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Can Video Game Accessibility Go Too Far? 164

A piece at GameSetWatch questions whether modern game companies are taking accessibility a step too far in their rush to attract people who don't typically play video games. This worry was inspired, in part, by the news that Nintendo's New Super Mario Bros. Wii would have the capability to play itself in order to let a human player get past a tricky part. Quoting: "Bigger audiences finishing more games is certainly a worthy goal, and Nintendo has shown that accessibility is the servant of engagement. History has rarely — if ever — dared to disprove the wisdom of Miyamoto's foresight. History has also never disproven, however, the principle that any medium and any message degrades the wider an audience it must reach. Art was never served by generalization, nor language by addressing all denominators. Entertainment for the masses ultimately becomes empty. There must exist an absolute point beyond which greater accessibility means less engagement. Making a game so easy it can play itself for you at the push of a button just might be that point."
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Can Video Game Accessibility Go Too Far?

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  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hardie ( 716254 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:21AM (#28480957)

    "Bigger audiences finishing more games is certainly a worthy goal"

    • I think it makes sense from a business point of view rather than from a gaming point of view. From a business point of view, does it make sense to invest money and resources in making a really great, memorable ending to an epic game, when most casual players will move on to something else before they get there? Or does it make more sense to make shorter games that can be finished in a dozen hours or so and take the time saved to make another sequel?

      As a gamer who enjoys epic games, it makes me sad. But it's

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by haystor ( 102186 )

        Why should Nintendo be singled out here? So many PC games over the years have had godmode and other cheats. It doesn't detract at all from your experience if you want to play without it. Some of these companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on game production and people hear that and never get to see the end of the story. One can only wonder about future sales that are lost when someone gets fed up with only ever seeing 2/3's of each story.

        • The difference between godmode and what Nintendo is doing, is that with cheat codes, you are still playing the game. You aren't just watching a movie. Sure, maybe with the cheat you don't run out of ammo or can't die, but you are still playing. It's still a game. Once you cut out player control, it stops being a game.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lena_10326 ( 1100441 )
            Is it a game if you watch someone else play? In my quake days, I used to go into spectator mode and watch the top player for the purpose of picking up new tricks or figuring out his play patterns (or just resting/chatting). There are also times I've watched a chess game play out in "Computer versus Computer" mode. I felt I was still involved in the game because I was learning how to play better for the next match. Nintendo's feature isn't any different than those two scenarios
            • You aren't playing, someone else is. The same is true if you are watching the computer play chess with its self. You are no more involved with the game than if you are involved with The Rock as he was fighting aliens in the movie adaption of Doom. The only difference is that if you are in the same room with someone who is playing, you can talk to them.

              And even there, you are watching a game being played where the outcome is not certain. Like sporting events, games can be fun to watch. This is mainly du

  • Is it just me, or did that quote manage to use a hundred words without actually saying anything?

    • The more you try to gain mass appeal, the further you dilute the core qualities of the experience. This guy is saying that if you make games that can play themselves, they quickly cease to be relevant as games.
    • Re:Say what now? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:48AM (#28481395) Homepage
      Let me translate:

      Nintendo did something new. I can't praise it without being labeled a 14m3r fanboi, and I can't criticize it because it'll probably turn out make them even more pots of money and then I'll look like a doofus. So I'll just talk around the issue to fill the space between these important messages from our sponsors.

  • This is new? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Andruil ( 971627 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:27AM (#28481045)
    So... As near as I remember ever single player game used to come with a whole slew of "Cheats" to be used by whoever, whenever and for any reason. Commander Keen had things like screen clipping where you could fly through the walls in the level, or fly mode. Age of Empires had things where you could turn the birds into dragons, get babies on tricycles with shotguns or cars with heavy weaponry. Since when is this new? Heck I remember some games having an "I win" button. Can anyone tell me how this is different from the age old era of 286 and 386 video games? Heck now that I think about it, what about game sharks and other such devices designed to unlock cheats in the game? up up down down left right left right a b b a.
    • Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A [], you philistine!
      • No, that's DDR playing a remix of ABBA's Dancing Queen!

        (DDR seems to have gotten the difficulty scale right!)

    • I can see one significant difference. If you use a (heheh) "secret" cheat to get through a section, you didn't didn't learn how to play through it yourself.

      If you watch the game play itself through that section, you can at least go back and attempt it yourself now that you know how.

