Don’t deny it. You’ve all experienced gameover screens. I bet even the most skilled gamer in the world (and there really isnt such a thing) has gotten more than enough share of gameovers. Some games forces us to rely on trial-and-error gameplay, some feature extremely difficult parts, and we all make mistakes. Simply put, gameover happens to every one of us.
But the real question is, how does that gameover screen make us feel?
When they review games, a lot of professional critics nowadays talk about how easy it is to pick up and play a certain game and how accessible it is. Well, I think this judgment can in some ways be made easier by evaluating how that game’s gameover screen makes us feel. Does it make you feel challenged? Does it annoy you? Frustrate you? Or does it enlighten you? Excite you?
I found that games that don’t have much of a learning curve have gameovers that aren’t frustrating or annoying. In these games, a gameover screen only made me try that mission or try that part again. These games were usually shooters where if I died, I simply respawned to either my last save point or the last checkpoint and I just tried again. A gameover screen for these games simply meant choosing continue and playing on. This is perhaps why first-person shooters nowadays have such a large appeal. When you get a gameover in an fps, it’s not like you just want to stop playing that game forever. No, you want to try again and see if you can beat it. It’s only after you get gameover repeatedly that the game loses its appeal. Then maybe it’s time to play at an easier difficulty or start from an older save. Or just skip the game altogether.
When a game has gameover screens that aren’t as easy to dismiss, the more likely it is to be labeled as a niche game. Take SOCOM games for example. There’s no check points in those games and the the only times you’re allowed to save are after you’ve beaten a mission. You can’t save during a mission, only after your success or your failure. Thus, a gameover screen in these games can be extremely frustrating. I remember when I was on my very last objective on a mission in SOCOM 2 and I had accomplished a lot of takedowns and stealth kills. It was then I was spotted by an enemy behind me and I died. Gameover. I was so mad, I didn’t play SOCOM 2 again for weeks.
Games like that are for the patient and are for the people who are really into the genre. I recently realized this as I played rpgs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Generation of Chaos. Gameovers in those games made me feel so angry because so continuing from a gameover meant putting that much effort and time into the same mission once again. Those gameovers really tested my patience and that’s when I realized why shooters were so popular. They may not be extremely shallow in storytelling, extremely simplistic in gameplay mechanics, and feature really dumb level designs, but their gameover screens usually invoke ambition more than frustration.
Now, not every gamer is the same. Me, I don’t really feel that much frustration in stealth games like Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid because sure it’s trial-and-error but when I fail in those games and I get a gameover screen, I find better ways to overcome that mission and I keep on continuing. In fact, I find stealth games easier to play than shooters like Uncharted or Halo or whatever. And since I really enjoy simulation games, a gameover screen on Ace Combat or Last place on Grand Turismo didn’t upset me all that much cause I was able to simply try again. But had I not liked the stealth genre or the simulation genre, I could definitely understand why people didn’t like those certain games.
We often don’t realize that a lot of the games we really enjoy are niche games. A gameover screen of a certain game may not make us upset all that much but to certain gamers, it’s enough to have them stop playing that game altogether. A gameover screen can encourage players to try again but more often than not, it just angers and alienates gamers, especially newcomers to the genre. So the next time you get a gameover screen, think about how that makes you feel and you’ll realize more deeply what kind of a gamer you are.