by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 28th May, 2018
As you probably know the great poet Dante Alighieri's most famous work is Divine Comedy, an epic tale of the afterlife in which he describes Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The first is being made out of nine circles, each reserved for a different kind of sinners. Today we will talk about nine circles of video games hell occupied by worst kind of things tied to video games and gaming culture, things you definitely don't want to experience while playing games, or things that destroy gaming culture in general.
Unlike Dante, we won't start with lesser evils and then gradually move on to the worst ones. Instead, each circle here is bad enough on itself and shouldn't be compared to others in terms of its overall negative impact on games and gaming culture. You will find things that are closely tied to gaming experience itself, things that were created inside the minds of top-tier executives working for video game publishers, and a couple of phenomena that are plain bad for video games in general.
The usual negative aspects in video games like bad voice acting, poor missions, bad level design, unskippable cutscenes, complicated controls, quick time events, and other small things that can ruin a game won't be mentioned here. Instead, we will focus on bigger things, things that hurt gaming in general. Let us begin.
There's nothing worse than waiting years for a video game, downloading it day one, skipping work just to play it for a whole day (just confess it, we all did this at one time, when our favorite game came out), and then once you enter it, realizing that the game is filled with bugs.
This marred many games, some of the best examples being titles such as Gothic III, Mass Effect Andromeda, PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight, and the more recent case of State of Decay II. And it can be okay if the game is filled with small but annoying bugs that can blemish the experience but not destroy it. The real problem is when a game features the worst kind of bugs, those that can completely break it.
And this would be okay if not for the fact that even games that are mostly bug-free can come with these nasty little gremlins. I remember playing a title called Two Worlds more than a decade ago. The game was a knock-off of Gothic but it was a very good game with a large world, solid story and lots of interesting quests.
And then, over twenty hours into the game, I realized that a character I had to defeat in order to advance the story wasn't where it should be. A huge desert was the home of an albino dragon but the damn fire-spitting beast was nowhere to be found. I spend hours searching for it and then found online that this is one of the nastiest bugs tied to the game. It was mostly fine sans this huge problem that eventually got fixed with a patch but it was too late for me to continue my journey because I just couldn't get back into the game, not after I spent five hours searching for a beat that wasn't there.
Game breaking bugs definitely deserve the spot in video games hell because they just kill the experience and can be found even in games that look like bug-free titles. They are one of the things hated by most gamers. In fact, those that encountered just one game breaking bug in their gaming career probably hate them the most out of all things that will be mentioned here.
You see a trailer on YouTube, follow a game for months and even years, get hyped and can't wait for it to get released. And then the first delay happens and you're like "I have no problem with this. It's better to wait for a bit longer than to get a broken mess of a game. Can't wait to play this one." And then the game gets delayed, again, and you start to develop doubts about its quality. If a studio had to delay it two times, there's surely something wrong with it, but you still believe it will become a good product.
And then developers announce that they have to change stuff in the game, like core gameplay, story, setting, or something else that will take months, even years to get finished. Or the publisher simply announces they won't release the game, with developers having to search for a new publisher. Or, the worst thing of all, publisher or developer studio shut down and the game ends up in gaming limbo, never to see the light of day.
This happened with many titles, some of them had lots of potential, enough potential to become huge hits. Just remember Star Wars 1313 and the infamous story of LucasArts canceling the game because it carried too much risk with it. Or the awesome Silent Hills and its P.T demo, a game that was to be a brainchild of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro with Norman Reedus playing the main role. That game could become worldwide gaming phenomena but Konami canceled the game, eventually ending up the publisher's collaboration with Hideo Kojima in the worst possible way.
But, sometimes is better for a game to end up in gaming limbo than to eventually get released, ending up as a huge disappointment. Duke Nukem Forever, Daikatana, Too Human. They all spent years in development and ultimately flopped big time.
Sure, canceled games and those that eventually came out but ended as huge disappointments are pretty bad, but the worst are those that got overhyped prior to the release but failed to meet expectations, being plain average or even worse, bad. Titles like Assassin's Creed Unity (this one got hyped and was a broken bug-ridden mess), Daikatana (again), Spore, or The Order 1886 got hyped beyond any reasonable level but once they got released all that hype exploded in their faces killing all quality in those games, leaving them broken, ugly, and unworthy of our time.