      In that respect, it's much like the walkthrough videos that YouTube is replete with. You know, an actual "trainer", rather than a God mode.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      And I will take you back all the way to Donkey Kong. The cheat allowed me to work out the movement up first, and then worry about dodging the barrels. Or the 'no disaster' mode in Simcity. This allowed the user to learn how to build a town without having it destroyed just as you are moving to the advanced stages. In effect, you have a sub level for each level of difficulty.

      I would argue that having the game play through the really difficult parts allows the developer to add parts that would otherwise b

    • up up down down left right left right a b b a.

      Then what? "Dancing Queen" started playing?

    • by Reapy ( 688651 )

      Thanks for saying this. I was going to but I figured someone would point out the obvious. IDDQD, IDKFA , up up down down left right left right ab select start, whatever. As a kid I never played civ without a money cheat pegged on. I played star control with unlimited fuel so I could fill the screen with ammo. I didn't learn to play those games "correctly". I saw the same content someone else who spent hours mastering contra did.

      And you know what...

      I don't care. I think it is really sad that people are upset

  • Finally! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JPLemme ( 106723 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:29AM (#28481069)
    There's nothing more frustrating (in the gaming world) than playing a game for hours just to unlock a part of the game I already paid for! Slogging through a dozen crappy songs just to unlock Anthrax and Megedeth was no fun at all. I paid for Guitar Hero. If the very first thing I want to do is play Free Bird on Expert then it's my right. (Or at least it should be.)

    A lot of game companies don't seem to understand this, but a lot of gamers are adults with other interests and responsibilities. Spending hours "practicing" so that I can master a video game is not in the cards.
    • There's nothing more frustrating (in the gaming world) than playing a game for hours just to unlock a part of the game I already paid for!

      It's to prove you paid for it, either full price new or half price used, not 1/10 of the price rental.

    • by WDot ( 1286728 )
      One of the most frustrating things with many fighting games are the ridiculously cheap final bosses. Soul Calibur IV is a recent exception, but I remember many games that required beating the final boss several times to unlock all the game's characters. This isn't terrible except that final bosses aren't particularly smart AI, they just have lots of cheap moves that make fighting them frustrating. I don't plan on playing in fighting game tournaments, I just want to mess around in the game with friends wi
      • by JPLemme ( 106723 )
        Interesting. GTA 3 could be $49.99, and a "100%" save game file could be an additional $19.99. I'd consider it. And it's not like you can't just get one for free off of the Internet anyway. (They'd need to add some extra bonuses beside just the normal 100% completion bonuses.)

        Which brings up a related design flaw which would have made this unworkable with GTA 3. If I really enjoy a mission I should be able to replay it over and over again without using an old save game. Going back to the early missions w
      • Need for Speed Prostreet already allows you to do just that. You can play through the entire game to unlock all the cars, or you can pay an extra fee to unlock all the cars at the start.

        • God, that sounds... horrible.

          I dislike the huge amounts of locked content in some games, but the option to pay to unlock it seems even worse than DLC, which is already killing gaming IMO.

      • Even Soul Calibur IV is annoying. My favorite part of the game is the character creator, but getting through the stupid "Tower of Soul" levels and having to figure out the extremely vague and unhelpful "clues" to unlock equipment is annoying as hell (and takes ages). I just want to play dress-up damnit!

        I'd pay $5 or $10 to just have all the equipment and characters in the game unlocked.

    • by onion2k ( 203094 )

      Likewise though, there aren't many things as frustrating as paying a fair amount for a game only to get a few hours of entertainment for it. There's a balance to be struck, and a delicate one at that. If a game is too hard or too easy you'll feel you didn't get value for money.

      I think the 'auto-complete' idea is a good one, but it needs to come with a penalty. Spending a "life" to progress, or some points, or simply being branded a "cheat" on the end screen would be enough to make you try to play through ag

      • Well on the 360 of PS3 they could simply include a trophy/achievement like "Hard-Core" or "Old-School" for "having made it through the game without using the cheat mode"

        Most games already DO this by including a "Complete the game on Hard difficulty without changing the difficulty setting" Trophy.

        On the Wii? Who really cares anyway? There is no subjective way for people to measure themselves ala Trophies/Achievements, so why bother?

