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Miyamoto Confirms Wii Help Feature
Miyamoto Confirms Wii Help Feature
June 15, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

June 15, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
Comments
    27 comments
More: Console/PC



Trouble with Wii games? Just pause and let the game play through for you until you're past the tough part.

So explains Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, shedding a little more light on the mysterious patent that surfaced early this year appearing to show an automated walkthrough feature in the works for Nintendo's platform.

"In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, if a player is experiencing an area of difficulty, this will allow them to clear troubled areas and take over when they're ready," Miyamoto told USA Today through a translator. "And yes, we're looking into this for future games, too."

The original patent had also suggested a pop-up hint system in the works, and also appeared to demonstrate solutions without relying on or affecting save data.

The feature's aimed at reducing barriers to entry even further for inexperienced or young players on the mainstream-oriented Wii, and the original patent also laid out the aim of encouraging more players to complete games in full.


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Comments


Jamie Mann
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Hmm. It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it's likely to have the effect Nintendo desire.



The generally negative response to the latest Prince of Persia shows that care needs to be taken with this sort of feature: the idea that a player can passively complete a game (or at least key sections) is liable to lead to significant negative perception - both for the game and for the Wii as a whole.



Admittedly, for stuff like Mario, negative perceptions are unlikely to have any significant impact: it'll be interesting to see what happens if other IP tries to use this principle...

Adam Bishop
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Was the response to PoP generally negative, or just negative in vocal segments of the "core" gamer demographic? I really don't understand on what grounds someone would complain about what Miyamoto is talking about implementing as long as it was optional, which it sounds like it will be. How dare designers try to make sure everyone can enjoy their games and not just the hardcore!

Bob McIntyre
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It's not necessarily a bad idea, Adam, but it does mean that games that build on their gameplay (like Nintendo's games have usually done) will be undermined. Usually, a part of a game is hard because the player hasn't mastered a new skill yet. In Metroid, sometimes it's hard because the player hasn't gotten good at freezing enemies and using them as stairs, for example. Skipping that part doesn't solve the problem. In fact, skipping it will make the problem worse, because the player will be expected to have that skill down and be able to do it while executing some other new skill. It would be like skipping Physics 101 in college because the exam is too hard, then going to into Physics 201. The problem becomes worse.



Of course, I don't see how the feature helps at all, but that's probably because (as my name might suggest) my parents were Irish Catholics.

Fábio Bernardon
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I believe it is good to have it as an option. For instance, in a game like Metroid, as cited above, you have to finish the game soon (ie, you can't stopping playing it and resume after a month). This is because the game, although being linear, makes you pass through some scenarios several times - but in different directions. If you for some reason forgot what was your next step (ie, where to go now) you would likely save time by starting a new game. This may be necessary to lower the game difficulty for newcomers, while the option to turn it off will keep the challenge to more advanced players.

Jamie Mann
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@Adam:



I probably should have gone into greater detail above - I was debating a "jack of all trades" summary statement but was running out of my lunchbreak!



Put simply: games with an "auto-complete" feature run the risk of being derided by the hardcore as too easy and ignored by the casual market for being too hardcore. The latter may sound counterintuitive, but if non-hardcore gamers require hand-holding, then the game is clearly not designed for them!



There's also the issue of player engagement and commitment: if the difficult bits are easily skipped, then what you're left with is an semi-interactive story, not a game. No gameplay, no motivation.



Finally: I may be in a minority, but once I've "cheated" in a game (generally by checking the next-steps in a walkthrough), there's much less incentive to try and solve later steps manually.



Still, it all comes down to how Nintendo choose to implement this functionality, and whether or not it's overused.



Personally however, I'd argue that a better option is to implement multiple routes and/or dynamic difficulty - i.e. either make it transparent to the player or give them an explicit choice. Mutant Storm is a good example of dynamically-driven difficulty levels and the principles of implementing unlockable routes is long established.



