Google, YouTube, Twitch, and the Fall of Discovery-Based Gaming (Long)

Let me begin with while I'm becoming an older gamer (30), I've been hardcore gaming since I was about four or five years old. Just a little context to give a nod to how things have changed over time.

Back in the 90s, I distinctly remember getting my hands on new console games and having very limited help resources when it came to progressing through games and finding the secrets, other than those around me and my own experiences. Commercial internet was becoming larger, but GameFAQs hadn't come about yet and information online was incomplete, choppy, sloppy, and sore on the eyes. If you were stuck in the water temple in Ocarina of Time and needed help or couldn't track down all the life hearts, your best bet was a $20 Prima strategy guide. As a kid, this wasn't feasible.

Gaming was more about approaching problems, learning how to solve them and feeling triumph when successful, or persevering and trying again when running into issues. There was a large amount of fulfillment when completing a title - especially when you were able to figure it out on your own and try new methods that led to success. Super Metroid on SNES is a big one for me. I've played it many times over the years, but can very clearly remember my first blundering completion with a 40% discovery of all items. When you would have a higher completion percentage, Samus would have an alternate ending animation or sprite - incredibly simple and primitive, but a strong motivator toward finding all items. It was when I got 100%, I felt I had truly achieved. It was that washing feeling of success that still brings me back to the game to this day.

While the plethora of information for just about any game today is handy and easily-accessible online, I feel it has destroyed this aspect of gaming. I also believe it has led to increased hand-holding in games and reduced difficulty. Allow me to elaborate and to use Path of Exile as an example:

Harvest league introduced some unique deterministic crafting mechanics - which, to me, is a breath of fresh air. With it, however, came the usual complexity that comes with a crafting league (although nowhere near as ridiculous as Synthesis's Memory Nexus), which was the garden setup. At first glance, it seemed a little overwhelming. You have these new place-able objects and don't know how you should set them down. You decide to place a few farms, then realize your setup isn't as good as it could be. So you renovate and try another layout.

I did this several times. Sometimes multiple times in a day. I would completely gut my layout and do it again shortly after realizing improvements could be made. I had some wild setups: over 120 tanks and 20 collectors for each color, as an example. I wanted to go buck-wild with collectors when I realized deliriums paused in the Sacred Grove. Being a huge fan of survival games and games like Factorio, this ability to create customized layouts of varying efficiency was an absolute joy for me.

Some of my close friends also play PoE, but they did not get the same satisfaction from building a farm as I did. They wanted the optimal plan and immediately went to Google and found the most space-effective plans they could get, then copied them to the tee. They laser-focused on pushing their tiers and hunted for specific seeds to craft modifiers that would sell. Between pushing the garden, they would scour YouTube and watch other peoples' approaches to Harvest and stay on top of popular content creators like Empyrean, mBxtreme and Mathil to discover popular methods.

Every day, I would get screenshots and messages from my pals asking if I had seen what these creators were doing, when I don't really ever watch their videos. All I could do was roll my eyes. While I was enjoying the thrill of discovery and learning at my own pace, they just wanted to soak up all the information they could on the quest for "meta-play." I understand everyone has a different approach to gaming and we all operate differently, but this neurotic drive for efficiency began to really bother me. When I would learn something and share it, the typical response was in a "Duh" fashion, with an attitude of "Where have you been? Get on our level."

I started to complain about this to the guys, but they didn't really understand. We are all about the same age. I asked them, "What about learning things the old fashioned way? Do you really need to jump to YouTube every time you need a question answered?" The typical response was "Everyone else is doing it!"

When I purchased Subnautica a few years back, I refused to go online for any help. I closed the browser, put on the headset and let the game take me on a journey. It was an amazing experience. I had so much fun, I had to share my game stories with my friends. When I did, the first thing they did was YouTube "Subnautica gameplay highlights and end game" and watched for five minutes before deciding whether or not the game was any good.

