Any gamer who’s played more than one FPS, RTS or RPG has grasped the common practices with game input. Why then do many modern games come with mandatory in-game tutorials?
Do you remember back in the days where games came with an instruction manual? Many of my friends forgo-ed reading it and got stuck into the game immediately. Here, reading the instruction manual was optional. It wasn’t a forced interruption or delay to your gaming.
Now many gamers are frustrated with a banal in-game tutorial that seems utterly pointless. This was recently lampooned in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
Of course, not all new games are guilty of this problem. Some try to find a middle ground by making the tutorial optional or by providing hint dialogues in the game. Let’s give these games a free pass for now. We shall focus on the games which force the tutorial on you.
To answer the question at the start of this short article, I posit that this is an attempt to make a game more accessible. But this good intention has negative consequences.
1. Breaking The 4th Wall
Firstly, the 4th wall is broken. One is ripped back into reality when the fantastic world building is sheared by an in-game character suddenly referencing an object or action that exists outside of the game world. “Press X to open the door.” This disruption in the narrative, this awareness by a game character that they’re in a game and your avatar is controlled by you using a game pad or keyboard undoes the storytelling of the game. It’s simply bad design.
2. Needless Delay
The second problem I find is the needless delay in gaming. You want to get on with it, don’t you? Why are you clicking through dumb dialogue boxes or moving your units to this location? A gamer already knows how to do these things. They’re elementary. When one starts reading a new book, the author assumes that the reader has a command of the language first. The author doesn’t waste the readers time by beginning first with a refresher course on the alphabet and grammar before getting on with the book itself. Yet this is similar to what games with built in tutorials subject the game player to. It is a needless delay we can get rid of.
3. Learning To Play As You Play
Lastly, let’s go back to my friends who ignored the instruction manual way back when games came with them twenty years ago. My friends derived pleasure from trying to figure out how to play the game as they played the game. Now some may wonder, if the central point in my criticism is that these in-game tutorials are useless as we already know how to play most games, isn’t this last point pointless?
Not so, there are plenty of games that put a twist on the input. And there are games with sophisticated gameplay rules. To provide an unavoidable in-game tutorial would deprive gamers like my friends the enjoyment of trying to learn how to play as they played. This meta-gaming in a sense is unwittingly denied by the game dev.
Of course, some may add that this desire to make games more accessible by adding such a tutorial is also a form of coddling. I disagree with this as that is more a criticism of the game itself. The tutorial is a worthless bolt on which at worst is an annoyance. The rest of the game could be very hardcore and unforgiving.
Should games get rid of tutorials completely? Of course not. I personally enjoyed reading the instruction manuals to my old NES games back in the day. When I play a new game I am pleased to see that there is a tutorial mission available, which I promptly ignore and get on with playing. I argue that the tutorial must be optional. Not mandatory.
Therefore, game developers, this is a very easy problem to correct. Just move the tutorial out of the main game or delete it entirely if that’s easier. That’s it. Fixed! If you disagree with me, let me know in the comments below.
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