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Video Game Guides: Blasphemy or Efficiency?

My typical week before COVID-19 hit included at least three nights of tabletop gaming with friends, but social distancing has taken those from me. That and pho, and I’m honestly not sure which I am most angry about.

As a result, I’ve found myself picking up a video game controller with a frequency unseen since my days in college, with about 95% of the games being of the solo campaign variety – the only exception being a little Titanfall 2 multiplayer action from time to time.

I’ve played God of War (2016), The Last of Us, Horizon Zero Dawn, Jedi: Fallen Order, The Surge, and am now diving into Path of Exile (which may keep me social distancing for much longer than any government order requires). Some I’ve completed, and others I stalled out on. Maybe I’ll return to them, maybe I won’t. I’m my own boss!

I used to be a HUGE achievement/trophy hound back in the day. While the thirst has subsided quite a bit, the habit of checking the game’s list before I play persists. I can’t help myself!

[Side Tangent: I can’t stand and do not understand Hidden or Secret achievements or trophies. Why bother, game developers? The internet reveals all. Please save me a Google search, why don’tcha?! Sheesh.]

Before beginning Titanfall 2, I noticed the trophies Off the Beaten Path, Collector, and Every Nook and Cranny – all three about finding hidden collectibles throughout the campaign. I have a love/hate relationship with collectibles in video games and I don’t think Titanfall 2 does them particularly well, but I couldn’t help myself.

However, I wasn’t going to actually check every nook and cranny. Why would I do that when video game guides for the locations of those collectibles exist online? I decided I’d save myself tons of times and possibly multiple play-throughs of the levels.

Some might consider this lazy or, at worst, cheating. And perhaps it is one or both. But here’s the thing: I game radically different today than I did when I was younger – a truth Clave spoke to in another post for Nerds on Earth.

As a younger gamer, I loved throwing hours into exploring every nook and cranny of a video game. Nowadays I am about efficiency more than I am exploration. I still want to see all a game has to offer, but I don’t necessarily want to pretend I’m Lewis, Clark, Magellan, or Columbus when doing so. I’ll happily use someone else’s map.

Part of the reason why is that if I did do all that trailblazing on my own, I may still miss stuff! The very thought annoys me as I type this. So when it comes to hunting down collectibles, I use video game guides and I’m not ashamed one bit by it.

I also like to use the achievement / trophy lists as a checklist of various gameplay mechanic challenges. Sticking to Titanfall 2, there are a handful of trophies that challenge you to perform certain tricky maneuvers. You can absolutely beat the game without performing a single one of these, but a new wrinkle of difficulty is added by pursuing them:

  • Annihilation: Kill 25 infantry in 2 seconds as a Titan in the campaign.
  • You Can Be My Wingman Anytime: Destory an enemy Titan as a Pilot in the campaign.
  • I Know Kung Fu: Shoot and kill 3 enemies in a row while wall running as a Pilot in the campaign.
  • Power Slide: Shoot and kill 3 enemies in a row while sliding as a Pilot in the campaign.

And you know what? I had to look up how to get Annihilation. Did that rob me of any of the joy of killing 25 infantry in 2 seconds? Heck no! It enabled it! That’s the opposite of robbing me of joy.

Now, what I won’t do is follow a walkthrough guide. Those I don’t understand personally. I’ve only ever used one and that was for Fallout 3 back in college when one of my roommates bet me I couldn’t beat it in three days. I skipped classes, hardly slept, and earned myself a cool $20 proving him wrong.

But walkthrough guides like the official one I bought for Fallout 3 damage the immersion factor of whatever you’re playing as you’re constantly pausing to consult the text, and they all but do away with surprises. Trial and error is also diminished – if not done away with entirely – and I personally think that process is essential to the feeling of achievement and reward as you play.

But you know what: If that’s how you game, I don’t fault you for it. I think the way we choose to game is a form of self-expression, and I’m not here to squash that at all! I think this is true of any kind of game. If you love going for military might over agricultural production in a tabletop game: More power to you (literally). If you refuse to play anything but a raging Barbarian in D&D: Have fun!

Some will say “You’re not playing the game right,” but what they’re really saying is “You’re not playing it the way I think it should be played.” Every approach to a game, be it video game or tabletop, is going to provide a different experience, and for every experience there is an opinion. Only by doing things your preferred way will enjoyment be had, so you do you!

By the way, if you’re looking for achievement / trophy guides, collectible guides, or full walkthrough guides, I recommend You can also find all sorts off videos for any kind of guide you’re looking for on Youtube.

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