While this is a scenario unique to my circle, I know this is a wider phenomenon that leaves me to question if I've just fallen behind the times, or if the philosophy of gaming has changed over the years and I'm having a hard time accepting and adapting to it.

To me, discovery is something that keeps games interesting. While PoE is loaded to the brim with information - some of which can spell a failed character or some that can result in a character being able to delete all content in the game, I find that learning the lessons along the way is how the game can stay exciting and fresh, even after 2,000 hours played (I know that's small-fry compared to some of you, but it's still way more time than most people put into a single game!).

Developers spend countless hours packing away so much well-thought detail into a game, only for players to completely unroll and explain all of the secrets for the masses to see in days or weeks - sometimes within hours of launch. They speedrun a game that should take 40+ hours in 5 minutes (sometimes less). They blitz the content as fast as they can, then demand more or move on to something else. If they hit a snag in the game in the form of a puzzle or mechanic, they Google the answer and move on.

Players always seem to be searching for "the solution," or the meta-strategy that will allow them to coast through the content without much effort put in. As a result, all that work that the developers put in kind of goes to waste. The thrill is gone, the discovery lost. It becomes less about the journey and more about the destination, when the game was made to be enjoyed the entire way through.

Outside of these forums and elsewhere on the internet, I've never personally met anyone on PoE that has taken the time to try theorycrafting a build. I love Tectonic Slam. I know it's not the "meta" skill, but I love the playstyle. Since I've used it so much, I no longer refer to outside resources for build advice. Now I make my own Tec Slam builds and I've done some wild combinations. My buddies always try to interject with "Why don't you do it this way, x streamer has done it like this," but I can't find any value of just copying other peoples' work. My pals will go online and soak up information, taking pride in having all of this knowledge about the game; however, every league, they hop right into a build that someone else made, take it to the end of the game, then proclaim they're "destroying everything" as if they alone solved the problem, and thus the game.

This all seems to boil down to the desire for the path of least resistance. I like a challenge. Call me a masochist, but I enjoy the pain of constant defeat, because victory becomes so much sweeter. I feel that if it weren't so easy to Google the answer to a game when things become difficult, we wouldn't have a need for games like Dark Souls, which have obnoxiously over-tuned punish mechanics to overcome "The Google Method" (despite it still being able to offer some assistance). Games would continue to have inherent challenge and developers would stay vigilant in ensuring their games are not only polished, but contain rich content and a plethora of secrets, if players didn't have instant-access to all the solutions at their fingertips.

Many developers today not only expect players will search for the answers, but also encourage it. They offer exceptionally easy difficulties, overly-explanatory hints and tips (looking at you DOOM: Eternal) and often skirt out on overly-challenging areas, alternate ways to finish the game, and other hidden eggs/areas that the player can discover. Why spend so much time developing intricate mechanics and hidden strategies if players will just post them in a "solution-like" compilation for all to see without any effort?

As another example, refer to the latest Tomb Raider games. Anyone who has played the Playstation 1 Tomb Raider games and the games of today can confidently tell you that the earlier titles were much more difficult. The puzzles required some thought and you sometimes needed to backtrack in order to progress. The Tomb Raider of today uses pretty primitive puzzles that don't require too much cognition to solve. The difficulty increase of the game reduces how many missteps you can make (more damage taken), but doesn't require you to discover approaches toward solving problems like the original titles did. And even if you do get hung up, the internet is right around the corner to hold your hand and guide you through to the next area.

Now, I do understand there are plenty of games out there that defy my argument. I'm hinting toward the entire industry at large. AAA titles, large MMOs, games tailored for a wide audience, etc. I've seen it evolve into two choices: games that can have the solution immediately found online, or games that are so mindlessly easy and diluted, they feel as if they're missing something. There isn't really an in-between, nor can there really be one. It's not as if a title will be released where the community will decide to withhold posting critical information for everyone else to see. There will always be a devoted following searching for meta-strategies, which takes us full-circle.

