Weekly Rant: Trial-and-Error

Weekly Rant: Trial-and-Error

I've played games where the main courses are trial and error, and they're about as much fun as memorizing a phone book. Trial-and-error gameplay consists of having to make decisions where you have virtually no information to base a decision on. This includes choosing a specific tool or weapon, picking the right combination for a puzzle, saying the right thing at the right time to the right character, and leaps of faith in which you must jump blindly into an area in hopes of landing safely on something. (There are more examples I'm sure you could share with me, but don't. I've had a bad enough day without listening to you complain.)

Weekly Rant: Trial-and-Error

Playing a game based on trial and error is essentially a technique of learning from your mistakes. Basically, you memorize the correct method of play by experiencing what not to do. This is called negative reinforcement. I've got enough of that in my real life; I don't need it in a video game. When confronted by a decision in such a game, there is usually only one right way but several wrong ways. Choosing a wrong way is not what I would call making an error or a mistake, since you don't have any data to make the arbitrarily correct decision.


Instead of trial and error it should be called the Process of Elimination, or PoE for short, since that's a more appropriate term. And it should only occur as an occasional puzzle element, not a gameplay template.

When you learn something new, you use a process called explicit learning. This applies to musical instruments, sports, gaming, and other disciplines that require developed motor skills. Once these skills have been sufficiently practiced, they become second nature. Learning taking place beyond this level is called implicit learning. But it's a well-documented fact that when we become stressed we can revert to the explicit learning phase, where our graceful and carefully coordinated skills can look like a performance by a retarded monkey on whiskey.

Weekly Rant: Trial-and-Error

During these trial-and-error scenarios, or PoEs as I like to call them, (go back two paragraphs if you weren't paying attention) we become confused, frustrated, angered, and ultimately stressed. Our gaming skills suffer as a consequence, and ultimately we end up disliking the game due to these negative associations. It's not good for us, nor is it good for the producers of the game. It's a simple fix. Give us some friggin' clues. Done.

If you're going to learn one thing from this article it's this: Stressing out your opponents can help you win at anything, but learning how to effectively stress them out is going to take some trial and error.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Contributing Writer

*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*

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