Alternatively, there's stuff such as Braid, where the "platform" aspect of the gameplay can be completed with virtually no skill required - running through the levels has to be one of the quickest and easiest ways to score XBLA achievement points! Returning to the levels and figuring out how to collect all of the jigsaw pieces is a different matter however - and I have to admit that this is one game where I gave up on solving the puzzles and used a walkthrough to grab the last few pieces and get through the epilogue.



Regarding Prince of Persia: the subject certainly popped up in a lot of reviews and in a lot of the comments I've heard about the game.



For instance: the yakyak thread is fairly well split:

http://www.yakyak.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=71678&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hi
lit=prince+of+persia&start=135



Similar also applies to the user reviews on Amazon - a great many reviewers downgrade it for being too easy.



Even Ubisoft admit that it got off to a slow start - though to be fair, it did manage to clear around 2.2 million, which hopefully means it was comfortably above the break-even point.

Jamie Mann
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@Bob: that's also a good point: if a player is unable to acquire the skills to play the earlier part of the game, then they're going to have much more difficulty in the later parts of the game, which means they'll have to rely more on the auto-complete feature. Catch-22...



Oh and (gosh darn gamasutra's lack of editing options): the Ubisoft quote on PoP is available here:

http://www.ubisoftgroup.com/gallery_files/site/270/1042/1932.pdf

Eric Carr
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Hmm, I want to give Miyamoto a pass on this, but I think this feature is lame; and I think it will hurt new players more in the long run. I mean, I'm with Bob on the skill progression issue. Plus, watching people play games is really not interesting. Heck, "Don't let the computer have all the fun" is a design tenet of Sid Meier.

I think that Co-op is a way better alternative for getting casual players into the game than letting the game play itself for them. I mean, you could probably convince almost anyone to give Zelda a try if they have somebody to play with.

Russell Carroll
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I dunno, I am excited for the idea. I play a lot of the LEGO games with my kids and the words "Drop Out" are ones known by everyone in the family. It is done for the one person to get through the tough part, and then there is the call to jump back in. In talking with co-workers, they've noticed the same thing.



Coming from the extended audience perspective, it makes a lot of sense to me if it is done correctly. There are probably going to be parts of the New Super Mario Bros. Wii game that I won't be able to get through with my kids, and I could play them alone, but I'd just as soon skip them so that we can get back to playing together.



On the 'core' side, I didn't finish Metroid Prime 3 b/c I got tired of the boss fights. I really enjoyed the game, but I'm too old and my time is too precious for me to enjoy fighting the same boss over and over for 30 minutes so that I can get back to the game I am enjoying.



Notably, something similar to this is already in the casual space. Many of the Hidden Object games include puzzles that can be very challenging, and you can skip them by just clicking on the 'skip' button. It's become the standard practice to include a skip button so that players can just move on if they so desire. I haven't heard outcry to it, in fact I'd say it's quite the opposite. People are upset when they can't skip and become stuck on a puzzle. When you get outside of the so-called core gamer, the people who play games aren't nearly as mesmerized by the tough-love and difficulty that many console games give them.

Roberto Alfonso
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I think this feature is exactly what the casual segment needs. I finished Twilight Princess, although I had to check GameFAQs in one of the sections. And Super Paper Mario is boring me to death because I reached the areas where you need to constantly switch between characters to reach the goal.



The only criticism comes from hardcore gamers who are afraid of casuals being able to reach the same goals they do. This idea of "elitism" where one group should be left behind because they are not able to spend as many hours or got the skill to reach certain areas is what makes our hobby (or work) be seen as something for children or even nerds.



I wonder, why is it wrong that casuals are able to do the same as hardcore without having invested that much time? Is it wrong for an aunt to be able to browse the web just like a student does? Is it wrong that you can watch and criticize a sport match even though you have never studied it like journalists and coaches? Can't hardcore gamers simply ignore the feature and let those who will likely use it to enjoy the game just like they do?



Co-op is not really an option, since it requires someone with knowledge to be next to you. Sure, it will likely be greatly thanked by hardcore gamers, but not by casuals.

