Thursday, 2 August 2012

The most abusive relationship in gaming - by Dr. Liam Fielder

The game guide; it’s a familiar image to anyone with even a mild interest in gaming. From epic RPGs to the mind-bending puzzles, many games choose to release an official strategy guide to offer help for their gamers, and with the abundant source of (somewhat) reliable information wikis otherwise known as the ‘world wide web’, the chances are that if you’re struggling with a game, the solution is just a page turn or a click away.

Modern game guides are usually full of exclusive artwork and cool extras,

Game guides and wikis have their place, they’re wonderful, and frankly I owe at least 7500G to them, however in the wrong hands (usually mine) they’re open to abuse. Take my recent tussle with Obsidian Entertainment’s Fallout: New Vegas, an expansive game with hours just waiting to be explored, that is, hours of content that you have to find and work through. To the weaker mind (usually mine) it is easy to simply look up what quests are available in the current area rather than spend hours talking to every NPC in order to see whatever kooky mishap or zany situation they’ve managed to get themselves into.

Sure, we've heard Old Ben's side of the story...

As well as saving time, I was able to find all the hidden treasures and pickups I needed, making that perfect character build and those achievements that little easier to get; so where’s the problem? It’s all due to moderation; using a guide to find those last few pieces of gear or to get through a particularly difficult quest is fine, but without moderation you can find yourself playing a game as a paint by numbers, checking off boxes and completing quests step-by-step as the mighty game guide has told you to. Suddenly those achievements are nothing more than a measure of your ability to follow a list of instructions given from on high (usually someone in Connecticut with a wiki account).

Those unsung heroes!

When greeted by a game as expansive as New Vegas, a great deal of the charm comes from engrossing yourself in the lore; talking to every NPC is the best way to really immerse yourself in the irradiated world that you’re supposed to be playing a role in (ergo, role playing game). When following the guide, that engrossing activity risks becoming no more than a hurdle standing in your way of your next solar-powered orbital laser gun.

So how do we pull away from the grasp that the game guide has over us? How do we stop being addicts to the information so readily available to us? Well, I’m not entirely sure we need to; maybe we can be happy playing games as an accountant with a checklist, because to some tastes (usually mine) that’s actually part of the fun. I remember playing FFXII with the help of a guide, consulting my paper partner only to check at what point different side quest became available to me during the main story, leaving the majority of the guide untouched, and in that balance, I enjoyed the game.
So, if you find yourself looking up a game a bit more than you’d like to, ask yourself what is more important; would you rather finish the game, or play the game? 

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