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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.

9 Comments

  1. Terry
    August 24, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

    I hadn’t thought about it before, but – you’re exactly right. Sonic the Hedgehog games aren’t platformers. They’re side-scrolling performance pieces set on highly imaginative landscapes, meant to be both explored and sped through. Even in the 1st game there were multiple routes one could take. They’re games of speed and exploration based on performance, namely, reflex, not platforming games.

    Reply

    • Terry
      June 18, 2017 @ 9:09 pm

      Well, I revise that. They are platformers. They are performance platformers, though.

      Reply

  2. Gavin
    August 24, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

    I think you’re right – even the good Sonic games are rubbish with the ‘combat’. I’d love a Sonic game where the challenge came from finding the fastest routes through zones with no robots to get in the way. They could add secret areas to find to explore the players who want to slow down and explore and maybe short cuts as well.

    The first Mirror’s Edge is similar – I loved trying to get perfect parkour runs through various sections of the city and I don’t think it was necessary to add enemies with guns to that game at all.

    Reply

    • Gavin
      August 24, 2016 @ 5:53 pm

      That should be “They could add secret areas to find for the players who want to slow down”.

      Reply

  3. Eve Schmitt
    August 24, 2016 @ 6:22 pm

    Minecraft has no roots in the era of Video Arcades. Its functions have nothing to do with creating an addictive mode of gameplay that will force the addition of more quarters. Your every step through the world is saved; the things you build remain.

    Until you fall into lava, get blown up, suffocate, or get shot full of arrows, and die, and lose all your items. Minecraft is a game whose death function is designed to traumatize the player.

    Reply

  4. Ross
    August 25, 2016 @ 1:29 am

    My favourite case study is how gamers always speak of Mario (or Sonic for that matter) “dying” when they hit an enemy or otherwise lose a continue, even though that’s not actually what’s happening in the text of the game experience itself.

    Look up “Mushroom Kingdom of Heaven” some time.

    Reply

  5. Shannon
    August 25, 2016 @ 2:18 am

    Great points. I love the idea of RPGs in terms of having a storyline and world to explore, but always found grinding through enemies absolutely tedious. Perhaps we need a return not to the early arcade/platform games, but to the early arcade games. Games like SimCity, Oregon Trail, and others were all about the choices you made. While you could die (literally in the case of Oregon Trail – you could actually write your own headstone), it was crucial to the story, not some random nonsense.

    Reply

  6. Andrew Morton
    August 25, 2016 @ 8:09 pm

    There was a twitter hashtag going around last week, #7favgames. Got me thinking of mine. Pretty much my entire list is made up of games that are narrative based and where there is no death (and rarely any penalty for failure). I’m an old skool point and click adventure gamer, but a Lucasarts kid, where there were rarely dead ends or deaths to had.
    My most recent addiction was to Fallout 4, where the story, characters, and locations were what drove me, but I spent the entire time wishing for a ‘god’ mode or ‘golden pp7’ that could get me through the tedious combat sections quicker and easier. I don’t really want to go back and replay it because I’m a high enough level now that combat is a cinch, and going back to the hard battles puts me off. This means I’ll probably never get to investigate the other story paths (It is worth stressing, none of this is the fault of the game, just it is a thing in the game that is not to my personal preference).
    So the TL;DR summary: Well said.

    Reply

  7. Lovecraft in Brooklyn
    August 28, 2016 @ 10:49 pm

    Check out the OliOli games – side scroller indie skateboarding games that feel like Sonic without that BS.
    Or No Man’s Sky, tho there is infrequent death.
    Assassins Creed would be better without enemies- you’d just explore historical cities.

    Reply

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