Eric Carr
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@ Roberto. Your argument is a red herring. It has nothing to do with elitism, it has everything to do with the nature of the medium. I'm not saying that having it wouldn't let casual people "finish" a title, I'm saying that having it removes the play.

If you remove the "game" part of the game, you're not really doing the casual segment any favors. Then they would probably arrive at the conclusion that games are boring, which wouldn't do us any favors either.

Alex Beachum
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If this inspires developers to stop simplifying game designs (I'm looking at you modern Zelda dungeons) then I'm all for it.

Bob McIntyre
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Roberto, you raise two points that I'd like to address:



"I think this feature is exactly what the casual segment needs. I finished Twilight Princess, although I had to check GameFAQs in one of the sections. And Super Paper Mario is boring me to death because I reached the areas where you need to constantly switch between characters to reach the goal."



This sounds to me like bad design. The game is boring you to death because there's some part where you have to do a bunch of annoying crap over and over? If there's a chapter in a book that makes me want to turn the page without reading, or a ten-minute chunk of a movie that I want to fast-forward every time, that's a problem. Being able to skip it is nice, but it's really treating the symptom instead of the disease, wouldn't you agree?



"The only criticism comes from hardcore gamers who are afraid of casuals being able to reach the same goals they do. This idea of "elitism" where one group should be left behind because they are not able to spend as many hours or got the skill to reach certain areas is what makes our hobby (or work) be seen as something for children or even nerds."



That is kind of a silly criticism, and I hope that not many people are really saying that. But on the other hand, if the "casual" player isn't able to set the difficulty setting to whatever level and then learn the game skills and win, the game designer is at fault. Like you said, the player should not have to spend eight hours a day practicing the game to beat the boss. The player should just have to try reasonably hard (the last boss should be harder than the first boss, etc.) and pay attention to the game's skill sets. The game should be designed so that the player naturally learns how to play as he or she progresses. So once again, if the player needs to skip because the game is too hard, and the player didn't do something silly like choose the "bloody nightmare terror" difficulty setting, then it's a design flaw. The "skip tough part" button is treating the symptom instead of the disease again.



All in all, it just seems like a lazy fix to me. Difficulty settings and the game's built-in teaching mechanics should be all that's needed. If a part of the game is too hard, or if it's unnecessary and boring, then the designer should have fixed it before releasing, or should patch it after the initial release. Skipping through the game is shifting the burden of proper design onto the player. It also potentially robs the game of its interactivity, doesn't make sense for non-linear games, and could very easily diminish the joy of victory for the "core" player.

Jean Auguste
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Hi!





This might finally be the most gigantic step for including motion-control into classic game design.



Let make this system evolve through time, it naturally leads to a cooperation between Human & AI into the same character.



Casual/very average players could enjoy playing very classic games, by focusing their attention on very determined parts of the gameplay: dropping grenades & shooting, reloading & dialogs etc...let them choose.

The computer AI would take care of the running and the hiding, for instance.



Applying this successfully to classically designed games, would buy game designers some time to think about the relevant benefits proceeding from the use of motion sensitive controllers.

Adam Bishop
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I think that a lot of people are trying to push one particular idea of what a "game" is onto others. If "challenge" is what you look for in a game, that's perfectly cool, but that's not what all people are looking for. When I play a sports game, I want a challenge, because the whole point of sports to me is that the outcome is unknown. But when I play an RPG, I'm interested in the story, the setting, the characters, etc. I don't care if there's a challenge or not. And many other people feel the same way. I've looked up solutions for parts of games I've gotten stuck at on GameFAQs. It didn't ruin the games for me at all. All Miyamoto is doing, really, is putting GameFAQs right into the game for people who aren't well enough versed in gaming culture to know about it.



Many people play games without looking for a challenge. They don't want to overcome, or achieve, they just want to experience. And again, if challenge and skills and so forth are what you're looking for, then all the power to you. I've got no problem with games providing that. What I do have a problem with is when people who view games that way start trying to dictate that other people should also want to experience games that way.