As I type this, I wonder what the point of this thread is. It won't change anything. It won't sway anyone. It's mostly just me letting my fingers fly. The internet is fantastic - don't get me wrong. I just feel it has tainted some of the core aspects of what has made gaming so pleasurable. And it wouldn't bother me as much if I was playing a single player game. A game like Path of Exile, however, gives power to those with knowledge, which can cause change to impact everyone via economy. When I run a delirium and feel proud of getting 30 simulacrum splinters in a run, my friends will always be there to remind me that Empyrean was able to get 10x that amount by doing x mechanic with y mechanic with z items. Then I will feel really small and ask myself, "Why do I even bother?"

Thanks for reading this massive essay. Have a great day!

TL;DR - Internet has made getting information on mechanics and finding "the solution" to games too easy; has resulted in games becoming less-difficult, less-developed and offering the player less thrill of discovery.
Last edited by DuALsTRIKE on Jul 7, 2020, 2:18:00 AM
Last bumped on Jul 22, 2020, 11:35:18 AM
I think it's a mistake to talk of "the philosophy of gaming", as if that's one uniform thing. "Gaming" is countless individual players and creators each with their own ideas, preferences, priorities. There are all sorts of different philosophies present in among all that.

As you noted, you're able to make the choice. There might be lots of guides and information out there, but nobody's forcing people to use them. Anyone who wants to discover the game themselves is free to do so. You've discovered that your friends prefer to check out videos before they play, and you don't. That's okay, right? Different people can each do things their own way; seems to me that that's actually an improvement, not a "taint".
imagine being 30 years old and being the kind of "gamer" who gatekeeps like this, jesus fucking christ you should be embarassed that your "friends" watching a youtube video made you so upset you wall posted on a video game's official forums
27Jun20 - 27Jul20
SC Harvest Private League w/ Damage Mods
F2P
https://www.pathofexile.com/private-leagues/league/Reep+What+U+Sow
Last edited by Contrapatior on Jul 7, 2020, 6:03:49 AM
I do miss the days when all that was available for an NES game was the 10-page instruction manual - or 80 pages in Final Fantasy's case, haha - and maybe a tip hotline listed on the back. And actually, I remember a few of my friends not bothering with the manuals. They would get stuck at a place that required a certain maneuver (like sliding in Mega Man 3) or not know what a piece of equipment or item was for, and it would usually boil down to "read the manual!!!" I miss good manuals...

I understand the notion of discovery and that befuddling feeling of seeing other people just completely bypass that element to milk every drop on their first playthrough. But for me, the only difference between now and back then is the availability of the media that lets you do that. I had friends in school with parents who would buy subscriptions to multiple game magazines, every strategy guide needed, Game Genies, cheat books, etc. Some of these friends would play the game "honestly" the first time around and save the magazines and cheat codes for later. But the others would eat up everything available before they even got the game in their hands, and they hardly ever played without cheats (none of those guys beat DOOM without IDDQD).

Google, Youtube, and Twitch have removed the pay wall for info access (provided one has internet), so to speak, but those people have always been out there. I play games how I enjoy them and just try to ignore those others.

"
3DNeophyte wrote:
I do miss the days when all that was available for an NES game was the 10-page instruction manual - or 80 pages in Final Fantasy's case, haha - and maybe a tip hotline listed on the back. And actually, I remember a few of my friends not bothering with the manuals. They would get stuck at a place that required a certain maneuver (like sliding in Mega Man 3) or not know what a piece of equipment or item was for, and it would usually boil down to "read the manual!!!" I miss good manuals...

I understand the notion of discovery and that befuddling feeling of seeing other people just completely bypass that element to milk every drop on their first playthrough. But for me, the only difference between now and back then is the availability of the media that lets you do that. I had friends in school with parents who would buy subscriptions to multiple game magazines, every strategy guide needed, Game Genies, cheat books, etc. Some of these friends would play the game "honestly" the first time around and save the magazines and cheat codes for later. But the others would eat up everything available before they even got the game in their hands, and they hardly ever played without cheats (none of those guys beat DOOM without IDDQD).

