Video game completionists and trophy hunters are nothing if not thorough, right? We live for the thrill of collection and completion, the joy of uncovering every hidden secret our virtual worlds have to offer. But what happens when we’re forced forward, with no chance of turning back? When our eyes are glued to the prize, only to realize too late that we missed a few steps somewhere along the line? We’re talking about that maddening moment when you discover – usually too late – that a game doesn’t allow you to return to a previous area.
Strict linear progression in some games can be a true gem when there is a saturation of open-world games, especially for those of us who are completionists by nature, always on the hunt for the prized 100% completion or all the tantalizing trophies a game has to offer. Linear games tend to be an easier completionist target…most of the time! You’re knee-deep into the game, almost at the end of the game, and suddenly you realize you didn’t pick up that bonus item three chapters back. You know, the one that contributes to a special side quest or achievement. Let’s not even mention that fleeting pang in our collector’s hearts when we’ve missed a collectible.
Sure, sometimes the inability to return is imposed due to technical limitations. We get it, programming is hard, and games can only hold so much within their code before things start getting clunky, allowing players to go back may not be that easy. But at the same time, there are games that agreeably include a fast travel or train system to transport players between locations. It’s an effective gameplay mechanic designed to ease the player’s life. So, why do some games let you hop from one town to another like a globe-trotting nomad but won’t let you return to critical previous areas. Mmm, it really grinds my gears!
Fear of missing out isn’t just a thing for social media and Friday nights; it’s prevalent in the gaming world too. Knowing you cannot revisit a location has us panicking, going over areas thrice with almost a surgical precision, to make sure we didn’t overlook anything important. It often gets in the way of the fun knowing that you have to cover an area with a fine tooth comb, a process that is often very tedious and boring to make sure you catch everything so you don’t trigger the fear later on. It’s not unlike the stress of planning a talent tree in an RPG.
Whatever way you slice it, this inflexibility is a major pain in the ass sometimes. So, here’s a plea from all us gamers to all you developers out there: When it makes sense – when it doesn’t break the game or the narrative – please, let us go home. Let us backtrack, find our missing pieces, and give us the freedom to roam past lands. We, obsessed with leaving no stone unturned, would appreciate it. Those missable trophies/achievements and collectibles you only have a small window to collect are not fun.