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BaD 2017.8: video game acumen.

On 02/09/2017 at 08:56 PM by Julian Titus

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Whoops! I was doing a bunch of YouTube research for tonight’s episode of Nerds Without Pants and almost forgot about BaD! We’re talking about our three favorite game intros for the Stage Select segment and I was watching our listener picks. Anyways…

I just finished Hitman. That’s the 2016 Hitman. Not to be confused with the game from 2000, since we do love mucking up our naming conventions in the video game industry, don’t we? Doom may be my favorite game of 2016, but I’m still annoyed at it simply being called “Doom”.

I freaking love the new Hitman game. I wrote a glowing review for PixlBit, but things are a wee bit backed up on the production end of things, so it might be a few days before it goes live on the site. Nick’s busy at work on the redesign, and I think he’s the only person handling media management. It’s a whole thing, and I’m rambling now.

One thing I had a blast doing with Hitman was finishing an episode, and then watching Brad Shoemaker and Dan Ryckert play the same level on the Giant Bomb video series. They were laughably bad at the game, and as hilarious as Brad and Dan always are, it got a bit tough to watch towards the end of the series. It seemed like they didn’t understand how the game works on a base level, even after having some of the devs from IO sit in with them for one of the videos. Now, it may be that they were intentionally playing the game poorly for comedic purposes, but some of their comments made me question how they navigate games in general.

For example, when you step into an area you don’t have clearance for, your minimap is outlined, and “trespassing” lights up below it. Pretty straightforward, right? Similarly, if you alert someone with a sound or they are suspicious and investigating, their dot on the map turns from grey to white, and then outlined in white when they are actively alerted to something. Hitman communicates information to the player far better than any game in the series prior, so I was constantly shocked that Brad and Dan didn’t seem to ever understand what was going on, why they got spotted, or who was looking for them. As such, they would spend over an hour trying to take out one of two targets in a level, while I had them both done and dusted in far less time.

It got me thinking about video game skill level. I often wonder if I’m good at video games. Like, I have played thousands of games. I’ll go out on a limb and say I’ve most likely played far more games than you have. That’s not a brag, just a fact. I was lucky to have a store full of video games at my fingertips for nearly a decade, and I took full advantage of that privilege. But even with all that experience I don’t play games on hard because I find them to be too challenging. I suck at aiming in most games, so FPS games are tougher for me than most. But I can navigate the older Resident Evil games with no trouble, and I beat Psycho Mantis in the first Metal Gear Solid in Japanese…without switching controller ports, because I didn’t know you could do that.

I believe that when you play enough games you have a basic gaming proficiency that increases over time, regardless of the type of games you play. You become comfortable with button layouts; I can play games on Xbox and PlayStation without having to remind myself which buttons do what, because I’m well versed in them. You understand the “language” of video games. You know that if there is a light shining off in the distance that you are expected to go in that direction. By that same logic, you can almost “feel” when there is an item or secret nearby, simply by how the level is laid out. The game doesn’t have to tell you this; it’s something you know from other game experiences.

I’ve heard a lot of jokes about how people in games media are bad at games. I don’t know if that’s true. Perhaps they are like me, in the sense that they have played so many games that they never linger on any long enough to master them. You may play Dark Souls for 200 hours to wring every bit of life out of it, but I’m more likely to get to the end in 40 hours or something and move on to the next thing, never looking back. I’m not harping on Brad and Dan, but I found it odd at how they seemed to either not understand or outright ignore the information that was being presented to them by the Hitman UI and in game cues. While I know that they know the language of video games it was almost like Hitman was in a dialect that they were not versed in. Which could totally be the case; Brad is all about that DotA, and that game may as well be an algebra text book written in Greek for my part.

Do you consider yourself good at video games? Do you find you have skills that carry over from game to game, or do you treat each one as a wholly new experience?



Super Step Contributing Writer

02/09/2017 at 09:43 PM

I don't play on hard unless I'm bored or have played through on normal. I definitely think there's a language to gaming you learn by playing. You used to know x was gas or shoot, now you know R2 serves that function across the board. 

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/10/2017 at 11:30 PM

Yeah, I love that stuff. Makes it frustrating when a game tries to change things up for no reason. 


02/09/2017 at 10:10 PM

I never had a problem with this stuff in the older Hitman games. Now in this new one they pretty much write on your eyeballs what is going on at each moment and people still can't get it?  I actually don't think this game is better at communicating information. More obvious, but not better. And that goes for most AAA games these days. Icons all over the screen, compromising immersion. Inelegant solution to problems that were already solved or didn't exist. I never heard anyone having a problem knowing if NPCs were suspicious.You had a suspicion meter and body language to go by, and that was it. Was pretty obvious even then. I turned all that shit in the new Hitman off. This game is a great return to form after the donkey dick that was Absolution and shouldn't be marred by all this clumsy hand holding fuckwittery.


