Tuesday, September 27, 2005

2FAQ || !2FAQ

To kick off the latest in a series of "I feel old" posts: time was, FAQs of any kind that pertained to video games were always pretty scarce (note: as it applies to video games, the definition of FAQ has expanded to include pretty much any cheat/hint/walkthrough document, as opposed to strictly lists of Frequently Asked Questions). If you wanted help with a video game, you either called a friend (I received a lot of such calls growing up), or scanned the newsstand for a video game magazine containing strategies for the title you were playing and brought it home for $5-$10. That meant that if you were stuck (either in regards to gameplay or the narrative) you generally had to get unstuck on your own. This bred a much more determined kind of gamer than we have today. If you couldn't beat those damn birds in Ninja Gaiden, guess what? You either gave up, or you just kept trying. Back in the day, you didn't beat Shadowgate unless you had an excess of both persistence and free time, because if there was a puzzle you couldn't surpass, you just beat your head against the wall until an idea fell out. So, although most games required a lot of time and effort to beat, the sense of accomplishment when you finally did so was far greater than I get from anything today.

That was before the internet came along and changed everything (although there was a brief period of two or three years where printed strategy guides sold very well). These days, if you're having a problem, the collective input of everyone who's played the game is at your fingertips. So, essentially, noone has to think about anything anymore. Forget about how to beat a tough boss or how to progress the story-- soon after a game comes out, you can generally find dozens of forum posts along the lines of "how do I jump?" from people who are too lazy to even read the goddamn instruction booklet. And the instruction booklets these days don't even require immersion in water (not as many people are going to get that reference as I want to, I'll wager)! So, as a crochety old-school gamer, my choice seems clear: stay away from FAQs, so as both to maintain my cred and to heighten my own enjoyment. If only things were that simple.

For, you see, as mentioned in my previous post, I'm driven to obtain every bell and whistle in every game that I play, and I also don't have enough time to do it. And FAQs provide the perfect solution to both problems, whispering sweet nothings in my ear and tempting me to take the easy way out. But I just can't bring myself to do it. I make exceptions when I'm playing with other people, since all of my friends get incredibly bored when exposed to the least of my usual thoroughness (in what generally passes for recreation when I'm alone), so I check FAQs when in the company of others rather than tap on every wall and revisit every area ad nauseum. The rest of the time, though, there's a resource just sitting there that would serve to lessen my gaming problems, and I refuse to let myself use it.

In FAQt (sorry), I'd rather waste even more time writing a FAQ myself, since that serves to further inflate my own ego, and the large majority of FAQs out there are really quite awful. Generally one of the first things I do when I finish a game is to go read the largest/most complete FAQs that are available and e-mail the writer about any inconsistencies or errors, as well as any new things I've discovered. The reactions range from gratitude to childish name-calling, but I can usually guess what reaction I'll get in advance based upon the FAQ itself. Then my next stop is the GameFAQs forums, where I read through all of the posts currently there and try and answer any outstanding questions to the best of my ability. Again, this has resulted in everything from verbal sparring with a 10-year-old to exchanging e-mails with a housewife from Vermont.

I really wish that I was willing to make use of the same resource that I'm willing to provide, but it just makes me feel dirty. If I read a FAQ, I'm making a concession to the "you can't beat games without a FAQ these days" crowd, who I fervently disagree with. It's really tempting sometimes, though. Many games like to include time-sensitive easter eggs, which are the bane of my existence. Like the original Lunar, where I had to revisit every area and talk to every NPC in the ENTIRE GAMEWORLD after every plot advancement, for fear of missing something. Stuff like that is the reason I play games the way I do. Ideally, every game would be like the Metroid games or the modern Castlevanias, with tons of cleverly hidden secrets that can still be found right up until the end boss is defeated, so that players needn't worry about missing anything. But, alas, that isn't the case, and until it is, I'll be the guy obsessively tapping on every wall three times, while the kid down the street just glances at his computer screen and moves on.


Anonymous Aiden G. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 2:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Aiden G. said...

Wow I was trying to be funny and it seems it did not work at all (zapping himself with an electric fly swapper not funny?). The only part i was being serious about was the FAQ part at the bottom. During this weekly get togethers we joked around about you going to great lengthes to find things and never having them pay (im talking about toS here of course). It was part of the experience of it. Also watching you do this just to prove John wrong about something he said (even though he played through the game what twice before we even finished it?). So yeah im sorry my joke just fell flat (which they often do) if you want to remove the comment above ok and im sorry it struck a nerve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 2:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Well, apparently he was joking, and I overreacted, so rather than leaving me looking like a petulant child, I took his advice and deleted the preceding comments. I promised myself when I started this thing that I wouldn't go deleting things left and right whenever I ended up looking stupid, but since he suggested it and it was all a misunderstanding anyway, I'll make an exception this time. It's not the first time I've gotten into an arguement online with someone because of the internet's inability to convey tone of voice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 3:21:00 PM  
Anonymous N. O. Scott said...

*ahem* Moving on since I missed all the drama...

What *I* want is the "Annoying Packrat FAQ". I don't want a guide through the game. I don't want details as to how to optimally gear out my mooks or spend my badass points or any of that. I don't want a running commentary on the plot by some middle school kid.

I want the goods on the annoying hidden bits, the secrets that I don't want to miss. "When you get here, the following hidden gems of what have you can be found: blah blah blah." or "After doing X, go back to A and B and C if you want to see an optional doodad." Just a FAQ that extracts all of the content that the casual player (such as myself) might miss, and puts that information in a document without any of the "spoiler" stuff (spoiler in a sense above and beyond just spoiling the plot.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 4:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Vern said...

This is either the first time I've read this post, or I forget it entirely.

In any case, for any googlerby, Jordan has long since abandonned what he says he'll only do when company's around. He looks at FAQs all the time, defeating the purpose of playing the game to it's fullest.

Thursday, August 16, 2007 1:53:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I'm curious how you can state this so authoritatively, since, if you are around to see me look at a FAQ, then, by definition, company is around.

In any case, I disagree strongly with the assertion that I look at FAQs "all the time".

Friday, August 17, 2007 12:20:00 PM  

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