Most games, especially nowadays, do not have the confidence to allow the player to miss out on entire aspects of the game. There are some games, such as various RPGs, that incentivise multiple playthroughs by having branching narratives, but that is not the kind of thing I want to discuss here. Instead, I want to discuss a game that would usually never come up when it comes to content in games: the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 (so not the newer one that caused all that loot box controversy when it was released).
Battlefront 2 is a game that added a few new things to the first game in the series by introducing new maps and some space combat, but other than that’s not a particularly different game. It’s in a similar vein to Left 4 Dead 2 in that the sequel is essentially the first game with some new stuff. The narrative in the game is nothing to write home about and the gunplay does feel outdated by today’s standards, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun ole romp in the Star Wars universe.
The reason this game has confidence is because of that aforementioned space combat. In the game, there are two main “narrative” modes. One is the story of a stormtrooper division that played an integral role in the rise of the Empire narrative, and the other mode is a conquest mode that allows you to play as various factions as you try to take over the galaxy from another faction (although there’s no actual story there), and in both of these modes there is the opportunity to engage in some classic Star Wars space battles.
These battles are, however, entirely optional. In the story mode they can literally be skipped with a button that says “bypass space” and in the conquest mode you can just avoid them. You can go through an entire game without ever engaging in one of the central gameplay modes. You can simply ignore it, and this was exactly what I did.
I adored the original game because it was a fun Battlefield-like game set in the Star Wars universe, and I only got around to playing the sequel when it was already ten years old (and I decided to replay it recently). When I first played this game I tried out one or two space battles but despised them, and was delighted to find that I could just skip over them, and upon replaying it recently I rediscovered the joy of being able to skip an aspect of a game that I quite simply dislike.
The space combat is not for me, but I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, and it’s wonderful that it is there for people who do enjoy it. However, that “bypass space” function does not hurt anyone. If you like the space battles, play the space battles. If you dislike the space battles, don’t play the space battles. It’s that simple, and it should be that simple in games going forward.
There is a common gamer feeling, often found in the more pretentious type of gamer, that you need to “git gud” at a game, that if you dislike an aspect of it you shouldn’t be allowed to play it. These people are horrible people, and they are attempting to be exclusionary. They are attempting to gate content for themselves so that they can feel superior because of something as arbitrary as a video game.
A video game should not be something you use as a justification for your identity as a jerk. If these space battles had been mandatory, then I would likely have stopped playing. I don’t enjoy them, I find them tedious and they simply aren’t fun, but they account for probably less than 30% of the main story mode, and if I had been forced to stop playing the game because of them I would have been unable to continue experiencing a game I actually enjoy.
I will probably always advocate for the inclusion of player choice in how games are consumed. I will advocate for level selects from the offset, for the inclusion of cheats and difficulty settings, for accessibility options. Because sometimes you just want to play the parts of games that you enjoy, and I for one will always be disappointed that I have to replay Far Cry 3 from the beginning every time I want to re-experience that drug field burning mission. That irritates me because sometimes you just want to jump ahead to the highlights. Imagine having to rewatch an entire movie every time you just want to rewatch a scene that you love, imagine not being allowed to skip over pages in a book, imagine having to listen to an entire album when you just want to listen to track five.
We should allow people to choose the content they want to consume. Developers should have the confidence to have a skip feature in their games, to know that their artistic vision is actually less important than giving the consumer the right to do what they want. And I say this as someone who writes fiction. If someone just wants to skip ahead to one part of a book I wrote then what am I supposed to do about it? The creator’s wishes don’t matter. It’s the people, the people that buy your product, the people that support your work that should have the final say. Who are you to deny them that?
No creator’s vision is more important than the people who are expected to consume what they create. The people who make these things aren’t gods, and they shouldn’t act as if everything they create is pure gold that must be completely consumed by someone every single time they want to experience it. Sorry, but no one is good enough to warrant that kind of devotion.