What's Wrong with Adventure Games

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By Bionic Bill

Game Theory Discussion

Well, Mittens is over, so I'm taking it upon myself to get this discussion thing going. Some of you may vaguely recall a post about this a few weeks ago, and today it begins.

This weeks spine-tingling question: What is wrong with adventure games?

I think this a good healthy question to ask, especially among adventure game designers. So, go ahead, let it out. What grates on your conscience daily, gets underneath your fingernails, and scratches on the proverbial blackboard of your mind?

Ground rules: Post one thing that you think is flawed about the adventure game genre as a whole, or at least how the adventure game is usually designed. Don't worry if it's a basic component of adventure games, be as critical as you like. If someone has posted something you disagree with or think MUST have clarification in order to make sense, then make one cogent post addressing that poster. To this the original poster can of course respond, but try not to draw out a conversation, because it could result in multiple confusing conversations occurring at the same time in the thread.



Puzzles, as they are implemented in most adventure games, can, I think, detract from the experience of a game.

I think the most painful flaw in design is, whether or not it is the designer's intention, the narrative of the game seems to be used as the means by which the player reaches the puzzles. In other words, the puzzles don't lend relevance to the narrative, but the narrative lends relevance to the puzzles. The adventure game can sometimes be tetris, but with context. This is fine sometimes, tetris with context can be fun. But when a game is attempting to have fleshed-out characters and a developed storyline(something the adventure game genre in particular allows for), the puzzles can take away from that.

1. The inclusion of "boot-strapping" scenes, or mundane activity can, I think, increase immersion. The character you are playing actually has to walk over there and talk to that guy, and then walk way over there. There are puzzles which amount to boot-strapping, especially near the beginning of games. You have to find Jake McUrks keys in Pleurghburg, or fix the elevator in The Uncertainty Machine. I recall distinctly, and it might just be me here, saying, "Why am I doing this?" Why don't we get up and find Jake's shoes and socks, and why don't we help Susan fix her electric toothbrush? The point I'm nearly making is that puzzle-making is a selective process, and not everything can be a puzzle, despite the bit of boot-strapping that must make it into adventure games. What we choose to be a puzzle is important, and we should have a good reason for choosing what we do. When a puzzle is completed that neither reveals character nor furthers the plot, the narrative remains disconnected from the puzzle aspects of the game.

2. The other way puzzles take away from games can be warped logic where it doesn't fit. This is expounded quite well in this old man murray article. The Longest Journey comes to my mind, where you need a key to get in a fuse box, so you put bread down on a metal grate so a bird flies off, and pull up this chain which releases a rubber ducky, and eventually you put three or four unrelated items together to gain something that somehow makes a contraption that will retrieve the key that is inexplicably laying on a subway track. It is all very disconcerting and takes you out of the narrative into The Incredible Machine(the video game from years back). Even working this out without a walkthrough, I was left thinking "WHAT!?" but my adventure gamer instincts helped me to try everything, despite it making sense. I went to a walkthrough after that puzzle.

Okay, the example is my contribution to discussion. Someone would reply saying,

Bionic Bill: You are full of poopy, and nobody likes you.

If you want to add to someone's point, that's allowed too. And I'll probably change general rules if things go terribly this time. PM me with better ways to run discussion. I'm not a mod, so I can't do anything about people breaking the rules, except calling their mother.

Next week: Prescription! What do we need to do to improve the adventure game?