        The systems are built around entirely different models. The Wii only real

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by subsonic ( 173806 )

      I think TFA cuts to the heart of my problem with Nintendo- their grab for marketshare seems to be at the expense of what makes videogames special. They are making the system and software more and more commodified. The game is a pacifier, rather than engager. And that's the point of games, to engage the player. I would never sit through a ten hour movie, but I've sat in front of Fallout 3 for nights on end, and blinked by dry eyes realizing I had been wandering the wastelands for hours on end.

      The ironic

    • You mean like some of the cheats here [] that include

      Unlockable: Unlock All To unlock everything in the game, insert the following code on your guitar at the title screen: Blue, Yellow, Orange, Red, Orange, Yellow, Red, Yellow, Red, Yellow, Red, Yellow.

      I cant say that it works (don't own the game so I can't check) but Guitar Hero and other "sandbox" games usually have modes like that.

    • by Draek ( 916851 )

      And I hate having to play through Max Payne 2 three times in a row every time I reinstall it just to get myself some real difficulty, but this is at best only a half-assed solution to that problem.

      I'd rather ask for everything to be unlocked by default, or something like the unlock codes of old rather than use this, since it still means I have to spend ~6 hours in front of the computer pressing the "play by yourself" button, watching shit pass by and for that, I'd rather play the goddamned game.

  • Good Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arthurpaliden ( 939626 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:30AM (#28481097)
    Just because the option is there does not mean you have to use it. Nothing is makeing you turn it on. You want the extreem chalenge never use it. However, if because you have a problem pushing the buttons fast enough due to a disability then this feature enables you to enjoy the game.
  • by VinylRecords ( 1292374 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:33AM (#28481149)

    If you want a challenge then pick up Starcraft II (when it comes out) or Virua Fighter 5. Learning to be competitive in either of those games will require hundreds of hours of practicing the games, reading about games, watching tournaments and taking notes, or learning maps or matches. Of course the video game 'journalists' are not willing to learn how to get good at RTS or FGs so they instead complain about a game of low difficulty (like Mario Brothers) being made easier. If you want to play games to be challenged try getting good at Starcraft or Virtua Fighter.

    This new Mario Brothers with its auto-level completion (tm) or whatever is not a hardcore game and it's not even a hardcore genre. If you want more difficult platforming try Ratchet & Clank, God of War, or perhaps even Nintendo's own Mario Galaxy. But don't say it's the end of the world for hard games. I doubt those 'journalists' who complain about games not being hard enough for them haven't touched competitive Starcraft or Virtua Fighter or Counter Strike.

    • God of war for difficult platforming??!
      Mario Galaxy, the easiest 3D Mario game by a longshot?
      Did you really play those games?

      You seem to like to use words like hardcore game and hardcore genre, but that's all a bunch of bologna. There's no such thing as a hardcore genre. The concept of hardcore game is meaningless, and only a way for stupid teens to claim that other games don't have enough childish violence to appeal to them.

  • Conway's "Life" [] plays itself, player pianos play themselves, soccer matches on the TV play themselves (as far as we're concerned) — what's new here?

  • I can't for the life of me find the image right now, but there's a classic photoshop of a Gamecube controller with all the buttons on the right side replaced with a giant, green WIN button. This reminds me of that.

  • Not everyone pays for a game to sit there for hours on little overly difficult segments of the game.

    Yes, there is something to be said for overcoming a challenge, but not everyone buys games to be challenged. Some people buy them to merely have fun with friends and/or family!

    In my opinion there is more than enough room for both camps.

    • Mod parent up. I've put down games before because of one particularly difficult part that I was tired of beating on. That's where I am on both of the DS castlevania games I have (those bosses don't screw around!) I'd be there right now on the Slash battle in Guitar Hero 3 if the game didn't - guess what? - let you win that after a few tries.

      I just have better things to do with my time than get frustrated over a local maximum of difficulty. Some of those things are play other games that I can actuall
  • Everyone's Special (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThinkWeak ( 958195 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:45AM (#28481349)
    Score one for the "Everyone's special" crowd. However, this could be good for the regular gamer.

    We have an entire generation of employees entering the workforce that can't think for themselves. A step like this in the video game world is not that surprising.

    It USED to be that you had to think to solve puzzles, complex puzzles, to continue a story - not just finish the game. This has been diluted over the years to give the end-user more flashy graphics without really challenging them.

    Now imagine if a developer could create mind-bending puzzles that would cause even the most experienced gamer problems - but not alienate the "I'm special" crowd. It COULD be a great step in the evolution of gaming.

