Since I’m crabby about Nerd Shit today: I don’t like when video games try to excuse bad design by saying “this is a game where you’re doing terrible things, so you’re supposed to feel uncomfortable”. 

(In context: Metroid II is widely regarded as a badly-designed game, to the point where it’s had two remakes. I haven’t played it, and there’s a case to be made both ways, but this is someone trying to defend it from the accusation that it’s badly designed by saying the bad design is supposed to make you uncomfortable.)

 Nier Automata is one of the best-designed, most enjoyable games to play that I’ve seen. The world maps are huge and gorgeous, the combat is tight and satisfying- so satisfying that it’s a joy to watch, I can’t imagine how it must be to play- minigames that don’t completely suck, interesting characters, fun bossfights with Touhou mechanics to shake up your standard RPG formula, and an absolutely godlike soundtrack. I mean all I really need to say is ‘it’s a Platinum game with Yoko Taro in charge of everything but the gameplay’.  

Nier Automata has also managed to make me more uncomfortable than almost any game I’ve ever played. It’s on par with the genocide route of Undertale– which is specifically designed to be unfun and to make you feel like a monster. 

 Undertale enemies keep attacking you regardless of whether you attack first. ‘Sparing’ them requires surviving a few rounds of combat. In Nier Automata, most of the generic enemies you meet in the first stages are non-hostile unless you attack them first.  They just kind of wander around staring at stuff.

Most generic Undertale enemies don’t cry out or beg for mercy as you’re killing them. (Some of the bosses do, but not the regular enemies). In contrast, the Nier Automata enemies say things like “OW” when you hit them, or “hurts…”, and when you try to break up a big group of them… they start chanting. I’m just gonna link you to the soundtrack of the boss battle that follows

… I’m not saying UNDERTALE IS BAD AND AUTOMATA IS THE BEST GAME EVAR. (Though it’s rapidly become one of my favourites). Undertale is a great game. It’s funny, it’s full of heart, and even though I don’t completely agree with the themes it’s trying to convey, I love the characters and the slightly-off-the-wall world.  And while Automata is the game that’s been most on my mind lately, I could have made the same point with, say, Bloodborne. (Great design, fantastically satisfying to play, MASSIVELY UNCOMFORTABLE in true Lovecraftian fashion.) Or the original Thief. (Great design, satisfying as hell to play, makes you so paranoid you can only play it in 15-minute chunks and murdering guards Does Not Feel Good At All). 

 Good game design can still make the player feel uncomfortable, whether it’s because of dread, oppressive smallness, or ‘oh god what have I done’. Yes, it takes work. But it’s overall better for your players and your game and it makes sure people will remember the experience you’re trying to get across.

When someone says they’re a fan of Fire Emblem Awakening...


Pat them on the back. Be happy that our fandom has a new member. Let them in through the front door with a warm handshake. Be nice. Be civil. Let them geek out about their favourite units for a bit. Make them feel like they have a place in the community.

Then, when they ask, “I found this axe called “Armads” in the DLC, what’s the significance of that?” you can tell them, “That’s from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. You should check it out, the series has a tonne of great history that you would enjoy.”  And then they might go off and play that game and come back and say, “Hey, that game was awesome!  Do you have any other recommendations?” and then you can tell them, “Sure!  Go check out Genealogy of the Holy War if you want to see a darker version of Awakening. If you want to know who this Ike guy everyone keeps going on about is, try to play Path of Radiance. I hope you have fun with them!”

Because some of those newbies want to get into our fandom. Because not all of those newcomers are obsessed with fapping/schlicking to their waifus/husbandos. And when we, the old guard, start looking down on them and demanding that they, “go pleh a reel fiya emburemu gaem FFS” that makes us look like complete dickbags and doesn’t give the newbies much incentive to discover everything we’ve always loved about the franchise and its history.

You want a better fandom, I get it. So be it.