Katherine Hayton | I’d rather deal with the aliens, thanks
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12 Oct / I’d rather deal with the aliens, thanks

I have been hard at work gaming today. Far harder than I wanted to be. There are a few glitches with Alien: Isolation causing varying degrees of annoyance.

I’m not an expert gamer. When it gets to the options menu I choose the easiest setting immediately (in the memorable choice name from Wolfenstein “Can I play Daddy?”) because I’m under no impression that my temper can cope with my inadequacy. In other words, I play for the storyline.

I’m also firmly in the camp that believes that just because I’m useless at shooting things, that should be no reason to stop me from playing through to the end of the game. I paid the same amount of money for it that dextrous people did – I should also have the privilege of finding out what happens at the end. No one kicks you out of a movie theatre because you weren’t paying attention in the second quarter so now have no idea of what’s happening. No. You’re allowed to sit there until the end with no sense of continuity but still grooving on the cinematography.

Sadly the gaming community seems to disagree with me. I never did get the chance to find out what happened at the end of Dead Space because I got stuck on one of the subway scenes. It was near the end, I could guess how it ended, but I wasn’t allowed to experience it because apparently you have to be better than I was to get to the final cut-scenes.

Thinking back there are a trail of littered games behind me. And I’m not talking about the ones that legitimately bored the **** out of me so that I voluntarily stopped playing. There are far more of those tossed in disgust on the track. But there are also a lot of levels of Manic Miner that I never got to see, and far more rooms that Jet Set Willy never stepped or leapt or jetted into.

I never made it through to the end of The Hobbit. I never got to see the wonders of that Tolkien expected me to see. I even sucked at Washing Windows, but to be fair I saw far more of those than I wanted to.

I have been blocked from enjoyment my whole life. I accept this as part and parcel of belonging to the lower strata of the gaming community. Unless I put in some serious years of time studying, designing, and working on my own game with my own rules then I’m not going to be in a position to change it.

But at least I know that thems the rules. Not being able to hit and kill all of the things that you need to in a reasonable amount of time even though you dedicate some serious time to it sucks hard, but can be explained.

But what the hell is the deal with making one choice that renders it impossible to move forward in a game? Yes, I’m looking at you Sega. What were you thinking?

It was perfectly reasonable for me to run out of the room when three people returned (and shot at me) after I picked up the hacker tool. I’d done exactly that the last time I walked in to find it populated with people who liked me for target practice. And that worked. Why would I do something different? It was also perfectly reasonable to save the game at that point because I had people on my tail and I’d just been through a cut-scene so I was guessing the tool was something important. Perfectly. Reasonable.

And more to the point, how was I to know that it rendered the room forever impossible to navigate through? Seriously, how was I meant to know? Was it spraypainted on the side of a locker that I slide quickly by with my arms flailing because even though I’m meant to be taken seriously as a space engineer I run like a girl? It’s like being back in the Jet Set mansion where one wrong move throws you all the way back to the start, but at least then I knew what I was signing up to. Where’s this in the fine print?

Not only is it cruel to regress someone to the previous level so they have to repeat all of the steps thus far taken to move them forward in the game, it’s also an opportunity for them to notice and grow increasingly annoyed by every little glitch which they’re now encountering for the second time.

Don’t know if companions blocking your exit is meant to be a fun feature, and I also don’t recall that on the ad Sega. I don’t recall you advertising their enoyable rotation of sayings either. You know, the one where you get told to be quiet when you’re not even capable of talking and you haven’t moved in half a minute. Or the one where the guy searching for you with his gun out says ‘Keep looking, she can’t have gone far,’ and then two seconds later says, ‘Maybe she’s gone – I haven’t found her yet.’ I’m serious. Two seconds – I haven’t found her yet. Does Sega also have the attention span of a teenager? Actually, wipe that – it’s an insult to teenagers. I’m sure most teenagers would hunt a woman with a gun for far longer than two seconds before deciding to throw in the towel. And I’m talking about New Zealand teenagers who don’t even view gunplay as a regular sporting activity.

I’m also fond of how when people run at you shooting and you stand in the corner because you haven’t got a weapon, you all become trapped together so you have to restart the game from the last save. Another sterling discover there in gameplay. Along with the way when you’re crouching at the level of the vent you have to stand up to climb back down into it. Or how your companions keep saying follow me and then stand still waiting for you to go ahead. Or how the enemy can stare you straight in the eye, and then decide to go and check the inventory because apparently the noise was nothing. And they don’t appear to be making the decision in a wink-wink got-your-back kind of way.

Don’t make me go back again Sega. You’ll make me angry. And trust me, you won’t like me when I’m angry.

By Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog

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