    However, it probably will just be to assist those people that can't even handle the mediocre challenges that we currently see.
  • by DavidR1991 ( 1047748 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:51AM (#28481449) Homepage

    "Making a game so easy it can play itself for you at the push of a button just might be that point."

    No no and no. If anything, this is the [b]reverse[/b] - it means more difficult sections can be added to the game, without endangering less experienced players (by showing them "how it's done" and letting them skip the harder bits completely if they want to).

    This means each demographic gets what it wants - hardcores get a game with some nice tricky sections, and casual gamers get a fun game where they skim over the bits they find too difficult/tedious.

    The quoted article is just alarmist turd, and skims over the fact this is, effectively, difficulty levels on crack. There's absolutely no difference between this and selecting Easy/Medium/Hard - this is just a clever hybrid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DavidR1991 ( 1047748 )

      Crud, for some reason I used a mish-mash of BB code bold and HTML. Please excuse my stupidity.

      • That's okay - next time, just click the auto-comment button and let Slashdot post the tricky stuff for you.
        • I hate you so much. Do you have any idea how much of a bad idea it is to suggest that to the same people who brought us Slashdot 2.0, Achievements, kdawson, and CSS that manages to render incorrectly in every browser.
  • by SageinaRage ( 966293 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:53AM (#28481485)

    A statement that somehow the message of art 'degrades' as it reaches more people is something I assumed to hear from some art snob complaining about reproductions of the Mona Lisa, not about a video game starring Mario. The whole notion is insanely elitist, and I'm frankly flabbergasted that someone saw fit to print it.

    Especially considering that they got the whole idea wrong - it's only a demo mode that shows you how to beat a section. In order to progress through the game, you still have to play it yourself!

    • There's been a lot of this sort of attitude towards Nintendo and the Wii coming from the tradition gaming culture for a few years now. Rather than just accept the fact that Nintendo has decided to target a broader marker that doesn't exactly overlap with the "hardcore" gamers, some people have decided to be offended by it, and have been complaining almost non-stop.

      The fact that we're still consistently seeing articles from various gaming outlets about whether or not casual gaming is killing real gaming is a

      • For some people, being good at video games is the only accomplishment they have to be proud of. When these "casuals" come along and popularize video games that don't require obsessive repetition and the mastery of trial and error game mechanics, it cheapens their only achievement. It forces them to recognize the failure of their lives, so it is understandable that they'd put on an airs and whine.

  • God Mode (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:57AM (#28481575)

    This is no different than old-school games (ie, the ones I played growing up) like Wolfenstein or Doom, each of which had a "God mode" which everybody knew. Those codes would give you invulnerability and/or unlimited ammo.

    Sometimes it was fun just to use them and just go berserk, but one of the main uses of them was to get through portions of the game that you simply couldn't beat. I used them occasionally when I was just unable to beat some monster. As such, those codes (which have been used in many games by many gamers) are no different than the current feature in Mario, except that it's more interactive.

    I've favored games that automatically level the difficulty level so the user still does all the action rather than watching it. That's easier with combat style games than it is for platform-style games. Maybe they need ways of making the *physics* more forgiving as well - say make Mario jump farther/higher, have something rescue you if you fall, etc.

    • True, but with god mode and unlimitted ammo you could chose exactly how you wanted to complete the parts that were too difficult and you could have fun sandboxing around the game world unafraid of death. With this function, you're effectively skipping it. I'd much rather just be given cheat codes and left to my own devices than to just have the character run the course himself.
      • True, but with god mode and unlimitted ammo you could chose exactly how you wanted to complete the parts that were too difficult and you could have fun sandboxing around the game world unafraid of death. With this function, you're effectively skipping it. I'd much rather just be given cheat codes and left to my own devices than to just have the character run the course himself.

        Totally agree - as I mentioned, I prefer the ineractive method of having it help me beat the game, rather than just watching the g

  • by vortoxin ( 213064 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:05AM (#28481677)

    It is how I look at most games. I like a challenge, but I do not want to have to allocate project management, tons of research, and bringing my A game every time I play it. This is just a new easy mode, same as a cheat for God mode, or turning down difficulty a ton like a combat slider in Oblivion.

    I want to be involved in the game story, get some enjoyment out of it, and not miss some part of the game because a different minority wants me to suffer through a game to get the best items or game play experience just because they had to.

