Are there good uses of tricking/shaming the player?

[the last of us/shadow of the colossus spoilers follow]

i've been reading about The Last of Us 2, mainly [Maddy Myers' review]( that's been going around and [Frank's tweets about it]( through all of the discussion, i've seen a lot of people talking about very clearly bad examples (TLOU2, Bioshock, etc.) and that had me curious about what are some good examples of this design in games?

the only example i could think of when trying to pull one up was Shadow of the Colossus, which i don't even think is that great of an example. over the years, i've started to feel less and less hot on the "you should feel bad about killing these things" trick that the game slowly morphs into because of the lack of agency to do anything different, but i was able to just try to embody the main character and see killing the colossi as something they want to do and try to roleplay off of that. in contrast, i was not able to do this at all in TLOU1 where i tried everything i could do to not kill the doctors at the end (trying to turn around and walk out, shooting warning shots over their shoulders instead of killing them, and waiting 5 minutes to see if the game would do anything) because i didn't want to do it.

curious to hear examples from games i haven't played!

yeah, I couldn‘t play SOTC even at the time, because I was like why do I have to kill these things? They’re just walking around? on top of making it difficult to do, it‘s like… who wants to do this. It wasn’t even a trick!

Anyway, I guess Undertale is a big one that successfully tricks you a bunch of times, sometimes in clever ways, sometimes in sad ways. Then there's the masocore genre with "I wanna be the guy" and etc, games that subvert your established knowledge of platform games. They're kind of tiring at this point, but the first time you see it it's pretty cute.

then with the drakengard/nier series, it's not quite a trick, but the fact that fully, 100% completing the game deletes your save feels like it falls into the same genre of idea sort of, and it works pretty well for the series.

personally I think tricking the player is good when you're doing it "for fun" or when you're playing with the player and their expectations in an amusing way. I am generally not a fan when it's about trying to teach the player something about morality, because the likelihood of that falling flat or in fact accidentally owning itself is extremely high!!

The most famous one is Bioshock I guess, and Clint Hocking had the final word on that.

I feel like there are a lot of games that present the player with actions and then turn around and make you feel about about the thing you did, but I‘m wracking my brain to think of good examples. Everything that comes to mind is only a sliver away from Spec: Ops: The Line’s “you have to do this thing to progress, but later we'll let you know that you had incomplete information and what you did was horrible, and your only other choice was to not play the game.”

I think games could do this - but there are so few where your encounter options are anything other than "defeat the bad guy." Games where you can talk a villain (particularly a rational villain doing something that they think to be the right thing - this doesn't really apply to most games to start with) out of their plan (without killing them), or where you can make their goal impossible (without killing them) aren't exactly common. I'm sure they exist, but I just can't seem to think of any...

I think the design paradigm of “wow you did the bad thing (that we made you do)” Is inherently flawed. The game intentionally doesn‘t present you with other options to avoid using your own agency in a given scenario, and then shames you for doing the only option it’s giving you in order to complete the game. Spec Ops: The Line is arguably the first, and last, example of this design and probably the only good context to pull that kind of scenario. It's a war shooter game sold as a satire/critique of the war shooter game.

Arguably when you're in a simulation and presented with one option, shaming you for doing that only option is unfair. The alternative is to turn the game off and walk away! It's just bad.

@James-#2035 that‘s what Undertale does! like @exodus was talking about earlier, i forgot that Undertale actually does this pretty well. because there is actually an option to avoid all combat/find an alternative solution, the choice to shame the player for doing the playthrough where you kill every creature in the game feels fair because the option is very clearly presented from the beginning. additionally, the shaming gets worse with each successive playthrough of the genocide route, to the point where after a number of times, the game directly asks the player "don’t you have anything better to do?" there's also a ton of other little subversions in the game that are great as well.

one thing i remembered thinking about this was the end of Majora's Mask where the characters essentially ask the player "doesn't it feel bad doing all these nice things for people via sidequests and then they just forget about you when the time loop resets?" it's less of the Empathy Lecture of games like Spec-Ops and TLOU and more of just posing a question to the player and letting them sit with it, which feels like more of a discussion to be had with the game rather than it kind of rubbing your nose in what it made you do

keeps muttering Nier to self, as though holding back a typhoon of commentary

Davey Wreden's games do this pretty well, hard to think of others that do.

Dark Souls as a series? In that once you start to piece together what linking the fire actually will mean for you, and that it won't really solve things, only delay them, the hope is that the player ponders the validity of their quest and repeating what has been done before. As the series wears on, characters directly question linking the fire / abdicate their responsibility to reignite a failed world.