DLC was a way for publishers to release additional content for video games in the age of digital distribution, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's better if we could simply download an expansion that had to buy it on the disc. But soon, publishers saw the potential of milking money out of gamers with DLCs and they sure started to misuse the concept of DLC.
One of the earliest examples of bad DLC practice was infamous Horse Armor DLC pack for Oblivion. The pack contained a couple of fancy armor sets for your horse and it carried a price tag of $2.50. It was roasted by many gamers online but eventually, publishers started offering much worse DLCs than this one.
Remember Street Fighter X Tekken on-disc DLC fiasco? Capcom shipped the game with DLC present on the game disc, locking it behind a paywall. In other words, the content was on the damn disc that contained the game but owners couldn't access it before paying the price. That was one of the worst practices tied to DLC and soon after the fiasco, no company dared to put DLC packages on installation discs.
And another awful DLC practice are Season Passes, where publishers announce DLC packages even before a game is finished, charging up to $30 for pieces of content you know nothing about. It's plain and simply bad practice and cannot be justified by lingering profits from selling games, or by a desire to offer gamers more content that builds upon the original game. If you want to make money out of DLC packs, first actually finish them and then put a price of them. A strong contender for the ninth circle of video games hell, but we said we aren't ranking these.
Okay, while we might talk for hours why these are bad for video games culture (they aren't bad for the industry because these titles earn billions of $ each year and they are responsible for pushing mobile games ahead of PC and console games when it comes to sheer profit) but we won't because they just aren't worth it.
Well, we will talk about them a bit. Free-to-play mobile titles popularized some of the worst practices found in modern gaming such as always-on internet connectivity, lootboxes (okay, EA introduced them in FIFA 2008), the presence of energy that is spent for playing a game and that forces players to constantly spend money on replenishing it, pay-to-win game mechanics where a sack of cash transforms you into the best player out there no matter how bad you are at the game, and many other negative practices that transformed modern gaming industry into a monster that feeds on profit margins.
Sure, there are good free-to-play mobile titles that deserve spending a couple of bucks on, but most of them are simple money sucking black holes designed to suck you out of hundreds of dollars before realizing that spending all that money didn't get you even one five star hero. These definitely deserve their own hell to be in, not just one meager circle.
You buy a physical version of a certain game, can't wait to get home and play it and then, instead of finding a disc inside you find a Steam game code. Yup, even though the game has sold in a box it doesn't come with a disc. Instead, you have to download it, practically killing all reasons to buy the physical version. And then you realize that download size is 100 GB and you are on a limited internet plan, with the download cutting most of your monthly limit. Yay! And there's Microsoft store that is even worse. Forza 7 and Gears of War 4 (PC versions) have a nasty bug that can randomly stop the download, usually when you download most of the game files, without offering you an option to resume the download. Yup, you have to start it all over again with both titles weighing in at over 100 gigabytes. Thanks, Microsoft!
While this is mostly found with PC games, more and more console titles have day-one patch downloads that can sometimes take dozens of gigabytes. And this is unacceptable because not all of us have unlimited plans. And even if we do, just the time waiting for the download to finish instead of installing the game and playing it after half an hour or less is annoying enough for a circle in video games hell.
And then we have silly always-on requirements which are okay when a game is a strictly multiplayer title. But when you buy a single player game and see that you have to be online at all times even though there's no practical reason for it to access the internet is beyond infuriating, sometimes even worse than finding a download code inside the game case.
Games as a service is a concept that's excellent for publishers since they can offer a constant stream of content for gamers without investing huge money in the development of a whole new game, but it does come with one huge drawback. Since these titles usually require always-on connection it is only a matter of time before a publisher decides it is time to shut down game servers. This makes your purchase not really a purchase because that would mean you own the product and can use it any time you want. No, when buying a title described as "game as a service" you actually rent the game because once servers die you are left with basically nothing. Okay, if you buy the physical version you still get to keep the case and the game disc, but you cannot do anything with those two.
