dead, Monster Hunter and Payday, but the reason is that they are more about co-op rather than competitive play.

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Payday 2's meta-game and progression helped to keep me invested in it compared to other multiplayer-focused titles

Going back to the previous point, I'm not big on playing games simply for bragging rights; there has to be some kind of growth or progression curve to keep me coming back to it.

I also find competitive-based multiplayer very stressful, and I'm not a fan of games where you need super-high APM in order to win. I got so frustrated playing League of Legends and Starcraft 2 that it just killed the genres for me.

4. Visual Novel or Narrative-Focused:

If there was ever a genre that would be my antithesis, it would be the visual novel one. A genre built entirely on storytelling instead of gameplay does not interest this old-school mindset in the slightest.

The only novel-styled game I enjoyed was Her Story, but I like to say that it was because of the detective aspect and hunting down clues in the database; runner up award goes to Gone Home for its storytelling. I did try out Hatoful Boyfriend; after about 30 minutes of it, I just backed away slowly and uninstalled it.

I'm also going to include games that are considered "walking simulators" here as well. Again, the point of playing these games is to experience the story, not to enjoy mechanics or gameplay for the most part. Dear Esther was one of the quickest, "nope" in terms of turn on, and then turn right back off. Speaking of simulators, well, I think you can guess the next category.

5. Simulations

Simulations run the gambit in terms of their design: We've seen everything from exploring galaxies in space ships, to driving a truck across Europe.

This is one of those cases where real world vs. game mechanics really come into play. Most video games are designed around streamlined UIs meant to get the person interested and engaged in the game. Simulations on the other hand go for massive UIs; sometimes with their own control devices to properly get the feel of it. I tried out Spintires for about an hour, and after spending most of the time unable to barely drive my vehicle and then got stuck in the river, I was done.

The Space Simulation genre also bores me, as the thought of just flying around waiting for stuff to happen, figuring out the controls and the untold hours of trying to do something doesn't interest me. I tried one space simulator game; I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out the controls before light speed jumping straight into a planet and blowing up before calling it quits. Having said all that, if one of my friends reads this, there's a good chance he's going to disown our friendship.

I think the problem for me is that most simulation games are designed around you having played a game previously in the series and is more about the realistic aspects, rather than the game. I know that that's the main point of the genre, but I just don't have the time to dedicate hours to possibly learning one game.

The current big regret of this would be Kerbal Space Program. The game looks amazing and the idea of literally creating rockets to shoot into space sounds awesome, but trying to learn the interface and how things work is just not on my plate at the moment.

6. Pure Sandbox

Finally, we come to another possibly controversial point: The Sandbox genre. From The Sims to Minecraft to Garry's Mod, sandbox games just don't interest me. This again goes back to my own style of play: I need progress and challenge in order to play a game fully. There has to be a hook to keep me playing or I'm just going to stop after a few minutes.

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Sandbox titles tend to hit the player with everything at once, and then not have much growth beyond that

I played a few hours of both The Sims and Minecraft, and after realizing that the base mechanics were it, I had gotten my fill.

I'm not the guy who can make his own fun when it comes to sandbox games; I have too many games to play and things to do to make a game engaging on its own.

I'm constantly amazed when I see screenshots of people recreating famous landmarks in Minecraft, or creating insane scenes in Garry's Mod, and I know that I would never have the patience or the time to do that on my own.

Gamer's Block:

Even for someone like me, there are just some games that I cannot learn or enjoy, no matter how many times I try. Sometimes it's my own personal preference that gets in the way, other times it's the difficulty of the genre or design that stops me in my tracks. I keep harping on the importance of good tutorial design and structure, and in the case of Paradox Software, that would do a lot to ease new players in.

Will I ever be able to enjoy these games? I don't know, but I can tell you that I have plenty of more titles to play in the meantime.

(If you enjoyed this post, check out Game-Wisdom, along with the Youtube channel for daily videos. And my Patreon campaign to help keep Game-Wisdom ad free, while continuing to put out great content.)

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