Google, Youtube, and Twitch have removed the pay wall for info access (provided one has internet), so to speak, but those people have always been out there. I play games how I enjoy them and just try to ignore those others.



I'm glad to see I am not the only one that appreciates the lack of information and the thrill of discovery. :-) Those were certainly the days, weren't they?

I remember sitting in school talking about games with other people and there would be similar points where we'd get stuck in a game. Someone may have figured out how to get past it, then when they would share, it would be this mind-blowing "aha!" moment. They were the little things that brought us closer together, like a shared common goal.

Most people growing up today aren't very familiar with that, as they have a wiki or a YouTube video to solve their concerns. It boils down into who has spent more time on the game, or who has accomplished more - rather than who has been able to solve a puzzle to get into the next room.

I can appreciate your final statement about playing how you want to. I try to live by this mantra, although it can be difficult when surrounded by influencers who always want to do things "the best way."
Last edited by DuALsTRIKE on Jul 7, 2020, 12:36:22 PM
denser than a fossil
27Jun20 - 27Jul20
SC Harvest Private League w/ Damage Mods
F2P
https://www.pathofexile.com/private-leagues/league/Reep+What+U+Sow
"
Contrapatior wrote:
denser than a fossil


They're only going for 2c right now. :-/
Multiplayer is all about competition, and competition absolutely demands unambiguous markers of comparison.

Which is why game studios are total dicks about explaining how things work (or rather, not explaining a thing) and foisting hidden, obfuscated, overly convoluted, and sometimes just arbitrarily horseshit mechanics on players. Because some feature-streamers are hugely entitled and need their chains jerked once in a while.

But also because multiplayer games aren't really lacking in the kind of OCD nerd power that typically data mines any new content and has an excel spreadsheet showing exactly what content to do when and how to do it for maximal profits. Why make the nerds' job any easier by explaining how things work?

For a lot of these people, THAT is the discovery-based gaming, not the actual rolling up of characters and plodding through storylines and searching the stars for renegades. A built-in wiki for all things PoE economy-related might just destroy "the game" for a growing number of armchair economists and statisticians.
"How do you lure the Elder to the centre of the Atlas?"
"A box trap with some candy should do the trick"
I would humbly submit that a better genre of games for you, in terms of how much enjoyment you might be able to extract from it, are PvP games - in particular more complex PvP games, such as Real Time Strategy. The great thing about those games is that there is no final solution, no "solved" state that people can Google their way to. Sure there are recommended build orders, but they vary by situation and only matter in the early game anyway. They're all about thinking and responding to new information - on the fly, without the leisure of Google.

For what it's worth, I'd recommend Age of Empires 2. It's currently experiencing a renaissance, and tends to have longer matches i.e. ones that actually reach its endgame and so aren't decided by build orders, than its rival Starcraft. Also easier to get into than Starcraft, since it isn't quite as APM-reliant.
[quote="Qarl"]Fixed a bug where occasionally Fairgraves, Neverdying never dies[/quote]
Discovery-Based Gaming

Half Life. Yes. Since the map is well designed and actually linear. A lot of environmental hint for solving the puzzle to move forward.


Halo 1? These c&p environment and actually linear path and without a map and without run button? No way. these meta should not be back. (the list can go on to Jedi Outcast that you literally lost on the map due to poor hint on where to go and where to discover the "secret" path)

Also, there is a lot of guide in gamespot probably 20 years ago already. I bought paper based game magazine in my home country for guide too. I don't think 20 years ago no one wrote a build guide for Diablo 2 or Titan Quest.

The problem is not due to internet. Yeah game like MOHAA is so linear that you just need to know go forward and shoot, but hard to tell it is dev to make gamer dumber or the game is too dumb so that dev design new game to be dumb proof
I am not a GGG employee. I don't get pay to reply you. My edits in POE wiki are voluntary work, thanks.

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