And the same can be said about MMO games or those that offer solely multiplayer component. One day servers will shut down and you won't be able to play the game. And this is okay because we all knew that buying a multiplayer only title comes with an eventual server shutdown. But it isn't cool when you want to play some single player and realize you can't because the game must be connected to servers that aren't there anymore.
Pandemic, Visceral Games, Westwood, Criterion Games, Maxis, Black Box, Origin, Bullfrog, Mythic. If these names ring any bell well then, congratulations, you played some great games. Those are all names of famous game development studios that gave us video game classics such as Burnout series, Command & Conquer series, Dead Space trilogy, the two original Star Wars Battlefront games, Dark Age of Camelot, Tiberium Sun, Sim City and Sims games, Ultima game series, Theme park, the good old Dungeon Keeper, and more legendary video games.
They all have been bought at some point and later shut down by large publishers, sucking them dry of talent, making them work of some awful games and then shutting them down. While still officially alive, it seems BioWare will follow the same path once Anthem is released but even if the studio stays alive it is today but a pale shadow of the group that gave us MDK, Dragon Age: Origin, Mass Effect Trilogy, Baldur's Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, and the first Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Okay, we said that we won't talk about small things in games that can ruin the experience like bad voice acting, or poor controls. But when you invest fifty hours in a game and then are greeted with a huge cliffhanger ending, the practice must have its own circle in video games hell. We, as humans love stories, it's the way our brains work. They make stories for everything in our lives and the worst thing for a brain to experience is a story without a clear ending.
And while cliffhangers that end up being explained in a sequel are one thing that, while annoying are ultimately rewarding at the end, games with cliffhanger endings that don't receive a sequel are the worst thing in gaming, right next to lousy DLC practices, broken games, and free-to-play money black holes.
We all have at least one game we loved that ended too abruptly leaving us wondering what will sequel bring, only to be left without one. For instance, the famous XIII ended with a huge cliffhanger that begs for a sequel, which never appeared. And the rough but enjoyable Timeshift ended with a huge cliffhanger that also never got explained.
But the biggest unresolved cliffhanger of them all is, you've guessed, the one we saw in Half-Life Episode II. Eli Vance gets killed, with Alyx hinting at the visit to the far north, where infamous Borealis research ship lies, covered by ice. At least we might receive the explanation for this one because a group of game designers got together and are currently working on an unofficial epilogue that should give us answers on what should've happened in Episode Three, called Project Borealis. Nevertheless, unresolved cliffhangers are the worst and should have their own little circle.
Recently I got Day of Infamy since it was on a huge sale on Steam. The game is a hardcore tactical MP shooter set in WWII and I loved it. Weapons have realistic ballistics, dying is so easy and killing other players is more than hard, maps are designed by people who know what they are doing and overall the game has a magnificent atmosphere.
>I loved the game, enjoyed every minute of it even though I sucked but after a couple of days I decided to abandon it because of its community. It's more toxic that Violator the Clown's farts. People are extremely salty, voice chat is used exclusively for trash talk and everyone will shout at you worst insults when they kill you, and your teammates will do the same in addition to screaming at you to leave the game.
Toxic gaming communities can completely ruin excellent games. If you want to check out Day of Infamy be my guest but if you aren't the god of first person shooters you will have your name used in worst of swear word combination I had the chance to hear in a long time. Of course, there are other games known by their awful communities.
If you play CoD on consoles you probably keep voice chat turned off because all you can hear there are kids shouting words you'd never thought could come out of the mouth of 12-year olds. The same can be said about DOTA 2 and LoL, but the situation is a bit better there because most insults are in languages you don't speak so that's okay, I guess. Overwatch is another example of how you can start hating a game just because of its community.
When you are driven away from a game not because of its lousy gameplay, or crappy visuals, or broken game mechanics, but because people playing it are a perfect example of everything that's wrong with humanity they deserve to be thrown in an exclusive circle in video games hell where they would see their K/D ratio always be negative infinity.