These Things Make Me Give Up On A Video Game Within The First Hour

These Things Make Me Give Up On A Video Game Within The First Hour

When it comes to deciding what game gets my attention and why, I am absolutely ruthless. I don’t care how much better it’s going to get, I don’t care that it’s actually an amazing game and I just have to give it a chance. No. If you mess up in the first hour of a game, I’m done.

I call these missteps ‘deal breakers’, in reference to when there is something you can’t overlook in dating — something that outweighs all other redeeming qualities.

Deal breakers don’t have to happen in the first hour, of course — most of them do for me because once you’ve already invested hours into a game you might feel obligated to finish what you started. There’s almost this expectation, right? That you can’t talk about a game unless you’ve played it from start to finish, even if we’re not talking about a review or anything.

This expectation/guilt is what drove me to finish Max Payne 3, even though I think I outright dropped the controller when Max said that even he has no freaking clue what’s going on in the game anymore.

Early on though, there’s no remorse. It’s quick and painless to drop a game.

Recently I tried picking up Planetside 2. I liked MAG; I’m excited by the idea of large-scale warfare. I figured that Planetside 2 would be a good idea to try out, since it’s an MMOFPS that promises “epic, massive combat” in battles that might last “days or weeks.” Alright, cool. That sounds like a great premise! Count me in!

So I boot up the game, I pick my faction, and I’m dropped into a match. I see players all around me, they’re running someplace else. I look at my map. I don’t know where to go or what to do, really.

Early on, there’s no remorse. It’s quick and painless to drop a game.

But I figure the best thing to do is to just follow other folks — I mean, this is a shooter, right? How complicated can the objective be? I’m probably supposed to go somewhere, capture a point or something like that. Simple stuff. All else fails, I know that right click shoots.

I play for 20 minutes, following people, going off on my own, scaling buildings to get a better view of what’s happening. I die a few times. At best I understand there’s an area where I’m supposed to be, but I have no idea what to DO there.

Could’ve looked it up. Could have asked people. …Could play a game that just gets it right instead of rewarding shoddy introductory levels where nothing is explained. I’m not even sorry; again, no remorse — there are games that get it right and those are the ones I’m going to spend time with.

Then we have games that treat me like an absolute idiot and overexplain everything — the tutorial never effing ends. I hate those too, and have been known to stop playing a game if it becomes too grating. But at least these set ups make it so that I actually know what the heck is going on!

Planetside 2’s approach, where little is explained, CAN work. The most sophisticated introduction to a game is the one where nothing is explicitly said, and instead everything is communicated through design alone. In this, Super Mario Bros is famous: there’s a goomba coming, and you only have a few seconds to figure out how to jump. In jumping, you’re likely to find out about mushrooms — the breakdown of that level and its design genius is a fascinating read.

Worse than both the under-explained and the over-explained start to a game is the boring start to a game. A game that starts too slow, takes too much of its time, assumes that you will be into it merely because it exists.

These games probably won’t grip you with an en media res start, which is kind of like a running start in the middle of the action, as in Uncharted 2. They won’t even give you an interesting premise to go off from, as in The Walking Dead‘s opening scene where you’re in the back of a cop car. No. You will suffer through the boring and you will like it.

Unfortunately, as much as I adore Persona 4, I wouldn’t blame anyone for dropping it because of its 4-hour throat-clearing. The game doesn’t give you enough in the start to truly appreciate the sleepy town of Inaba, and if it weren’t for the strength of Persona 3, I’d likely not have put up with Persona 4 — which reveals that yes, deal breakers have some wiggle room.

And then finally we have a thing that is running the danger of becoming a deal breaker for me: games designed specifically to make you feel guilty about something, while absolving the developer’s hand in making the mechanics intoxicating in the first place. Like Andrew Vanden Bossche says in reference to Spec Ops: The Line, and more overtly, a trend in violent games in 2012:

Video games are pretty eager to blame players for killing when designers are the ones that turn on slow motion every time I score a head shot.

I think it would be pretty cool to have a game about how cruel oppressive systems survive by pushing their problems onto individuals.

If 2013 continues this trend, there’s gonna be a lot of unfinished video games in my library.

But ultimately, the reason that so many of my deal breakers happen at the start of the game is that it’s the most important segment of the game. It sets the mood, the tone, the pacing — everything, really. If my introduction to something goes awry, what is to say the rest of the game is redeeming? I shouldn’t have to stick around to find out.

Do you have any game deal breakers — stuff that makes you drop a controller and go, nuh uh, this ain’t happening? Share below!


  • It must be so frustrating to have to write about games when someone is so obviously burnt out on gaming.

    Games need to do more X, games do too much Y, if a game can’t show me EXACTLY Z (no variance allowed!) in the space of less than an hour, then the game is junk and I won’t ever play it again.

    Oh, and if it doesn’t actively push the social issue I’m interested in today AND innovate while staying true to genre, it better watch out.

