I used to love open world games; now I don’t.

I remember playing Grand Theft Auto 3, that sandbox Rockstar created absolutely blew my mind. A game where I could drive around and do absolutely anything I wanted was completely unheard of. I can even get out of my car and shoot people? Sign me up.

For me part of the appeal of open world gaming was experimentation and exploration. Discovering new things about the game, secret areas, learning to fly the dodo (it was quite an accomplishment actually) and just generally exploring every tiny corner of the game’s vibrant world, defined open world games.

When I purchased GTA3 I didn’t know much about it. The entire experience was new, I spent hours driving around listening to music and taking in Liberty City’s surrounding scenery.

I liked not being told what to do and the concept that I could do what I wanted when I wanted in a video game was completely new. Thinking back to that time in my life I probably couldn’t imagine ever wanting to go back to playing a more linear style of game.

But here I am today, sitting here contemplating the idea that I really don’t enjoy the open world experience as much as I used to.

Maybe it’s tied to the fact that I don’t have as much time to game anymore. I’m no longer a 12-year-old, I have a job, I go to school and I have a girlfriend. But when I sit down and game, I sort of want to be told what to do and exactly where to go – I want that simple point to point linear experience. I don’t have the time to search and explore the game’s world for hours on end. On good days I probably only have a half hour to maybe an hour dedicated solely to gaming.

I think this feeling also evolved from the extreme hand holding game’s today frequently use. To me anyways, video games are way easier now than they ever have been. I’d blame this on the industry’s effort to reach a broader audience. Games today need to be ridiculously accessible. They’re for you, your mom and your little sister after all – that’s just the way the industry has evolved.

Remember classic adventure games like Kings Quest? If you forgot a to pick up a specific item but continued on the game you were essentially screwed and had to either start over, or pray you had an earlier save file from before your game ruining mishap.  Games with extreme difficulty levels simply don’t exist anymore. Can you honestly remember the last game you found challenging? I certainly can’t.

I understand that this is a pretty extreme example but you get the idea, you’d never see something like this happen in a modern game. Arrows pointing out where to go, in game hint systems, the ability to completely skip certain sequences in a game (like in LA Noire), all these have become almost expected aspects of gaming.  In the end all they’ve made me become is a lazy gamer. When I boot up a new game on my Xbox I want and need it to have all these features. I don’t want to replay certain sequences in a game over and over again, I want to plough through the entire experience uninterrupted.

I understand that some games need to still implement an open freedom based world. Can you imagine a linear Grand Theft Auto title? It just wouldn’t be Grand Theft Auto anymore. Final Fantasy XIII also comes to mind, I couldn’t stand that game’s linear design. It just wasn’t Final Fantasy to me. Where was the exploration, where were the towns? It felt like an on-rails stale-as-shit RPG and that’s not what Final Fantasy is supposed to be.

Sometimes I honestly wish I could somehow regain that sense of wonderment that came from playing GTAIII. I’ve never experienced that complete utter freedom and experimentation in a video game ever again. But this brings me back to my initial argument, when I play games I want to be told what to do and where to go.  I’ve become a lazy gamer but part of me misses that sense of accomplishment gaming used to bring me.

There’s nothing like beating that boss or finally getting passed that ridiculously hard level after multiple attempts.

After saying all this I know I’ll probably still pick up Skyrm. But the question is, will I actually have time to play it and will I even enjoy it?

  1. Jake says:

    I can see where you are coming from, but being a college student I find that when I have plenty of time to play then there is only one kind of game that is satisfying, an open world sandbox game. I am current playing red dead redemption, a game I aquired when I was still in college time last year. I never got into it because I did not have enough time to. I now do and it is an incredible game.
    Your point about how much easier games feel is also extremely valid, when I first played GTA 3 it must have been about 7-8 years ago (Underage gaming, those were the days…) however i could not complete it until about 2-3 years ago. There is no chance that a game is going to take me that long to complete anymore, with perhaps the exception of a truely open world game that can clinch you as soon as you play. Heres to hoping Skyrim is that game, because I have been waiting since 2006 for the next one.

    To conclude :P
    The reason we do not enjoy these open world games anymore is due to our time constraints. Its a shame that employers do not understand this…

    p.s I resent the argument about it being more healthy to spend less time playing video games, what about what is healthy for the soul :)

  2. Dirk says:

    It’s great you have other interests. Probably healthy too. Open world games can be linear depending on how you look at them. Since GTA 3 you could explore, but you could also just get down and do the missions with all you had to do was pick from 3 or 4 possibile mission givers and do it. You can still enjoy the sandbox, but you need to build your castle either smaller or use more efficient tools.

    • I love that last line, “You can still enjoy the sandbox, but you need to build your castle either smaller or use more efficient tools.”

      You also have an extremely valid point. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Paul says:

    …or try Demon’s Souls. It’s hard, it’s linear, it’ll give you a sense of accomplishment. All in all, it’s worth your time.

  4. Nicholas says:

    Try playing Kane and Lynch 2 Dog days on the hardest difficulty. THe game is slightly messed so it makes it really difficult. When i finished that one i had done alot of cursing but i felt like i’d actually accomplished something

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