02/09/2017 at 10:48 PM

I think you do get better at games the more you play. There are games that I totally sucked at when I started seriously gaming that I've gone back to and had no problems with years later. For example, if I'd tried playing a game like Sleeping Dogs back when I started, I probably wouldn't have finished it. As opposed to falling absolutely in love with it when I downloaded it as a Games With Gold offering on my 360. And not sucking at it.

Cary Woodham

02/10/2017 at 12:01 AM

Well I bet I've probably played as many games as you.  But then, I've been reviewing games for more than 20 years and have been playing them since I can remember.

I don't put games on 'hard' difficulty, as I don't have time for that kind of frustration.  I don't know if you would call me good at video games.  I certainly won't be winning any fighting game tournaments or FPS deathmatches.  But there are many games that I can hold my own at.  Like for instance, I bet you can't beat me at Super Pac-Man!

I think one thing I am good at is figuring out and catching on to a game and getting the hang of it pretty quickly.  There have been lots of times where I'm demoing a game at a convention like E3 or PAX, and the PR professional showing me the game gets surprised on how fast I catch on to whatever game they're showing me.  It even happened a few times at the PAX South I went to a couple of weeks ago.  When they ask what my secret is, I just tell them it's years of experience.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/10/2017 at 11:33 PM

Yeah, if you've been reviewing games for a long time we're probably on a level. I fully believe that, up until a few years ago, I was consuming games at a rate that was equivalent to your average person in the video game press.

I have found that, while I may not be able to hang with most people in FPS games, I can usually hold my own in fighting games, even if I don't know all the mechanics for the game I'm playing. While the fighting game community has passed me by long ago, it is rare for me to get completely annihilated in a game of Street Fighter. 


02/10/2017 at 02:40 AM

I'm not aware of my gaming skills until I play with someone not used to games. I remember playing some Halo: C.E. multiplayer with a friend of mine who hadn't any FPS experience. I thought playing games was just easy for anybody but I was abusing him so bad I had to use a control setting that scrambled all my button functions so we'd be on more equal footing. I was still better even with that. 

I've gotten wise to item placement in many games. In any particular environment, I can usually hone in on the "secret" spot where the item is. One is usually just to the left or right of you just after you enter through a door or entranceway. You get distracted by the passage to a new place and forget to look behind you just after you enter. Devs know this and so hide stuff there. I'm always checking those places and usually find stuff. 

I always think it's funny listening to developers talk about their games and how the players get so much better then them and find things they never thought of very quickly after release. This is why pro gamers have some value in the industry. You want someone to run your game through it's paces, try and break it, or find exploits? Call a hard core gamer. 


02/10/2017 at 05:55 AM

I have skills in shooter games as well as stealth games that mostly translates to other games in those genres. I started young with Goldeneye, Halo, and then the first Splinter Cell, so I've had a lot of time to build the coordination or expectations for how games in those genres get designed or how they feel.

I've been into action-RPGs since the Baldur's Gate and Champions of Norrath days on PS2, and I've played tons of games in the general roleplaying space since, like Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and others, but if we're being honest I don't feel like there are too many RPG skills that get passed on. Of course if there are common terminology (attribute names, HP, mana) or systems (economies, upgrade paths) it will make it easier since I've seen parallels in other games, but not much else. When I start a new RPG I usually feel a little overwhelmed and there are long periods of time trying to get comfortable in the game's universe or combat. I never hop into RPGs on a whim, I really have to be in the right head-space and do my research to know a bit about it. I tend to know which RPGs I'm going to buy months or years in advance, and I sink a lot of time into them once they get here. Whereas, I could buy and spontaneously pop in any random shooter game or stealth game and dive in feet first without hesitation. I tend to play shooters on higher difficulties than anything, like I start new Halos and Call of Dutys on heroic or veteran settings, which is like the 3/4 setting. I've never played Mass Effect or most other RPGs on anything other than normal or casual.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/10/2017 at 11:34 PM

I'm almost the opposite. I'm bad at stealth games (even though I love them), and usually have to work myself up to play a shooter. But I can jump into an RPG anytime. The problem I have lately is actually finishing said RPG.

Catherine Hauser Staff Alumnus

02/10/2017 at 09:29 AM

I think I'm better at some game genres than others. Like you, I suck at FPS games. I have a really hard time aiming or doing anything that requires you to feather the control stick. It didn't stop me from playing the hell out of Call of Duty with my friends, but I'm positive they only get me in their clan because they had to. My kill ratio was terrible. I really felt like if I kept playing I would get better...nope. I guess I just don't have the dextarity needed for it.

Other games, though, I feel I'm pretty good at. I like to problem solve and I enjoy a challenge. I will collect things until I reach completion. I love to do silly things, like jumping to the top of the castle in Mario 64 before beating the game.

Good, okay or bad, I always make sure I am enjoying myself. That's always my main focus.

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