I think we’ve come to find ourselves in a bit of a strange situation and I don’t know for sure exactly how we got here. In my belief games are (for the most part) a form of entertainment. They can make you laugh, they can make you cry, sometimes they can make you throw panic and rage induced fits. They can immerse you, inspire you or merely just distract you and it is this flexibility and depth that makes gaming one of the most popular forms of relaxation and recreation. To play, is to be entertained. So why is it we’ve just stopped playing?
One word. Well… Technically two: The Wiki. This font of information spewing directly from our monitors, phones and tablets into our minds has unsettled the balance of our gaming habits. As I said, we’re in a strange situation, one that I have found myself in all too often and it’s getting worse too. Let me ask you a question. What do you do when you don’t know something? Do you sit and puzzle it out? If so, then good. You’re not a zombie yet. But after trying and trying and failing, when whatever it is you’re trying to do seems impossible but giving up feels wrong, where do you turn? To the beast that is the Internet perhaps? To Google and henceforth to the sea of Wikis. You see, the plethora of resources we have at hand has never been sweeter and riper pickings for our inquisitive minds. Gotten yourself lost? You’ll find hundreds of different walkthroughs to guide you through. Need to know what quests earn you loads of money? Want to know what weapon’s are most effective against a boss? It’s all there and so easy to find too. Everything we will ever need to know in our beloved games is right there, being dangled in front of our faces. I really do see and feel the temptation but I have to say, I can’t fathom why anyone would ever choose to spend hours researching the intricacies of putting on a different piece of armour or alternative enchantment on their sword in order to min-max for ultimate efficiency and power when instead they could have figured out what to do on their own with a little trial and error. The problem is it’s just getting out of hand. All this knowledge at our fingertips is great but it doesn’t half make us lazy. Can’t do this arbitrary thing? Search how to. Google it. It makes life so much easier, it really does. It makes games so much easier but where’s the sense of achievement if you’ve read up on exactly what to do? It ruins the experience of so many games. That being said, there are some that almost lend themselves to using wikis to progress through them.
I’ve been playing an awful lot of Terraria lately. I’ve gotten kind of addicted. I love the mayhem and the adventure and the creativity. It’s both wonderfully simple yet complex at the same time. The problem is, there are just too many things for any mere mortal to know at once. When a game gives you so much choice it’s hard to know which one to make, however in Terraria it’s not always immediately apparent that you have a choice. There are huge amounts of weapons to create and uncover with different materials needed for each. There’s a point you reach when there’s just no way you’ll know how to craft or acquire the more fun weapons without some sort of outside knowledge and that is where you arguably need the wiki. Although, it’s so easy to get drawn in and look at the next thing and then the next thing until your brain’s forgetting your sister’s birthday and how to tie your shoe laces as it needs more space for how to kill ‘X’ boss quicker or what that ore that you can’t mine yet is.
The Elder Scrolls series is another set of games that have had me perusing the net for information on how to do this, that and the other. For me it all started with Morrowind. This fantastic fantasy world had me hooked from the start. Unlike Skyrim and Oblivion it doesn’t like to hand hold one little bit. For example: you can kill off characters that are essential to the main storyline if you feel so inclined. You can brutally murder every single person you come across in fact but if you actually want to play through the game’s story I’d say it’s best if you don’t. But anyway, the story. What you get is a journal filled with descriptions of the events that unfold in front of you and a whole load of quotes from npcs you talk with. Really it feels more like a detective game than the rpgs of today. There in lies part of the excitement however. Things are easy to miss and getting lost means discovery. In a world so perfectly sculpted it’s almost sacrilege to go the most efficient and direct route. The game wants you to find secrets off the beaten track. It tempts you into wandering the wilds in pursuit of nought but adventure. Sadly having prior knowledge of what to do and where to go tarnishes this experience. The discovery is gone and the sense of achievement along with it. However when you do get truly stuck, isn’t it nice to be able to just find out why so you can keep playing?
The Internet is a beast that just won’t stop growing. We use it more and more every day. We can’t help that and why would we want to stop it? It improves the quality and ease of our lives in so many ways, right? It’s fantastic to be able to progress in our favourite games with a quick search rather than hours of mindless restarting or back and forth but our games are in danger. Our need for information is destroying them and it will not relent. Now, if you could just donate £2 a month, you too could save a game and give it a home for life.