An issue with modern games

In any video game, you have to have a suspension of disbelief; that is, you’re willing to let certain parts of it go to the wayside, because you realize you are playing a fictional game.  Here’s a good example for people who are new to the phrase:

Example 1 – You are fighting off a zombie horde.  In real life, zombies don’t exist . . . and even if they did you’d most certainly die.  But since it’s a game, you let it go.  That’s suspension of disbelief.

However, it can only go so far.  Shows, movies, and games that take it too far end up becoming painful to endure (see Battlefield Earth for what I mean . . . actually, don’t).  Keep reading and I’ll give you some of the best examples, in my opinion.

First up is the game I’m playing now, Mass Effect.  This game is awesome.  I won’t go into a review here, since the game is hardly brand-new and has been reviewed to death already, but suffice to say it should appeal to 90% of the gamers out there.  BioWare put a lot of effort into making the game as immersing as possible with characters and dialog that feel very natural.  The use of actual professional actors in the voice lineup helps with the game’s quality (as a bad cast can make an otherwise decent game unbearable; see the first Resident Evil).

However, there is one glaring problem with the game world; weapons.  Not how they operate, or what they look like . . . but they are EVERYWHERE!!!  I’m not kidding either; you break into a safe and there are three sniper rifles inside.  Tell me why the safe in the medical clinic had three rifles please!  Why does the bug I just killed have two ammo upgrades on it?  Why, on a planet that is so anti-weapons that I have an argument with security just to bring my gun with me (Noveria for those who’ve played the game) can I find grenades in the trash can?!

In a game like this, you’d have to be utterly inept not to end up swimming in extra weapons, armor, mods, power-ups, and upgrades.  Everything that can hold anything is nine times out of ten holding a weapon.

Penny Arcade

Alexander pointed out a similar situation in Diablo; you’ve killed a skeleton and a suit of armor drops as loot.  Where the crap was he hiding it?  Why wasn’t he wearing it?

Every game seems to do this to some degree.  Even more baffling is why I’m gaining credits for every enemy I kill.  Am I a bounty hunter without realizing it?  I’m pretty sure that law enforcement isn’t paid on a “per kill” basis, so why it’s this way in games is confusing.

Also confusing is the fact that you are typically rewarded for robbing people.  If you see your mouse/cursor/reticule light up, it means you can rob someone.  It doesn’t even require skill, so it’s not like you’re Danny Ocean and this is some challenge.  You press some buttons, use a hammer, or (in the case of Mass Effect) just over ride it with omni-gel.

Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade

Perhaps these games occur in a world where human nature doesn’t exist, so no one ever thinks to steal any of their neighbor’s stuff . . . but that seems like a stretch to me.

Even better is who you are stealing FROM.  Typically an NPC you can get a quest from has some goodies in their house you can take as well.

“Thank you sir.  You’ve saved my daughter from those bandits and scared off their leader.”

“Yup, sure did.  I also went into your home, smashed every crate I could find, and stole everything of importance.  I don’t need most of it, so I’ll just sell it for gold the next chance I get.  Oh . . . I also stole your gold.”

“You are a most honorable and brave adventurer.  I wish you well on your travels.”

Can anyone else see the problem here?!

I realize that the player character has to get credits/gold/supplies from somewhere, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if that somewhere had more to do with the player’s actions?  If you are hailed as a hero, wouldn’t sword smiths be lining up to give you their best work?  If you are some jerk who’s been robbing every person you come across, shouldn’t the law be after you?

Just once, I’d love to see some NPC in a game sitting around, making crates.  You can talk to him and he’d explain that everytime an adventurer such as yourself comes through, people lose all their crates.  It’s up to crate-smiths such as him to make sure everyone has enough crates for the next time.

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