Mike Lopez
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@juice uk: you are assuming that the feature will actually equate to player progress and I suspect that is not at all the case. It sounds more to me like it offers a peek at the success criteria but will still require the user to use that knowledge to complete the area once they resume.

Mike Lopez
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Sweet patent art, by the way. Couldn't they spend some meager money on an artist rendition?

Bob McIntyre
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rabesandratan David,



That doesn't really sound like good design, though. If a game is about tactical gun combat, then aiming your weapon and choosing your position are both elements that need to go together. The choice of where to go and the choice of how to shoot are related. I think you water down the game by having the AI control that. It would be better to have the game teach the player both skills separately, then put them together in a low-skill environment, then increase the challenge and tactical options steadily. If you're making a game that the player can't learn, you are doing something wrong. Having a playthrough helper is like having a virtual designer come over to the player's house and say "give me the controller, I'll handle this part."



The number one rule for having someone playtest your game is that you aren't allowed to interact with them at all. You don't stand behind them and tell them stuff. You don't play coop mode with them. You don't make yourself available if they have questions. You don't take the control and beat the tough parts. If you need to do any of those things, you designed the game badly. If you designed the game well, you'd have full confidence to walk out and watch the player passively through a one-way mirror or video feed.



By the way, what does motion control have to do with any of this? If we want a shooting game where the AI controls the movement and the player does the shooting, we already have that genre. Those games are called "on-rails shooters." Check out House of the Dead or Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. But taking a regular FPS and having the AI control movement just robs the player of the ability to experience the full play mechanics and ruins the game.

Bob McIntyre
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Adam: "Many people play games without looking for a challenge. They don't want to overcome, or achieve, they just want to experience."



If you don't want the challenge, play on easy. That way you get the interaction, but it's not punishingly hard. If you don't want the interaction, and only care about the story, then either you should be watching a movie, or the game has failed big-time because you don't actually want to play it. You don't really "experience" a game (which is interactive by definition) if you're just watching someone else play it.



Mike: If it's "just a hint" then, you know, whatever. It's just another hint system, and games have had built-in movies of the developers beating Boss X that a player can watch. I've seen it pitched that way before and that's cool and all, although honestly I think the player should've been able to figure out how to beat the boss without needing to be told outright. I like how Kojima handled it in Metal Gear Solid: Die enough times or use your radio enough times and your support team gives you increasingly clear hints about exactly how to beat the boss. The issue I raised is based on how this article made it sound (to me) which is that the game plays itself for you and then you take control back after the tough part.

Eric Carr
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@Adam. But the experience is the game and the gameplay itself. Making the game play all by itself is counter to the point of the game, isn't it? So, remove the play, keep the story, the characters and the setting and you have something else. You have a movie. But that's a discussion for another thread that we've debated already. =D

Then again, it is fully possible that there will be some hidden mechanic at work here. Maybe something that Miyamoto has thought of that I haven't wrapped my head around yet. Might turn out better than the naysayers (me included) think.

Jamie Mann
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@roberto:

I think we're getting too far into analysing things: Nintendo are experts at game design and are unlikely to fall into any major problems. Time will tell what happens - after all, there's a long history of balancing mechanisms in games: from golf handicaps to boxing weights and through to bowling lane bumpers. Generally however, these tend to segregate people



That said, the issue isn't particularly with "casuals" being able to accomplish hardcore goals: the issue is that there will be a hardcore structure without the accompanying hardcore challenge. The structure won't appeal to the casuals and the challenge won't appeal to the hardcore.



In terms of elitism: I don't think it's as simple as a set of angry hardcore gamers bemoaning the loss of their little playground. It's deeper than that: what is the point in working for something if it's available for free? It's a waste of time and resources, and most people will switch to doing something else.



It's possible to debate this around in circles: let's see what Nintendo do and how the rest of the industry reacts.

Roberto Alfonso
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Wow, this thread moves too fast for someone playing a MUD at the same time!



@Eric Carr,

If you remove the "game" part of the game, you're not really doing the casual segment any favors.



