The Changing Face of Games

Today in Skyrim, I tried to walk to Morrowind. I’d read that Bethesda had included the Vvardenfell landmass, and tried to climb to the top of a mountain so that I could peek over the peak and see Red Mountain in the distance. Unfortunately, I hit the game’s built in barriers and had to turn back, suddenly feeling desperately homesick for my pixellated paradise. Thwarted, I bumped into an ice troll and decided to leg it, conjuring a dremora and hiding behind a rock. I let the red-faced beastie do my combat for me; I just plain didn’t feel like fighting today.

Trolls of a rather nastier variety greeted Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler, who shut down her Twitter account after a barrage of spiteful personal insults, in part sparked by Bioware’s decision to include the dialogue-light “Action Mode” and combat-light “Story Mode” in Mass Effect 3. More insidiously, some fans were offended by the game’s inclusion of romance options for female and gay characters, leading to the astonishing claim that Bioware is “neglecting the straight male gamer”, despite having four dateable females in Mass Effect 2. It seems that some fans are offended by Bioware letting players play the game they want, when and how they want it. 

Yes, I appreciate that sometimes the pursuit of mass appeal leads to some options being curtailed (for example, the inclusion of a gay character in Dragon Age 2 precluded the ability for homophobic players to hit a “no gay” switch). I can particularly appreciate that making a game appeal to a majority who aren’t particularly interested in stat-faffing can be a turn-off to people who enjoy spending hours deciding how many points to put into Dexterity. It’s just that my sympathy is limited because I’m just so bloody excited about these “dumbing down” changes – I’m thinking of Mass Effect 3 here – which might very well lead to my idea of the perfect game.

Forbes details the debate in this very interesting post, which outlines the disgusting attacks on Jennifer Hepler and the game design changes which triggered the situation. It’s an informative article that I’d encourage you to read.

Provided you’re not too busy rearranging your character’s inventory, of course.

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