Video game complexity has come a long way from the days of Pong. Graphics have improved, AI has gotten smarter, control methods have become increasingly complex and the games themselves are more complicated than anything you can find on an Atari 2600.
Due to the way the medium has evolved, there are games and game genres that I cannot wrap my head around, regardless of how hard I try. The following is a list of games and game genres that make me feel dumb after playing them because I can’t come to grips with how to play them. Knowing that there are thousands of other people that are playing the same games just fine only amplifies the stupidity I feel when I fail miserably. Check out my list and tell me if any of these games make you feel dumb, too.
I’ve heard a lot of crazy things about this turn-based strategy series. I’ve heard that a single match can take hours to complete. I’ve heard all about how intricate micro-management is to the game experience. I’ve also heard that the game is really hard to learn and does a poor job of easing players in.
My time with Civilization Revolution on the iPhone may not the best way to judge, but no game has ever bewildered me like this. I know that I can move that one guy around the map, but I don’t know how the turns system works, I don’t know how to actually do anything and I don’t think the game does a good job of easing me into anything. I spent a good hour just aimlessly moving my guy around the map, randomly picking options in menus and not understanding anything that was happening.
Civilization 5 is supposedly the easiest Civilization to learn out of the gate, but this game left me with the impression that I need a Ph.D in Civilization before I can even grasp what the heck is going on.
3D Fighting Games
Regular readers of In Third person know by now that I am a huge Street Fighter fan. Unfortunately, my Street Fighter skills don’t carry over so well into other games, especially games with 3D movement such as Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Soulcalibur. Even though the basic concept of ‘beat the other person up’ is the same, the controls, mechanics and rhythm to the action are completely different. I can’t grasp how these games feature over 100 moves per character, how moving and fighting in 3D space works and how to fight within the rhythm of the game. My brain is so wired to playing 2D fighting games that I can’t reprogram myself to play 3D fighting games. As a result, I resort to mindlessly button mashing and hoping for the best. As someone who owns Soulcalibur II, Soulcalibur IV and Tekken 6, I’ve experienced enough 3D fighting to know that I’ll never be anything more than a button masher in this arena.
This one was a huge letdown to me. Portal will likely stand as a major milestone for video games as a whole thanks to its revolutionary portal mechanics and unique way it conveys a story. Unfortunately, experiencing that story also requires a level of puzzle solving expertise that I just don’t have. I’ve tried to play Portal multiple times, only to be completely bewildered as to how I can get from Point A to Point B with the tools the game has given me. Having watched my brother play through it, I was constantly saying to myself, “Damn it! I never would have thought of that!” as he zipped through each level with very few hitches.
I’ve had many a Gran Turismo and Forza player tell me that driving in those games is like driving a real car. To them, I say that’s the biggest pile of crap I’ve ever heard. I learned how to drive a real car within a matter of weeks. I’ve never hit a wall, spun out or crashed in real life. Approximately 15 years after the first Gran Turismo came out, I couldn’t drive a virtual car if my life depended on it. I constantly lose control of my car on corners, which inevitably leads to me crashing. The last time I played a Forza game, I could not cleanly take a single corner on any track. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure I could make all of those turns just fine in a real car. Because I find virtual driving way harder than real life driving, driving simulations earn a spot on this dubious list.
Having played Sim City on and off for the past 20 years or so, I’ve grasped the general idea of zoning, hooking up electricity and not much else. It’s always within a matter of minutes that my fully-powered city begins to decay, funds disappear, citizens complain about taxes and I decide to either stop playing or wreck the whole city with a series of natural disasters. All of my attempts to actually learn the game have been futile, as I immediately feel overwhelmed by the number of different variables I have to tweak. Can’t I just build more stadiums and be done with it?
What do you mean I have to put the hamster in the microwave? Almost every adventure game requires you to retrace the exact steps the developer wants you to take. Unfortunately, almost every adventure game’s steps are hyper-specific and in many cases, totally nonsensical. Without knowing what those steps are, you can easily find yourself unable to progress through the game without help from an FAQ. The most recent Sam & Max game on the iPad I had to totally give up on, because I couldn’t figure out where to go or what to do after the opening sequence, even after using the in-game help system.
Do any of these make you feel dumb, or am I just not that good at video games?