How about the ‘Sorrow’ boss from Metal Gear Solid 3, a long corridor where you have to slowly trudge past the ghosts of every single enemy you've killed? It can be over in seconds if you play the game with limited kills, but takes an absolute age if you use the game to live out your Rambo fantasies.

(It's been a few years since I played it, but I'm pretty sure it worked that way)

Metal Gear in general always liked to give Snake a hard time for all the killing once he got to the last chunk of each game.

I gotta say I find everything Flower, Sun and Rain does regarding making the player go through unnecesary steps (literally) extremely funny. And the fact the DS version integrated an actual stepmeter only makes it funnier. The entire point of the game or at least a very good chunk of it seems to be poking fun at the player and the idea of videogames as escapism as a whole. Good videogame.

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I was uncomfortable with Shadow of the Colossus but was willing to go along with what it was doing. Same with Kane and Lynch 2.

But there have been other games I've quit because they included what seemed like lots of unnecessary killing without much thought behind it. These include Dragon Age, The Last of Us (the first one), and Tomb Raider (the first one), for example.

I can think of some good examples of tricking the player that have nothing to do with trying to make you feel bad, but to mention them would spoil them. One of my favorite recent examples is in Hollow Knight.

@JoJoestar Interesting to hear about Flower Sun and Rain - I love how it look but have always been unable to get very far in it. Want to explain some more? Or maybe I should just really sit down and do it.

@slugpaste interested in hearing about hollow knight, I guess there's no way to do a "spoilers" tag on here!? We should get that going. I say interested to hear because I really extremely did not like playing that game, but I'd be interested in hearing the trickery.

@exodus#2095 What motivated me to finally pull through was playing The Silver Case first and discovering that there is a very relevant and definitive connection between the 2 games. Giving any details about this is both a spoiler to The Silver Case and Flower, Sun and Rain, so I won't do that.

FSR starts to click when you finally get through the first chapters and start to realize it's a game much more light-hearted and funny that it seems at first glance, specially if you come from basically any other game from Suda51. It's a game that enjoys poking fun at itself and the player, and the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously invites the player to look past its flaws. I don't know, I really like it, but have in mind you'll get much more out of it if you play The Silver Case first, which is a completely different affair.

Fair enough - I mostly tried playing the PS2 game, and since most stuff isn‘t spoken I didn’t get very far. My reading comprehension is terrible. I should just get through that DS version finally!

@exodus#2106 That‘s unlucky, since most of the puzzles and interactions revolve around checking the in-game guide for tourists they give you at the start of the game. Another thing I didn’t mention is that it is a very well written videogame, the dialogs are quirky, dynamic and just the right amount of weird/humorous. I don‘t know japanese so I can’t compare to the PS2 version, but people that do tend to say the DS version is very well localized and the translation is good.

I realized now that in your first reply maybe you were asking me about the ways in which the game tricks or shames the player and I didn't comment on that. Well, the game takes place on an vacation island, and the protagonist is called there in order to find a bomb that someone has put in one of the planes of the local airport. The game also explains that the island is located on a weird magnetic field that makes time flow in an unusual way. This results on a game loop in which Sumio, the protagonist, wakes up every morning with the intent to rush towards the airport in order to find the bomb and fulfill his mission, but in each of the chapters he always gets distracted and ends up being entangled on the problems of the island's inhabitants and people staying at the local hotel. The game uses this to discuss escapism and avoiding responsability, including the player's, and brings up issues like the problems of being too kind and allowing others to push you around and putting their desires above yours.

Hope that helps!

this definitely makes me want to pick it up and give it a proper go - I guess it'll be next on my list, then!

I do a good enough job of shaming myself when I play video games - I don't need a game to do it for me !

@“exodus”#p2095 It looks like there are spoiler tags now. This is a fun and surprising event, so I‘d recommend not reading unless you really won’t ever play the game. In Hollow Knight, there is a ||bank where you can deposit the game‘s currency. At one point, you return to find the banker absent. You then tip over the bank itself, revealing that it was just a cheap cut-out and not a building at all. You’ve been robbed||.


@“exodus”#p2022 yeah, I couldn’t play SOTC even at the time, because I was like why do I have to kill these things? They’re just walking around? on top of making it difficult to do, it’s like… who wants to do this. It wasn’t even a trick!

it is a storytelling trick. the protagonist doesn't want to kill them, what he wants is to bring the princess back to life. he's willing to kill them because he believes that's what he needs to advance his goal.

the trick is coming up with a way to harmonize the experience of the player with the player character.