    I give Progress Quest as an example of the game will play itself, you will watch it, and you will be amused as an example of this. [] It has a following, so maybe there is some truth in the matter.

  • by Logical Zebra ( 1423045 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:08AM (#28481719)

    How is this different from the difficulty slider in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? If I get to a part that is particularly pissing me off, I drop the slider all the way down to easy and kill those pesky Dremoras with one swipe of my Sword of the Divine Crusader.

    There are those of us that do not want to be overly frustrated with video games; we simply want to have fun. While I enjoy a bit of a challenge, it's nice to know that if I fail at something 5, 10, or 25 times, I can just click a button and make it easier (or skip it).

    • But it also points to a problem in our society... the need for instant gratification rather than trying to put some effort into it.

      First, I don't discount Nintendo or Elder scrolls for putting in options to make things easier for some people, like a difficulty slider. A difficulty slider allows people to have fun at their own pace and own skill level, as not everyone is the same. I do however, take slight exception to the idea that you give yourself a cheat to get past a hard part. Either you are too laz

      • by Deosyne ( 92713 )

        Yes, it denotes a problem. The problem being that players stop having fun when they encounter certain sections of the games that they play. Sometimes developers throw a section that feels very boring or monotonous to many players into a game that is otherwise greatly enjoyed, particularly in a game like some of those in the Mario series that introduce multiple minigames that deviate from the core game dynamic. There have been a few times where I would have gladly skipped a part that was so tedious that by t

      • Elder Scrolls' gratification comes from completing the story and interacting with the world, not by being difficult to play. It's different than, say, Ninja Gaiden in that regard.

    • Because, even if you scale the difficulty down as much as possible, you're still interacting with the game, you're still playing it, however easy it may be. A game minus interaction is no longer a game.
  • As a parent, these things bother me because I don't see the kids getting an opportunity to be challenged and learn to overcome. Legos. We go bowling, and the kids whine if they don't get to use the rails on the side the prevent gutter balls. We play Legos Star Wars, and they make little effort to avoid the toons getting killed because there is almost no penalty.

    How are they supposed to learn to overcome the frustrations of life if their games offer no frustration?
  • and get rid of that pesky "game" thing. It was just getting in the way anyway.
  • Online play (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is more symptomatic of the rising ubiquity of on-line play than the degradation of the medium. In the past, beating the game was the only verifiable accomplishment and source for bragging rights. These days, with XBox achievements, PS3 trophies and whatnot - there is much more fine structure to what you accomplish in a game. It is fine if there is a self-play option for the first-time gamers, as long as there are hard modes and special challenges for experienced gamers to show off their skills with.
  • Stuff like this makes me think of really religious people.

    "Someone, somewhere is having fun? We can't have that!"

    I'm surprised they don't have mass burnings of official strategy guides. These are the folks who write reviews like "The game made me want to smash the controller into a puppy's skull! My blood pressure peaked to the point where my eyes were bleeding. Score: 10++!"

    "It was never meant to be a game! -- Line from Rollerball

  • Games that play themelves and let you watch are not games. They are machinima.
  • "Video games will become lame if they become too popular." -- Video game enthusiasts

    Congrats, gamers. You've now joined the fine art snob, the classical music afficionado, and the indie music twit in the ludicrous belief that nothing's any good if someone else has heard of it. And ya know what? Nobody gives a damn what *they* think either.

    Popular things are popular because people appreciate them. And since art is purely subjective, the only useful way to define good art is to ask, "do lots of people thi

  • I dunno. In principle I can't see a problem including a "game plays itself" feature if the developer wants to go that route. Let them put in whatever they want--it's their game.

    As a practical matter though, if "accessibility" comes to mean "player is now a spectator," it's not clear to me how you're attracting people to gaming. If you remove the interactivity, you have a film, not a game. In the case of Mario Bros., it's an extremely boring, linear film with shallow characters and only one possible co
  • For some reason Slashdot doesn't want to accept HTML properly today, so I apologize in advance for the lack of line breaks between my paragraphs.

    Zone of the Enders 2 (PS2, 2003) was and is a great action game. It was a marked improvement over its predecessor, felt more like a finished product than a proof of concept (you could tell they were testing the waters with the first installment) and was generally a blast to play.

    And I only ever play half of it.

    Because about halfway through the game there's a bos

  • If the program kept track of sections people were skipping the game designers could then take another look at them and possibly tweak them to make them more enjoyable /playable, etc.

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