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Challenging Games Are Ruined By Tutorials

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Building your very first house in Minecraft. Uncovering a hidden entrance in The Legend of Zelda. Creating your own base in Don’t Starve. There are some excellent memories I’ve gained over my years with gaming, but none are as rich or as prevalent in my mind as discovery. Learning something using my own logic, figuring something out without the game blatantly telling me what to do. Lately, games fail to present that same challenge to players, and they’re worse for it. Tutorials make challenging games trivially easy. If you are looking for a challenging game, choose anything and play without the tutorial.

We all know why tutorials exist. They help people play new games, experience new genres and learn new mechanics that they could never have imagined. That’s fantastic, and it helps keep games accessible for years to come.

After playing games for 15 years though, I crave going in blind. I am desperate to stumble in the dark, grasping for a clue of how to progress in my brain.

Recently, I found Astroneer on Xbox Game Pass. Astroneer is a sandbox adventure game with some survival elements. Base-building, crafting, Oxygen meters – the works. On the main menu, there is an option for a tutorial. This isn’t anything new, as most games offer tutorials optionally.

However, it caught me off guard after spending time in Pokémon Shield and Cold War’s Zombies mode for a few weeks. These games are both great, but they also feed players like babies with aeroplane noises and a spoon.

Everything is laid out for the player: go here, defeat this, turn this on to Pack-A-Punch. Trivial stuff, which I definitely figured out alone when I was younger. I didn’t need an objective marker on the Pack-A-Punch machine, but apparently it’s necessary now.

So, when handed the option in Astroneer, I ran with it. I shook my head at the tutorial and leapt head-first into a new world. It was daunting and confusing at first. I wasn’t sure how to craft basic items, or how to refine certain elements that I found. Likewise, I wasn’t too sure what I was supposed to be doing.

Those first few hours with the game were magical. I looked through the crafting menu, marvelling at objects that would soon seem rather simple, like storage units and Oxygen tethers.

As I explored further, I found huge contraptions to synthesise new metals, ways to automate my base that I could never have dreamed of, and rocket parts that could send me to new planets. Suddenly, I had my own objectives. I wanted to have automated bases on every planet in the game.

The tutorial might have hinted that this was the goal. It probably would’ve shown me how to make basic things like tethers and a storage unit. I probably would’ve learned how to send electricity around my base much faster.

But I don’t want to be told all those things. Instead, discovering them myself is a gaming memory that I will always cherish.

Astroneer isn’t particularly difficult, yet I was mesmerized by the huge expanse of knowledge I needed to wrap my head around. Instead of needing to remember heaps of information and becoming overwhelmed, Astroneer let me discover mechanics at my own snail pace. I felt proud of everything I learned whilst playing, which I haven’t felt in a long time with games.

Sure, I could have saved time by using tutorials. However, I don’t think Astroneer would’ve been the same after. A linear guided tour of the game would’ve sapped the joy from it, and I would have moved on.

We need to change tutorial design to fit a wider array of players. Rather than assuming that everyone is new to shooters when they play the latest Call of Duty, let me bypass the ‘this is how you aim’ section – it just isn’t necessary.

Tutorials designed for each difficulty would remove the tedium for veterans, whilst remaining accessible for newcomers to a genre. Most of all, tutorials should be optional. Let me get lost if I want, because it makes the game more challenging and fun for people already familiar with how to look around in an FPS.

What do you think of tutorials in gaming? Is there one that you like or dislike in particular? Let us know over on our Discord, where you can join our growing community! You can find more from us below:

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Hi, I’m Hayden! I’m an editor for the site and also a member of the Generation Xbox Podcast! I’m a big fan of RPGs (tabletop and video games!), but I’ve also got a huge sweet spot for Survival games. Zombie Survival games are a big yes in my book. Oh, and if you still watch The Walking Dead, I’m your guy!




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