I am not saying you should remove the game part, just add a shortcut for players to check it if needed. I would like to include two examples: Hollywood movies based on books/comics usually "dumb down" the story to let those without the time (or interest) to read them to enjoy the experience. Anecdotal evidence, I have several friends who bought Tolkien's books after watching the first LotR movie. If we can introduce more people to this hobby by creating an adaptation (like in-game solutions), I am all for it. The second example is similar: I have seen certain math books with a review of the chapter at the end of it. You can just check that summary if you don't want to read all the book, and end up learning virtually the same. Why not games can supply a similar "summary"?



@Bob McIntyre,

Being able to skip it is nice, but it's really treating the symptom instead of the disease, wouldn't you agree?

Agreed! However, let's put ourselves in the developer' side: they aim at a certain target (probably someone who likes to experiment, to switch characters over and over, to explore. So, it could be that I don't fit that target, but nevertheless I wanted to try. It is not just for the target to get a dumbed down experience, but wouldn't it be right to try to welcome people who are not used to the experience? I would continue playing the game if I could skip this tedious part. Games like Rhythm Heaven allow you to skip a song if you fail a few times. It doesn't hinder your experience.



What would be my solution? Make every stage optional. So, you cannot finish a stage? No worries, continue with the next one. You may fail at adopting a certain skill, certain item, or review a part of the background story. But you can continue with the game. And if the ending scene changes depending on whether you finished the stage or not, wouldn't that be better?



Let's remember that, while in auto driving mode, you cannot save, so you will eventually go back to the game to play it. It is not different from going to YouTube and watch a video of how to solve. Or from playing against a ghost in a car racing game to learn which are the best shortcuts while driving.

Jamie Mann
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@Mike:

To quote the linked article:

"players will be able to pause a game during a particularly difficult level and let the game take over to complete the level. Press a button at any time to resume playing"



In other words (and at the risk of sounding overly negative), the player will be able to instruct the Wii to play all the way through all levels, without having to actually perform any activities or develop any skills.



That ain't no hint system: it's a badly directed CGI movie where you watch a plumber's backside for 8 hours. Where do I sign up?

David Rodriguez
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Im probably bring up points that were mentioned ( im not reading the paragraphs of comments)This Is only continuing Nintendo's business march into getting/appealing to non-gamers which has been wildly successful. I'll personally never use this option because the satisfaction of completing it is gone. I only hope using this functions yields penalties ( no points earned, ect.).



I trust in Nintendo's judgement on this, The tech for this might even open up new options for developers.

Mike Lopez
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@ Juice UK: the other linked article contradicts that: "The system doesn't appear to allow players to actually bypass gameplay or save progress made by the automated playthrough."



The value of the feature will come down to the execution and I have high confidence Nintendo will tweak and test until it provides added value to a wider audience without damaging the experience.



Even if it were the case that there was an automated gameplay *option* there are numerous system-level technique that can be employed to limit its use. For example, just like the Instant Replays in many games it could be limited to a pre-set time limit (say 5-15 seconds). There also could be limits on the frequency of use (say once per level). And finally they could remove achievement-like incentive rewards for players that rely too heavily on them. I am a proponent of any mechanism that increases the accessibility and I believe there is added value to this line of feature evolution, even if Nintendo does not find the perfect mix upon the first foray into the realm. Like any valuable feature it surely will be copied and evolved in the future beyond what it is today.

Raymond Grier
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Just so I can say soemthing different from everyone else :D

Let's not forget the cost factor here. If the extra development effort per game to provide the mechanism with the means to work for each game raises the cost of the product, it would be better to have difficulty setting choices and menu screen hints (the traditional way that already works). That cost factor would be different for each game though as more complicated games would require more development effort to include the code used by the standardized hint system than say Tetris or Monkey Ball. This raises the products cost.

If it works like Mike says with a 5-15 sec pre-play movie that leaves u back where u started then that might be cool.

Meredith Katz
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It's a frustration to payout balance, I think. I tend to game with other people around and God knows I've had moments of "augh I've tried this pattern of platforms eight times and keep falling -- can you take the controller for a minute? I just want to move on."