    Seriously, it’s sad to see such an obvious case of burn out.

    • Eh, a lot of games do a poor job at explaining a game and I can completely understand being frustrated so early on. Super MNC was a fairly recent example where … I had NO idea what was happening. Unless I missed it somewhere classes, weapons, in-game goals, nothing is explained. I joined a game to see 2 teams with robots and gorillas and whatever the hell else I saw going on. There was just nothing explaining any of it.

      I felt AC1 dragged on for ages before I got to even control a character, and when I finaly did there was still about 30 minutes of talking before I got to “play”. And she’s absolutly right with tutorials that over explain things – teaching me how to jump and walk and crouch as if the FPS hasn’t existed for 20 years.

      A lot of themese kind of games have be giving up. They don’t even give me a chance to experience gameplay before I am bored or fed up. Games like GTA, or Fallout NV did it pretty well. The game started, and a few minutes later you were playing. If there are tutorials they are pretty unintrusive. They don’t really stop you from playing to tell you things you might need to know.

    • I don’t want to be too harsh or negative against the writers here, but this explanation actually makes a bit of sense.

    • Hear hear. Patricia needed to find a publication more suited to her interests long ago.
      I played the Planetside 2 beta and I’m pretty sure there was a tutorial or help screens every time you opened a new part of the UI or a video or something that explains the game. Maybe she just missed it.

      • That might have been in the beta but on release there wasn’t anything.
        They had a bunch of tutorials outside of the game that the said go and watch these to learn how to play the game. But for a newbie just jumping in there is nothing saying where to go or what to do

        • I just started playing planetside 2 last week. it took me 20 minutes to realise what to do. 5 minutes of which was spent watching one tutorial video. its not that difficult…

          if you don’t take the time to learn the basics. everything can be confusing…is society at a stage where we’re supposed to cater for those who are both ignorant and lazy.

    • She doesn’t strike me as someone who is burnt out. She strikes me as someone who takes so much interest in her passion, she’s continually analysing it. Maybe that’s not for you, but I enjoy her articles because I really do like thinking about why I play the games I do, or how they affect the way I think, or which parts of them I do/don’t enjoy.

  • I call these missteps ‘deal breakers’, in reference to when there is something you can’t overlook in dating — something that outweighs all other redeeming qualities.
    Call me insane, but I don’t think that’s limited to dating….

  • I stopped playing STALKER very early on because the bullets did not go anywhere near the aiming reticule. I really feel like I missed out skipping that game. I heard good things.

    • Realism was one of the things I enjoyed about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Bullets had weight, you had to carry food around for when you got hungry, and different weapons had different degrees of accuracy. I’d say you missed out, but I can see how this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of vodka.

      • That starting pistol sure did suck in the accuracy department. I should really go back and have another crack at it but the pile of shame… it’s so high.

      • +1, it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if one were to have a problem with that level of realism, don’t even go near operation flashpoint.

        • Agreed i was exactly the same when it first came out tried it out and after playing so many games where you had decent accuracy from the get-go to my first “realistic” shooter where your basic gun doesn’t shoot in straight lines when in full sprint was a big shock and i dropped it after an hr of frustration that i was running out of ammo and not hitting anyone.

          Went back later with a clear view of how the game actually worked and changed the way i played shooters due to how different it is and im glad i did as it was an amazing game with a great story to tell.

          On-topic of article: My main game stoppers are console games ported to PC. Alot are down really shitty like and waste so much time trying to figure things out like Dark Souls on PC gives you all commands in X-box controller buttons meaning i have to then figure out how to do all commands on my own through trial and error still havn’t gotten far due to it annoying me that i need to figure everything out myself.

    • Well, perhaps in the context of the article you’re right. Stalker doesn’t really hamper you in that regard though. The game starts… you’re in control and the game is pretty simple to learn. As for your issue, I completely understand it. I LOVE Stalker though, so I will defend it :p In the context of this aritcle you’re right – the start of the game can be a tad too difficult and be a bit puzzling. Once you get something other than a Makarov (the starting pistol) you’ll see that most of the guns are quite accurate, or at least you can see the tracer rounds and adjust your aim accordingly). In other words, Stalker is the kind of game where you need to literally experience and learn the skills, as a player, as you play; unlike, say, an RPG where these kind of these require your character to learn them. That Makarov will always be crappy, but if you use it later on you’ll have adapted to the game and be able to use it more effectively. It’s actually one of the coolest things about Stalker.

    • Ouch, that means you wouldn’t be able to deal with Bayonetta. Personally, I like it if a plot if inventive enough that I don’t know what’s going on after the first 5 minutes.

      • within reason….generally you know if its one of those “flashback” type deals or its just not being explained well enough

      • I watched every “plot” movie in Bayonetta and I can honestly say it would have been better if I had just skipped them all and got back to the action.

        Her voice, the whole frozen scene with the wind blowing, annoying pointless characters, random bits of cinema film to remind you this was supposed to be artistic.

