The clicking point of video games – Reader’s Feature


The Last Of Us Remastered – did it click with you straight away?

A reader explores that vital moment when a video game finally clicks with you, using examples from The Last Of Us to Cuphead.

The clicking point must be the ultimate goal for games designers. The point after the tutorial, when the gamified learning has embedded itself in the users’ mind, after this there’s the need for the further alchemical step of the game resonating with you… and then it has you. Its tendrils wrapping around your amygdala with the hope that this will also happen with a vast swathe of people and then a hit is born. Sounds easy when you put it like that, but I want to talk about this point in some of the games I‘ve played. It’s great when it happens and it can be the difference between feeling your time was invested rather than wasted.

The Last Of Us is now considered a byword for quality. It looks and plays extremely well but at least initially the game didn’t click for me. Why? Well it was to do with familiarity breeding contempt. After all, I’d played the Uncharted series to absolute death and was familiar with its knockabout Indiana Jones charms. I was expecting The Last Of Us to be a more serious and altogether deeper experience. Yes, The Last Of Us was that, but at least after the gut punch intro it took a while for the game to emotionally click with me because gameplay-wise you settled into a familiar rhythm of cover-shooting bad guys, stealth sections, crafting, and quiet puzzle-solving platforming sections. It was so familiar that I found myself asking if this was what all the fuss was about?

The clicking point snuck up on me. Throughout the game seeds had been laid with the naturalistic and believable incidental dialogue that happened during the quiet platforming sections. I had found my eyes drawn to Ellie, whom I found to be an endlessly fascinating and compelling companion. And certainly more relatable than anyone in the pulpy Uncharted series. It was for Ellie that I picked my way around clickers, bloaters, and angry people – not the grief stricken, gruff Joel. The winning point was scored when some adults kidnap Ellie and Ellie takes care of business herself by shedding her childlike vulnerability and taking on some of her adopted father’s hard-edged attitude. But somehow through it all Ellie maintains her humanity and as a result is a better person than Joel can ever hope to be.

The next example took me by surprise. I was at a friend’s house and he suggested we have a go on Overwatch, Blizzard’s technicolour character explosion of a multiplayer shooter. Fair enough, but there was just one snag for me. I HATE multiplayer shooters. Like, I really hate them. My self-esteem is bad enough without having it stomped into atomic powder by the savants who have a clairvoyant understanding of all the maps and trigger fingers powered by hummingbird muscles. But as it turned out, Overwatch wasn’t that type of shooter.

The clicking point came when I selected to play as Mercy. Mercy is a healer who uses a beam/tether to heal up the frontline players. Her role is about positional awareness (don’t stand in front of bullets) and listen or look for the folks who need healing. I’d been my usual rubbish self when I tried to shoot at people, but when asked to merely avoid bullets and help my buds I was great. I just pointed the beam and jumped about while other folks tried to zero me. It was uplifting to figure out that a whole other suite of skills could be useful in this most punishing discipline. And liberating to know that I could actually like and maybe even enjoy a genre of games that I previously hated. Like, really hated.

I paused for a bit, then my thumb reflexively bumped downward on the ‘X’ button a second too late for my ceramic-headed avatar and a thought dawned on me. This is my 245th death in Cuphead (you can see this in a pool in the second area). This event was also the clicking point when I realised that this much fatality would usually have driven me madder than Raul Julia’s (RIP) performance as M. Bison in the live action Street Fighter movie. But it hadn’t. In fact, I was quite happy when I realised that Cuphead had done its job well. From reading the reports about it, it seems to have sold very well and demonstrated that an offbeat artistic vision, a modest budget, and laser-focused gameplay balancing could be the key ingredients for a sure-fire video game hit. Who would have thunk it!

Staying with the indie scene, I had a delightful time with Ori And The Blind Forest and the moment I realised I’d fallen for it was the section I like to call the chimney stack escape. It’s a devilish section where Ori has to stay ahead of a flood at it rises up the inside of a tree trunk. It required the use of several abilities learned only hours earlier to work in concert with fast hands and faster eyes. A small misstep and you are certainly doomed, and I managed this feat on my first attempt. Now, I’m no gaming expert but the intuitive button-mapping, screen prompts, and the response of my avatar to my commands allowed me to guide my cat-like white wisp through that treacherous challenge and I was so happy that it was love at first go. Ori really is a special game, employing Metroidvania game design to drive achievement and satisfaction throughout its short but sweet runtime.

There are many more but I’d like to give one more example before I naff off to the pub and that is the clicking point of Life Is Strange. This will probably be different for every person who fell in love with Dontnod’s brilliant game, but for me it was the sequence of events at the end of Episode 2. Throughout this episode you are concentrating on what seems to be the main task of trying to be a friend to a stroppy, moody Chole. However, you are constantly arm-pulled by a series of annoying interruptions which Chole unhelpfully takes as a series of personal insults. As this continues you get distracted and lose focus and before you know it those decisions you took while unfocused and not paying attention come home to roost. The open-mouthed horror of this sequence was enough for me to realise that I was hungry to dive into Episode 3 straight away. Instead I had to google ‘Life Is Strange Episode 3 release date UK’ and hit F5 until I lost the fingerprint from my right index finger… worth it.

Games designers and patrons both hope for the point at which a game clicks with them. It’s a classic win-win and for every massive-selling game there are a legion of fans who will cite a different reason for their amore. The fact is though it is a deeply personal rationale, in fact there are definitely a large group of people reading this article who look at the games I’ve listed and have entirely different clicking points in mind. And that is totally fine. If that is indeed the case then share them with the world in the comments below, I’d love to hear what they were.

By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk and follow us on Twitter.





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