Gaming Mechanic Fads

Gaming mechanics are literally, the fundamentals of every game we play; they govern everything in every game. They are why we love (and hate) some titles and genres. They aren’t just important they are imperative!

And yet they, like everything else in gaming, can become a slave to the fashion and throughout gaming history there have been many, many instances of mechanics being implemented because they are cool, rather than they improve the game. Some of these mechanics were awful and some were awesome, I’ll leave you to decide which is which.

What I have here are some of the biggest gaming mechanic fads that have transpired in my lifetime – if you can think of any more, please tell me in the comments/twitter/facebook.

The Rewind Function

As seen in: Forza Motorsport, Grid, Need for Speed: Shift, Dirt 2 etc.

One of the genuinely innovative mechanics that are on this list. When the concept was introduced in critical darlings such as ‘Prince of Persia: Sands of Time’ and ‘Braid’ the gaming community was genuinely excited about what it could mean for gaming. Gamers were creating new and innovative uses for this mechanic and all sorts of game ideas were flung around message boards like Neogaf.

Fast forward a few years to 2008; when the racing genre decided that the Rewind function could be incredibly useful; imagine being able to save your record run after a mistake with the push of a button. Useful! Game developers certainly thought so and soon racers like GRID and Forza 3 incorporated it into their systems and the world lost its collective shit! It didn’t really help that during this period literally every racing game released had a variation of the rewind button and soon public perception changed…

…gone was the praise for the mechanic and in its place was comments like:

“f**k this s**t! I f**king refuse to race again c**ts who rewind! Newbs”!

The backlash got so bad that games even started to reassess the use of the mechanic and although they still included it (because they had to; a rod for their own back and all) they actively discouraged its use! ‘Forza Motorsport 4’ for example would penalise the player for using the rewind function by adding time to their laps or not allowing them to upload their time, and ‘Dirt 2’ would limit the amount of rewinds the player had.

The bubble had well and truly burst by 2010 through simple overuse of the mechanic; as far as I’m aware it has yet to stage a comeback. Overuse though is a recurring theme throughout this entire list…

Motion Controls

As seen in: Wii Sports, Kinect Sports Season 1, PS Move Sports Champions etc.

Once Microsoft and Sony saw that the Nintendo Wii was well on its way to breaking all sorts of records and ‘Wii Sports’ was becoming the best-selling game of all time they knew that they had to get on that motion control gravy train. Within 4 short years (the space year 2010) we saw the release of the Kinect; which became the fastest selling electronic device ever (even outselling the iPad), and the Playstation Move (which, well, was sold). And with them a veritable avalanche of software for the devices.

Soon the whole world were swinging, throwing, dancing and breaking TVs together and having a ball…

…then something happened. People realised that doing all this physical stuff while playing games was really tiring. Also the games were more often than not, fucking shit. Developers were throwing out shovel-ware titles by the lorry load and everyone got burned by buggy, broken and just bad games. What was worse was they all copied the same ideas; there is only so many times you can play tennis, dance or play the coconut shy. The biggest blow for the technology though was it was incredibly difficult to build into “hardcore” games; many developers tried (even the mighty Nintendo) and they all failed.

In the end, those who bought all these games moved on to their mobile devices and it ceased to be a thing.


As seen in: God of War, Heavenly Sword, Resident Evil 4, Indigo Prophecy etc

QTEs are generally considered a scourge in gaming now because what began life as way to make cut-scenes more interactive soon began overtaking actual gameplay.

I remember the first time I saw a QTE, it was stunning! Well it wasn’t, the little girl in ‘Shenmue’ got whacked with a football. When I was expecting the QTE though it was awesome, chasing Jimmy from Asia Travel through Dobuita – it was a genuine game-changer! No more were cutscenes going to be a passive thing, now they were interactive and ‘Shenmue’ got them perfect.

When other; much more successful, games got their hands on them however they changed and not for the better. QTEs got gradually more popular and vastly more intrusive in video games and it culminated in some of the weakest moments in otherwise great games. ‘God of War’ at times felt like nothing but an interactive cutscene – especially the bosses (see the video above), ‘Resident Evil 4’s weakest moment was undoubtedly the Krauser fight which was QTE based and with games like ‘The Order: 1884’ and the reveal for ‘Ryse: Son of Rome’ were nothing but QTE simulators (although the release of Ryse was much less reliant on them).

The QTE began its life as a way to enhance storytelling and (it’s looking like) its ending its life as a substitute for actual gameplay. Thankfully gamer outcry has led to the decline of the QTE and although there is still the odd use, it is few and far between – good riddance!

Rhythm Action

As seen in: Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Gitaroo Man, Elite Beat Agents etc

A genre that was given life in the late 90s with ‘Beatmania’ and ‘Parappa the Rappa’ really found its stride in the mid-2000s with the release of ‘Guitar Hero’! Suddenly Rhythm Action was cool and everyone wanted in on the action.

‘Guitar Hero’ had the market to itself (relatively speaking) but in 2007 it found itself a worthy challenger in the shape of ‘Rock Band’ suddenly plastic peripherals were across the globe as players lived their rockstar fantasies! In 2008 alone there were 9 ‘Guitar Hero’ titles released as the concept really brought home the coin; $1.48billion in fact!

Other developers saw the opportunity to make some dosh too and we saw a huge influx of rhythm action titles get released; dancing games, rock star games, adventure games with RA aspects and of course karaoke games! The market was drowning in RA games and it was completely unsustainable; inevitably it crashed and everyone stopped caring (except me. I still love ‘Rock Band’).

There is still the odd RA game released, but they no longer hold the mass market and in way that’s better for them. This is one fad that I hope can sustain itself and continue to exist because they are immense fun.

Have I forgotten any mechanic fads?

What was your favourite game mechanic fad?

Tell me in the comment section!


2 thoughts on “Gaming Mechanic Fads

  1. The thing about motion controls was that Wii Sports was legitimately awesome. We played many hours of it at our house. The problem was that it set a standard which couldn’t be matched. Nothing was as good with the motion controls as Wii Sports. Just Dance is probably the only thing nearly as good. And almost anything released on multiple platforms, like LEGO Star Wars, had token motion controls at best.

    As for fads… I suppose they have to fade before they can be considered a fad, so “always online” is annoying but hasn’t gone away yet.

    I recall a couple during the early days of coin-op video games, when devs were thrashing about for a business model. There was a point when time was the limiting factor for a game. You only got so much for your quarter. Tank was a time limited game back in the day, as opposed to Pong which used your score, and Lunar Lander which only gave you so much fuel. (Also Lunar Lander is the earliest game I remember where you could put more coins in to extend your current play session.)

    Eventually lives became the metric for most video games, something that should have been an obvious idea for devs given that the antecedents of video games, pinball machines, had essentially been using “lives” in the form of balls for many decades.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great comment! This is why I love you Wilhelm! I agree that Wii Sports was amazing, but I see your Just Dance and raise you a Dance Central as the best of motion control games!

      I never thought about lives being a measure to limit players and maximise intake! In hindsight I don’t know how I missed that!


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