My top 12 most annoying video game clichés
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My top 12 most annoying video game clichés

Kevin Hofer
Kevin Hofer
Zurich, on 23.02.2018
Translation: Eva Francis
Mario saves his darling Peach, dwarfs speak with a Scottish accent, red barrels always explode – video games are full of clichés. Nevertheless (or possibly because of this), we love them. I’ve set out to list the twelve most overused clichés in gaming.

1. Your [Insert: female character] has been kidnapped – the «damsel-in-distress» theme

Be it Donkey Kong or Bowser: Peach, probably the clumsiest NPC (or better: «non-personality character» 😉) of all times, has herself kidnapped once again in the new «Mario» game. Defenceless female characters are the number one reason why video game heroes put their life on the line. Mario and Co. could do with considerably more imaginative motives than this.

«Super Mario Odyssey» sees the 24th time Peach is kidnapped. She just doesn’t learn from her mistakes.

2. Who am I? – amnesia as golden thread

Hot do you make sure the player identifies with the character? By making sure the character knows just as much about himself as the person playing does – nothing at all. Amnesia is a popular starting point to video game stories. Not a bad idea, but one that gets boring rather quickly.

Here’s a list of video game characters that suffer from amnesia.

3. Scene of destruction – thirst for revenge

Villains destroy your home town and kill your family. No way you’re going to sit idle – it’s payback time! In your quest for revenge, you smash everything and everyone to bits that gets into your way. Does this sound familiar? Of course it does. After all, it’s the storyline of what feels like every other video game.

Here’s a list of game characters who’ve set out to satisfy their thirst for revenge.

4. Danger of explosion – conveniently placed barrels

You’re hunting for your next opponents when, all of a sudden, damaged cars block your pathway. Watch out, you’re sure to find something else next to the cars (by pure coincidence): red barrels that say «danger of explosion». Two seconds later, the cars have disappeared and you continue to go your way. You’ve become so aware of red barrels that you might shoot at them on your way to work (but you never see any in real life).

«Fun with explosions»: Red barrels all over the place.

5. Not without the key – locked doors and waist-high obstacles

You have a sword that allows you to butcher even the largest opponents and a rocket launcher that’s ready to go any time. On level 77, you’d easily beat anyone, even the end boss. But when you face an old wooden door and don’t have the key, you’re lost. There’s absolutely no way to open the door without the key. That’s just ridiculous! The sword or the rocket launcher could easily take on this old door and on level 77, you could just blow the door down like the wolf in Three Little Pigs. But no, some hilarious developer decided nothing but the right key can open this door.

This is annoying enough with locked doors, but when the same happens with waist-high obstacles, it gets unbearable. Your character is the buffest imaginable soldier who’s gone through elite training, but he can’t jump onto or climb up a wall that’s as high as his waistline? Really? Didn’t he learn how to jump? Are you really saying he can run around for hours, but he can’t lift his well-toned legs off the ground to jump onto a wall?

6. Recycling locations – backtracking

After 15 hours of gaming, you eventually find the key to open the door that’s located in the first area. To unlock it, you have to go all the way back to that previously explored area. Referred to as backtracking, this rather artificial way of extending a game is simply annoying and still used (too) often today. The «Metroid» series is famous for it, but the second part of the «Tomb-Raider» reboot also makes use of backtracking.

The mother of backtracking: Metroid on the NES

7. Recycling characters – colour swap

It used to be necessary due to technical limitations, but today it’s nothing but lazy: All that changes about NPCs is the colour of their shirt. The weak ones wear yellow, the slightly stronger ones red, for instance.

A colour swap classic: «River City Ransom» on the NES (featuring what I think is the catchiest soundtrack of all NES games).

8. Ashley Graham is irritating – escort missions

As if keeping yourself alive wasn’t hard enough, some video games make you look after another – often rather dumb and clumsy – NPC. These escort missions can really spoil your enjoyment of playing. I experienced this with «Resident Evil 4»: It’s a great game apart from the fact that Ashley, other than having to be rescued, adds nothing to the storyline (see point 1).

Here’s another list, this time one of the worst escort missions in video games.

9. Chicken drumsticks, medpacks and co.

How a medpack is supposed to heal a gunshot wound within seconds is a mystery to me, but how on earth does a chicken drumstick do it? Despite it being completely off the wall, food and items with first aid signs on them have been an integral part of video games for many years. Admittedly, new inventions such as healing by taking shelter aren’t more realistic either. Have you even seen anyone regenerate from a headshot by squatting down behind a concrete block? I get that there needs to be a way to simulate that a player is healing, but these strange remedies have become so established that it’s easy to forget how ridiculous they actually are.

10. Danger is lurking behind every corner – jump scares

I hate jump scares. Ever since those darn dogs in «Resident Evil» jumped in through the window, I’m constantly on pins and needles when I play a horror game. I don’t mind getting a fright; I actually quite enjoy the tension and feeling my heart racing. But why does it always have to end in a jump scare? Of course, it scares the hell out of me every time, but jump scares are getting a bit boring.

This one is for all the jump scare fans out there (including me) …

11. Foreshadowing and too obvious protection

Tons of munitions, miraculous remedies (see point 9) and no opponent in sight. Ehm… What’s next? It couldn’t be more obvious that a major opponent or boss is approaching. Next, you’ll be running across a huge area with a few items that look suspiciously suitable as protection. You see what I’m getting at.

12. Doomed to die but well a live – QTE

The first time I came across QTEs was in the first «Shenmue» on the Dreamcast. I quite liked them at first, but after three of them, I’d had enough. How annoying! The «God of War» series carried it too far; all those QTEs make this game unplayable in my mind.

The last list: Worst ever QTEs.

Which video game clichés have you had enough of? Let us know by commenting below.

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Kevin Hofer
Kevin Hofer
Editor, Zurich
From big data to big brother, Cyborgs to Sci-Fi. All aspects of technology and society fascinate me.

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