It seems to me this optional thing -- well, a lot of people are commenting like the very presence of this feature is destroying the game for them, except that feature already exists in the form of "your buddies who are better at some sections of things than you are" irl. So, uh, if the game isn't destroyed by that, having it as an option on the game for the people who don't have buddies around right then (or just plain don't have buddies into gaming) shouldn't destroy it either. :/ It feels like having it as a feature the designers are explicitly offering is practically offensive to some people. And it reads like a lot of people aren't treating it as optional, so statements like this:



"If you're making a game that the player can't learn, you are doing something wrong. Having a playthrough helper is like having a virtual designer come over to the player's house and say "give me the controller, I'll handle this part.""



Might actually be more accuratelly aimed towards what the thing is trying to do by pointing out a) that it's not an entire game the player can't learn, but sections that frustrate them (say, a series of complicated platforms they keep falling from, or a boss they've wasted an hour and a half trying over and over to kill) . Yeah, they could then just watch the entire game, but so what? I've watched my girlfriend play all the way through games and she's watched me play all the way through them. It's not the same experience, but if the game's owner decides they'd rather see someone else play it, again, that option is already open to many people with gaming friends, family, or spouses. Just not built into the game. b) It's less like the designer coming over and telling the player they will take over, as the designer offering help if the player needs it, heading off to do their own thing, and the player going, "Hey, buddy, can you get me through these damn platforms?". It's not being forced on the player, as implied by the imperative in the original quote. It's offered as a help option. If a player doesn't need help, awesome. If they do, why not give them the same system digitally that people *can already have* if they have highly skilled gamer friends anyway?

C M Williams
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@Adam

I am 100% with you all the way, you’ve pretty much said everything that I’ve wanted to say except for one tid bit. I am all for this feature under two conditions:



It’s optional(as you stated) for the players.



And it’s optional for the developer to implement. (Nintendo needs to not force this onto any developer)



With that stated, I am baffled as to how this (optional) feature is being viewed by some as gameplay and game design breaking. I cannot form any logical argument that leads to this. The primary element that prevents me from being Anti this feature is that it’s optional. No one ever has to encounter it. And as for those that do they should be able to do so in the privacy of their own homes.



I normally wouldn’t use a feature like this (it’s not my play style), but I can see one neat use of this.

Say for instance you’ve beat that 40 hour plus game, perhaps on your second go through there are parts or challenges that you would like to skip. This feature would allow that.



@Bob

“If you don't want the challenge, play on easy. That way you get the interaction, but it's not punishingly hard.”



Or, if this feature exist, how about I just use it and bypass the situation completely. Perhaps the easy mode of the game is just still not to my liking. If this option is available maybe I’ll use it and maybe not.



“If you don't want the interaction, and only care about the story, then either you should be watching a movie, or the game has failed big-time because you don't actually want to play it.”

Or there is a particular part/challenge in this game that I would like to skip. This does not mean I should be watching a movie…



“You don't really "experience" a game (which is interactive by definition) if you're just watching someone else play it.”



I’ve vicariously experienced many games. I love watching my little brother play some of the games he does as he likes to watch me play as well. Your definition of experience seems to be somewhat stifling. You may not experience the challenges of the player with the controller(the mechanics of the game), but you do have an experience that is produced by the game, therefore you are experience the game, it doesn’t matter what aspect of it you are experiencing. If the experience provided by any one of the games many components is something you find enjoyable who’s to say that you’re not having a good time.



@Eric

“Adam. But the experience is the game and the gameplay itself. Making the game play all by itself is counter to the point of the game, isn't it?”



Not really. A typical game is composed of multiple elements. Art, Technology, Mechanics, Story…… Are you saying that the only way a person can experience the package we call a game is through mechanics?



“So, remove the play, keep the story, the characters and the setting and you have something else. You have a movie.”



Even if the above is true, so what? It’s a movie that can only be provided by the game the player is playing, and not a movie they can go see in theatres. Let the player have their enjoyment of the experience provided by the game.



I guess in total my viewpoint is this: To each his own.


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