Exclusivity and accessibility in games, and why I won't buy a point-n-click adventure that I can't find a walkthrough for.

"Lara Croft is parachuting again. She whips in an ungainly fashion from side to side, bouncing off a few spiky twigs with noises of urgent discontent, before slamming full-force into a tree and impaling herself on a large branch. She gurgles brokenly and dies. This isn't the first time this has happened.

It's something like the sixteenth. I splutter angrily and set the controller down. I know this bit isn't supposed to be difficult. It's supposed to be exciting. Someone on the Tomb Raiderdevelopment team came up with the idea that rather than simply transition from one area to the next in a cutscene, it would much cooler if the player were to guide Lara, parachute-bound, through a gauntlet of deadly trees.

It's not cool. It's exasperating. The player suddenly has these brand new 'parachute controls' foisted on them, with no indication of what these new controls actually are. You're given about three seconds to try to work out how to steer before Lara is hurled brutally into an instant-death tree.

You fall back on videogame logic. Left stick steers. OK. But is it inverted on the horizontal axis or not? Wham. Dead. Okay. Right stick does the camera. But is that also controlling the direction she faces, or…? Wham. Dead. God. Right. I think I can steer her now. Am I supposed to aim over there, or…? Wham. Dead.

I almost stopped playing Tomb Raider at this point. What made me persevere was, again, videogame logic. This section is only a small set piece, like in so many games these days, a brief if pointless diversion before I can get back to the real gameplay. The gameplay where I understand the rules and the controls.

So I persevered. I kept playing. But it was touch and go for a moment there. Had I not been so versed in what to expect from videogames, Tome Raider would've been irreversibly shelved. It's not like I don't have other things to do with my free time, after all.

It occurred to me that this is what every game must feel like for people who are new to games, those who aren't versed in their inscrutable logic. You're given all these sticks and buttons and a brief, impenetrable set of instructions (left stick moves the guy; right stick controls where he's looking, and also the gun; right trigger - that's the squeezy one at the back - shoots the baddies, but only if you hold the left trigger first) then you're hurled into this unfamiliar world full of things that hate you."

Accessibility & the Folly of Exclusivism, Tom Battey, Gamasutra

"Games, especially the more “core” games, have this notion that they should be arbitrarily hard, that they shouldn’t hold your hand -- and that the ensuing exclusivity is a good thing.

That’s bullshit.

Over time, we’ve come to isolate ourselves. We put ourselves in the strange position of locking away the secrets of gaming knowledge from those who aren’t physically capable of playing them. While it is true that a blind man will never be able to see a film in quite the same way that most can, or that a deaf woman will not ever be able to hear a song, those experiences aren’t locked away by choice. I’ve never seen a book printed with obnoxiously small font just to keep people from being able to read it at all. This is something completely unique to videogames, and even there it’s far from universal.


I have plenty of friends and family whose opinions I deeply respect and value, but because videogames are inaccessible to those who haven’t been playing for a good chunk of their lives, or those who have a disability, I can’t share all of the great stories or experiences games have to offer.


More and more core gamers decry the fact that the casuals are playing simple games instead of the big beefy manly ones that they happen to think are intrinsically superior. At the same time core gamers howl at the idea of “easier” modes or options that remove combat entirely. Instead of encouraging broader options for new players, we’ve collectively continued to wall ourselves off and push potential fans away.

A while back, I wrote a little piece about how my mom’s rheumatoid arthritis kept her from being able to ever play Mass Effect. I called her last week to talk about some of the games I’ve been playing -- AntichamberTomb Raider, BioShock Infinite. With each one I was as descriptive as possible because I knew she wouldn’t get the chance to experience these games for herself. No matter what, some narratives are locked away; forever lost to her.

She’s not the only one either; especially when we start thinking about everyone in our lives that we care for. Friends, family, lovers -- they will never know the depth of our medium, unless we start opening it up. This isn’t about being taken seriously by the outsiders, this is about connecting with the other people in our lives."

BioShock Infinite's problem is not violence, Daniel Starkey, Destructoid


This is also why I won't buy point-and-click adventure games that I cannot find walkthroughs for prior to purchasing them. I don't enjoy solving point and click puzzles at ALL. Myst-type games leave me cold. I'd much rather enjoy them as interactive movies. 

Luckily for me, almost all the adventure games I've been interested in recently have had walkthroughs.

The most amazing ones are the Book of Unwritten Tales, and Machinarium. The Longest Journey nets an honourable mention as well.

They are wonderful games, I can't praise them enough. Book of Unwritten Tales, especially, is way up there with Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island. It's just that good. But the things I enjoy have changed, and without walkthroughs, I have neither the time, the patience, nor the inclination to solve arcane puzzles just to enjoy a good, interactive visual story. Quite simply, if you give me a choice between solving some crazed random puzzle (Gabriel Knight, I'm looking at you) in a point and click, and wandering off to an RPG or MMO to kill things, I'll pick killing things any day.

So it's wonderful for me that walkthroughs for point-n-click are so widely available, and there (doesn't seem) to be a chorus of 'omg looser'! that goes up in association with them. How nice it would be if other game genres were equally accessible and welcoming.