The Language of Games Pt. 2 – Intuitive

Less is more. It’s a difficult concept for many to get their head around, especially when it comes to education. Over explanation can be detrimental to anyone’s learning experience. This is a basic concept that’s subconsciously known to all yet seldom practiced, particularly when it comes to games. Somewhere around the sixth console generation (PS2, Xbox, GC, DC), developers thought their audiences became completely inept, jamming unskippable tutorials into their games. As I said in part one, every game has the potential of being someone’s first, making tutorials a sometimes necessary evil. However, there’s something to be said for incorporating these seamlessly into games, letting players learn and discover for themselves.


Think back to how you learned your native tongue. Mostly because you lacked context and cognitive reasoning, the only way to learn was through submersion. Things were repeated to you over and over until finally it clicked. It’s a method many are adopting in second language programs. For example, using Rosetta Stone, they immediately start, lacking any context. You are shown four pictures of say, a plate, an apple, a dog, and a chair. The foreign word is repeated until you select a choice, where you’re shown the correct answer. Likely, you’ll choose wrong. The program continues, showing you more in the same fashion, cycling back to old questions. Eventually, through repetition, you’ll start to learn.

Why can’t games do this? For a time, they did. I dare you to find an NES game, or even an SNES game, with a built in tutorial. Gamers were left to fend for themselves. Sure, most came with gigantic, book sized instruction manuals, but the games themselves were bare in this regard. While this method can lead to some front end frustrations, the dividends payoff higher. Some may quit immediately, after one or two failures. If they have so little patience and resign to failure so quickly, they’ll likely have bigger problems in life. As for those who stick with it, they start to see the benefits of trial and error, garnering a greater sense of accomplishment.


I think trial and error is the best way to learn anything. The failures can be harsher, with long blocks of little to no progress, but the lessons learned will seldom, if ever, be forgotten. For example, Illusion of Gaia is a game firmly cemented in my mind. Not because it had a fantastic story, superior gameplay, or one I played numerous times, but because of a boss fight. The vampire twins halted my progress. I was unable to defeat them for two years. Finally, one day I did. I still remember that moment vividly. The Mega Man series is the best example of this. I lost count how many times Quick Man or Shadow Man eluded me until I learned his pattern, with nary a hint to guide me.


People aren’t stupid. Put a controller in their hand, they can typically intuit what to do. Games are action and reaction. When pressing a button and the character jumps, people typically understand that to be the jump button. They don’t need a constant reminder. Let gamers have that sense of accomplishment from trial and error. Don’t spoon feed them, they’re most likely to quit sooner that way.

Which games do you think best exemplify trial and error? Think developers spoon fed players too much? Comment below!

Tony writes for his own site,, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell’em hi.

Might be a part three, if I think of one. 


  1. Less is more in some cases, true. Platformers, shooters, these games don’t need tutorials. But without tutorials, games like Monster Hunter and Dark Souls just become way too overwhelming. Things like stats and crafting pretty much necessitate tutorials. The quality of those tutorials, on the other hand, is up to a lot of factors.

    1. Most definitely. FTL: Faster Than Light absolutely needs a tutorial. In that specific case, it’s optional, and even then, not overbearing. Certain games do need them, but the least they can do is make it optional from the menu if they can’t integrate it into the game. Still, in cases like Dark Souls, I think there’s a Mega Man-esque way to integrate a tutorial without being encumbering.

      1. I have heard so much about FTL but I’ve never actually played it. I heard it might be coming out on Vita where I live so maybe I’ll pick it up then. I agree with the Mega Man tutorial way of doing things. Frankly, if games can just avoid having a tutorial level that is clearly meant to be a tutorial and nothing else, I’d be happy.

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