Despite the continual evolution and sophistication of today’s video games, there are certain elements that keep on cropping up and have become almost a parody of themselves. Here are a dozen video gaming clichés that refuse to go away…
1. Exploding barrels
Even though shooting a barrel with a gun won’t actually ignite the fuel inside, exploding barrels – often colour-coded to make them even more obvious for gamers – have been a staple of games since the first virtual bullet was fired.
You’ll often see them strategically positioned next to other flammable items, such as tanks, ammo caches, groups of enemies, locked doorways and so on. Of course, if you’re playing in an historical setting, barrels will be replaced by stone jars.
2. Dumb guards
Most guards in games have one purpose: to be killed. In stealth games you’ll find them at the start of a mission studiously facing away from you for a silent takedown. While in sniper missions, there’s usually a lone guard conveniently situated atop a lookout tower oblivious to his impending demise.
3. Really dumb guards
Not only are the idiots on guard duty always facing the wrong way, but they generally seem unperturbed when one of their comrades gets shot in the face or receives an arrow to the head.
There’s usually a few moments of bewilderment followed by a vague attempt at tracking down the source – but remain undetected for a few minutes and they’ll just go back to their business, standing guard near the bloodied corpse of their best mate. No alarms sounded. That’s commitment for you.
4. Cave rats
Rats – or some other lowly creature (wolves, dogs or giant spiders) are inevitably your initial targets when embarking on a new gaming adventure. There you are, a hero in the making, armed with a gleaming sword and shield, and what’s your first mission? Pest control. Usually, when some old lady sends you to a nearby cave to clear out all the vermin for a few gold coins and 100 XP.
Having proven your combat prowess against a horde of tiny rodents, it’s not long before the townsfolk start giving you menial errands. Never mind your sculptured physique, royal bloodline and legendary skillset, you’re constantly being asked to locate a missing necklace, harvest some crops or deliver notes to towns half-way across the map. The things we do for those experience points…
6. Timed evacuations
Nothing sets the pulse racing — or makes the heart sink — quite like an end-of-mission escape from an underground lair that’s about to explode. Flashing lights, labyrinthine corridors, an unreadable map and the persistent tick-tock of the countdown timer. All of which is inevitably met with you being within arm’s reach of the exit as the clock hits zero. So, let’s just do that all again…
7. Escort missions
Nothing stifles the enjoyment of a game like an escort mission. The thrilling, free-flowing action suddenly grinds to halt as you slowly pick your way through a level with an annoyingly dim-witted AI passenger in tow. It’s your task to keep them safe from harm, despite being assaulted from all sides and with a charge that either sits cowering, immovable, or panics and rushes headlong into a hail of fire. Escort missions are the buzzkill of the video game world.
8. Casual theft
You’re a supposed champion on a quest to rid the land of evil, yet in every home you enter – belonging to some poor downtrodden farmer who barely has enough food to feed his family – you just help yourself to their stuff. Or if you need a car, a truck or a plane in a more modern game, you simply take one, throwing the driver out onto the street in the process.
9. Suspicious amounts of health packs and ammo
It was all going swimmingly: you’ve defeated hordes of baddies and made rapid progress through the base/castle/underground complex, but you suddenly find yourself in one of two locations: the first is a small room filled with health packs and ammo, a single door ahead. This is a signal that advancing through said door will lead you into the mother of all battles or a horrible boss fight.
Location two tends to be a much larger room filled with health packs and ammo. This signals that you are already in the mother of all battles or boss fights, and you have about three seconds to prepare yourself for the onslaught. Oh, and the door just locked itself behind you – of course.
10. Suspicious amounts of waist-high walls
Since the advent of the cover shooter – we’re looking at you Gears of War – imminent hostilities are usually signalled by a small collection of waist-high obstacles in your path – low walls, abandoned cars, crates and boxes. They may as well erect a sign saying, ‘Firefight about to begin: please take your places’.
11. Quick Time Events
QTEs are such a lazy gaming device. Can’t be bothered to create an engaging animation or clever combat sequence? Just shove in a QTE. Whether its Lara Croft dodging falling debris, or Talion dispatching an orc in Shadow of War, they’re annoying and, when you’re not expecting them, incredibly frustrating. Dragon’s Lair has a lot to answer for.
12. Colour-coded weak points
Why go to the trouble of creating an enormous, fearsome boss creature only then to highlight its weak points with brightly-coloured, glow-in-the-dark paint? Next thing you know they’ll be putting in purchasable boxes of weapons and XP so you can just pay your way through the game. Oh, wait…
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