The internet is taking away the mystery of playing video games

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Graphic by Alan Li

A few weeks ago, a friend and I checked out the Arcade Bar in Waterloo because we were curious about the idea of a vintage game arcade. As someone who never got the chance to play the original Mortal Kombat, I was thrilled when I spotted the machine and we spent the better part of two hours entranced by it.

It was easily the most fun I’ve had gaming in a very long time, and it got me thinking — why?

It wasn’t because it was a fighting game — I’ve played those before.

It wasn’t because it was a co-op game either, as I’ve had my fair share of those as well.

But it was something about that experience which took me back to what got me so enchanted by video games to begin with.

It was something I’ve felt has been lacking in them for a long time.

We had so much fun with it because we knew absolutely nothing about the game at all.

We barely knew the controls, let alone all the combinations required for certain moves. The thrill of figuring everything out for ourselves — discovering and sharing it — made me feel like a kid again.

That experience has been so muddled with the popularity of the internet and the ease of access to game guides, video playthroughs, informative articles and everything else that’s designed to give you some kind of insight into making it easier.

It’s taken away a lot of the discovery you normally uncover when you play a game for the first time without any help or knowledge about it.

For example, when I first found out that I could use cheats in a game — thank you, The Sims — it was the greatest experience of my gaming life.

I would desperately scour the internet for as many of them that I could find in other solo player games and I had a lot of fun with it, too.

But that feeling faded over time and I was left dissatisfied with something that was intended to be fun.

I bypassed the challenge of the games I played for a momentary feeling of godhood.

Overall, it often left me with a sense of immediate disinterest, feeling as though I had detoured the excitement of figuring out how to play it on my own — without the need for cheating.

Now, with the games that I play, I almost always know something about it ahead of time.

I’ve browsed a Wikipedia article on it, I’ve watched a YouTube video on it, or I’ve looked up in-depth reviews. I don’t feel the same kind of childlike wonder that I did playing video games as a kid.

For example, Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 was my favourite game growing up and I never even got close to finishing it.

I would always end up restarting halfway through the game when it got tough.

I have never gone back to that game, because I don’t want to ruin the experience I once had being so bad at it.

In a sense, it was being so naive with video games that gave me such a thrill and it isn’t something I really experience that much anymore.

Now, I don’t know how much the internet did to harm the experience; maybe I’m just reflecting on my own changing experiences.

But with how easy you can access every Easter egg, enemy, level, challenge, or puzzle for a game, it just feels like so much of it has been taken out of our hands — willing though it may be.

I really miss playing games when I was younger, when I was ignorant, bad at them and simply did it for the sake of having fun, not to be the absolute best at them.

I miss running around the Grand Theft Auto universe — just stealing cars and trying to get as many police stars as I could — not caring about whether it was the right or wrong way to play it.


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