When playing Breath of the Wild I found myself continuously irritated by sidequests that usually amounted to little more than headhunts and the sort, and a defense I routinely heard was that it's on the player to take advantage of the game's elaborate chemistry system and make your own thrilling adventures, where the basic sidequest structures are simply the canvas for you to work with.
I usually said in response that this was not satisfying to me, because the most convenient route was usually just to swing your sword, same as ever. If the game wanted me to make use of its more creative potential, it needed to incentivise it; perhaps the limited weapon durability was an attempt at this, but seeing as my weapon stocks were continuously replenished without any trouble, I never saw any reason to do things different.
In response to this, as well as other such issues I've had, folks have been baffled with me, at my inability to find much joy in self-imposed challenges. And I in turn, was baffled that folks who understood my own perspective so little were even out there. My frustration with this kind of design always made too much sense to me. If a game came with the option to skip every mission in a game, I would detest that the struggle to advance, and the mystique of reaching the end was practically invalidated, to which folks would say "So? Just don't use that option". If a shooter had a wide arsenal of creative and fun guns, but you were also constantly equipped with the most convenient gun in the game that would one-shot everything, I would think there was no satisfaction at all in using the more fun weapons because it would feel too artificial to me to just ignore the golden ticket, and in response to a criticism like this, folks would say "So? Just don't use that gun".
I think one of the most irritating examples for me are cases such as The Witcher 3, where the option is present to turn off the map hud, and navigate using directions given my NPCs, and reading roadside signs. To me, this is incredibly unsatisfying, when this limitation is removable with just the press of a button, and would never engage me as much as a game where this restriction is enforced, such as in Morrowind. It bothers me to think of how many devs would, in the interests of trying to provide for more hardcore players while also not wanting to alienate more casual fans, would see this as an "everybody wins" scenario, when it's just the kind of thing that would completely push players like myself away.
To paraphrase TheGamingBrit, who basically summized my point better than I ever could in his video, "
", the option to just bypass a limitation is something that many players would find detrimental to the experience, even if they were to never use it.
I suppose my belief is not that games should never be allowed to offer this kind of freedom; it's a dev's choice to what they want with their game. My issue is just that when stuff like this reads as a hindrance to players like myself, it'd be nice if other players could understand that just ignoring it is not satisfying. That self-imposed challenges are not the universal answer, that it shouldn't always be on the player to balance a game's difficulty, hereby leaving the design bereft of criticism.
And truthfully, I think Breath of the Wild also offers the strongest example to support my belief, the Shrine Quest, Eventide Island.
Most people who I've seen express their thoughts on this quest love it. Some even say it's their favourite part of the game, where they're stripped of their equipment and armor, and left to scavenge and make do with whatever the game provides on this small island.
Now. If there were no reason at all to think less of self-imposed challenges, as opposed to the authentic base game providing a satisfying obstacle, then why would people be as excited over this sidequest as they are, when you could literally drop everything you're carrying at any point in the game? Surely there's nothing special about this quest at all if you could functionally mimic its restrictions anywhere and everywhere else?
So what do you all think? Would it be silly of me to, for example, dislike a puzzle game for offering you the answer to every puzzle without any cost, when I'm already ignoring a free supply of answers via youtube walkthroughs?
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