        Just. Awful.

  • I happen to research the games I buy and play, so very, very rarely do I run across a game that doesn’t do it for me and commits “deal breakers”. No game is perfect and if it has a few minor flaws, so what? You overlook those for the enjoyment of the bigger picture. There’s been a few games that I have put away never to touch again, but even in those cases I gave the game more than an hour to prove itself.

    If you drop a game in the first hour because it does or doesn’t do some arbitrary rule you have set in your own head, then you’re going to miss out on lots of great games.

    Honestly, articles like this one remind me of Yahtzee…a kind of jaded, burned out (as Zap put it above), cynical attitude to games and it seems to be catching like a virus throughout the community, especially journalists. While I do find his brand of humour amusing, I’m also often annoyed at his attitude (particularly to some specific genres and those who happen to like playing games of said genres) and it’s the reason I now only watch his videos and stopped reading his extra punctuation column. His whole “it’s shit until proven otherwise” approach to games is really dour and not why someone should be playing games at all. You play games for fun, and if you go into games with this attitude you’re rarely going to enjoy yourself.

    And the attitude of this article is exactly on that same note. If a game does or doesn’t do X in its first hour then it’s shit, and not worth my time. I know Patricia is one of the US authors so is unlikely to respond or even see this comment, but I’d really be interested in finding out just how many games she has finished (therefore passing her made-up first-hour test) and whether she enjoyed every minute of those from start to finish.

    I really hope this isn’t the attitude she adopts when reviewing games, too.

    • This. With the amount of research I put into my gaming purchases, my lack of funds and recent drop to only 5-10 gaming hours a week, I’ll forgive a few bugs, poor tutorials or just downright stupid story elements purely because it’s a pastime I sit down to enjoy, not aggravate myself by picking it to pieces. And a lot of the time the negative elements or poor design decisions lead to some good water cooler banter with my mates.

      “Hey, remember how retarded those dating missions were in Sleeping Dogs…?”

      “Why the fuck did I skin a shark to make a wallet fit more money?”

      “How many hours did I spend scanning planets for minerals? Ten? Fifteen?!”

      Nothing’s perfect, especially in the first 60 minutes.

  • “That’s a deal breaker, ladies!”

    As a straight white young adult male, I find this offensive. It’s not just women that play video games you know.

  • “All else fails, I know that right click shoots.”
    Well there’s your first mistake, left-click is shoot, Right is look down sights.
    Second, Planetside 2 is an MMO-FPS, you said so yourself, the first part being ‘Massively Multiplayer Online’. If you play by yourself and don’t talk/ask anyone about anything in the game then you’re just an idiot.

    Before anyone says ‘It’s not worth the effort’ I didn’t realise it took so much effort to type:
    DeRP WhaT I Do NoW GUYS!?!? – or something similar. Anyway isn’t there a tutorial video for PS2 that says exactly how to cap points?

  • I don’t have any requirements a game must tick within the first hour. All games start off slow or boring, or difficult or whatever, but if I quit every single game that started off slow/boring/difficult, then I wouldn’t be finishing very many games at all. What’s the point of being a gamer if I’m not actually going to be finishing any games? I prefer to give all games as much time as needed (rather than just an hour) because eventually I get into the game, figure out what I’m doing, and most importantly I end up enjoying the game.

    Personally, I think if someone is at the point where they’re only willing to give a game an hour to tick off a check list of things to keep them amused otherwise they’ll quit, then it’s about time you took a break from gaming. We all need a break every now and then.

  • When I realised I that I’d spent longer trying to pick a skill (i.e. TRYING to use the interface to SELECT what I wanted upgrading) than I had in actually playing the game, this Elder Scrolls fan immediately stopped playing Skyrim (PC), and still thinks it was the correct decision.

    A friend pointed out that there was a way to replace/improve the GUI, but that it required 2 other installs. But all I heard was “Yo Dawg, I heard you like installing and playing games, so here’s some compiled code you can install, so you can do another install, so you can play a game.” No. Just No.

    Others played it and loved it, and good for them, truly. Tamriel is truly an amazing and unique place and all that – but I just couldn’t forgive the menu design. Or learn to use it, I guess. Either or.

    Regardless of whether I’m a fool or not, this was a major deal-breaker for me..

    I enjoyed this article, though. So that’s nice. 🙂

  • Physics in anything with a lot of of jumping around on things. If the dynamics aren’t right then I tend to put a game down very fast. Fez is probably the highest profile game in recent memory to drive me away simply because of how the character jumped.

  • Without any idea that it was a shooter, I picked up Planetside 2 in a matter of minutes. I watched a tutorial video the launcher linked me to while it downloaded. But I’m crazy like that.

  • The game launcher has this big orange button titled “Getting Started”. When you click on this button you’re given links to the planetside 2 wiki and 11 tutorial videos on different aspects of the game. The game is not hard to learn at all if you actually try to learn it.

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