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…
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!
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!