Created By: plotlessviolenceNovember 18, 2012 Last Edited By: plotlessviolenceNovember 29, 2012
Nuked

Game Plays Itself

A videogame forcibly automates something traditionally player-controlled in that genre of game.

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Trope
A videogame forcibly automates an activity that--in other games of the same genre--have traditionally been controlled by the player. This can be during gameplay, or it can turn a story sequence that should have been playable into a non-interactive cutscene.

Done well, automating a traditional gameplay mechanic can assist in genre-blurring and genre deconstruction. Done poorly, it can remove player agency in an attempt to make a game more accessible to mainstream audiences.

This trope does not argue that cutscenes are bad, or that turning cutscenes into quicktime events would be a better choice. Rather, it refers to a design choice that subverts a most players' expectations about gameplay mechanics by reducing the level of interactivity and player agency.

Gameplay Automation is the related trope where the automation is optional and can be interactive in that game by player choice.

Examples:

  • Any game where the player can defeat enemies that features a Cutscene Boss is an example.
    • Hitman: Absolution, a game about finding different ways to kill targets, has some of your character's targets eliminated in cutscenes.
  • The Assassins Creed games, parkour-styled platform games, have automated the act of jumping.
  • The first level of the FPS Black Ops can be completed (on Hardened difficulty, even), without ever firing your weapons except at two scripted spots. This is not a stealth level, rather this example illustrates that the sense of agency is mostly simulated and the player's interactivity with the level is mostly optional. Demonstrated here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RULv6HbgEjY
  • In the remake of Kirby Super Star, Kirby Super Star Ultra, the interactive aspect of the tutorial (the parts which don't specifically deal with Gourmet Race, The Great Cave Offensive, or Milky Way Wishes) is completely removed.
  • Progress Quest plays itself after character "creation". It is a joke game parodying the MMORPG mechanics.
Community Feedback Replies: 55
  • November 18, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    "...automates too many activities..." is an opinion. Not a trope.
  • November 18, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    Fine. Change it to "automates AN activity...". Or ANY activity. The thing I'm trying to grasp at is when developers make a game less interactive by design. For example, an FPS where you could move around, but the game aimed and shot FOR you.
  • November 18, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Breathing could be interactive or automated. Seems like this would be a judgement call in 100% of cases. Are there objective criteria for the interactivity of a particular action being "a traditional gameplay element"?

    I understand what you mean, I think. But that's an Audience Reaction: "this gameplay element should not be automated". The key part is the reaction to the decision, not the decision itself. Shooting in an FPS is obvious, maybe, but it's sharply downhill from there.
  • November 18, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    I don't think I'm describing the trope I'm trying to introduce very well. Breathing would not be an example because there's no common gameplay mechanic about interactive breathing; no genre based around breathing.

    I'm talking about where a game subverts a gamer's conventional expectation that he be in control of some action. For example, a stealth game where the game automatically turns you invisible right before you'd be spotted. A platform game where the game jumps for you (Assassin's Creed). An FPS where the game automatically shoots for you.

    A good example is the first level of Co D:Black Ops where it turns out you can complete it (on Hardened difficulty, even), without ever firing your weapons except at two spots. Demonstrated here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RULv6HbgEjY . My point is the game is a shooter; it is about shooting enemies, not stealth, but you can beat this level without shooting because the "game plays itself": all the scripted explosions allow you to complete that level without the most obvious form of interaction (shooting).

    Another example would be in New Super Mario Bros Wii U, where if you fail a level too many times, the game will literally play itself (a computer-controlled Luigi will beat that level for you). In this case, I think that's a good thing because it lessens frustration, but it's still the same trope: non-interactivity in a scenario where consumers have grown to expect interactivity.
  • November 18, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    It's not that one word. The whole description is brimming with subjectivity. The problem is not that the idea isn't being described very well and if only I understood I would agree... I get it, and don't think that's a trope. A thing, sure, but not a trope.
  • November 18, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    I disagree. We define a genre, say, Hack-and-Slash, as having certain gameplay mechanics, i.e. you use a sword and attack enemies. But what if the game did the sword-swinging FOR you, while otherwise conforming to our expectations for Hack-and-Slash gameplay (movement, enemies, etc.)? What I'm getting at is a specific subset of genre-bending accomplished by removing some element of interactivity that someone familiar with the genre would assume is a requirement. But you helped me clarify somewhat what I'm getting at, and I've updated the description a bit.
  • November 18, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
  • November 18, 2012
    elwoz
    Me and my sore jump-button thumb would like to say "What the hell are you talking about?" with regard to Assassins Creed.
  • November 18, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    You don't tap a jump button to jump in Assassins Creed, you hold down a "free run" button and the game will jump automatically whenever you run into a gap. It fits this trope because every other platform game has a jump button that you can press, anytime, to just jump.
  • November 18, 2012
    shimaspawn
    ^ No, they certainly all don't have a jump button you can press any time just to jump and the game does not automatically jump for you. Assassin's Creed is not the first game to use it's sort of control scheme for jumping. It's been used as far back as Ocarina Of Time. It's a common platforming scheme to keep them number of buttons needed down.

    You need to do a combination of things and have very good control of when your character jumps and what he does in Assassin's Creed. Just because you can't jump up and down randomly while standing still does not mean the computer jumps for you.
  • November 18, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Shima's right. AC would be case where the game performs context-sensitive maneuvers automatically, when a game with a different control scheme / genre might require the player to negotiate those actions manually.

    Which isn't such a bad concept to build a trope from....

    And since shima mentioned Ocarina, I'll also note: One of the requirements for jumping off a ledge is you have to be running off it. If you merely walk, Link will fall off and catch the edge (when possible).

  • November 18, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    The Zelda games aren't platformers (ditto Arkham Asylum/City, which may have a minor platform element but is mainly a stealth-beatemup-puzzler). Similarly, an FPS that has a cutscene of you driving to the next location wouldn't fit this trope because FPS as a genre is not defined by controllable vehicles. Platformers are defined by controllable jumping.

    Again, to jump in the Assassin's Creed series, you hold down the freerun button(s) and run at a gap. The game automatically jumps for you. This is either a good or bad thing depending on your personal opinion. But the innovation of automatic jumping does fit the trope of the game removing an interactive standard of the specific genre. Every other PLATFORM series lets you jump in place. Mario, Sonic, Rayman, Super Meat Boy, Mirrors Edge...all of them. There's been autojumping in FPS's "to keep the buttons down" because jumping was not a challenge element of those games, shooting was. Any game where the primary challenge is leaping over obstacles and landing on some areas instead of others lets you jump when you want to...except in the Assassin's Creed series. That's what makes it fall under this proposed trope.
  • November 19, 2012
    Koveras
    • Progress Quest plays itself after character "creation". It is a joke game parodying the MMORPG mechanics.
  • November 19, 2012
    NESBoy
    In Kirby Super Star Ultra, the interactive aspect of the tutorial (the parts which don't specifically deal with Gourmet Race, The Great Cave Offensive, or Milky Way Wishes) is completely removed.
  • November 19, 2012
    mythbuster
    Sora vs. Roxas in Kingdom Hearts II. Fixed in the Updated Rerelease.
  • November 19, 2012
    shimaspawn
    And the challenge in the Assassins Creed series is not really a platformer. That's in fact a secondary focus to the actual assassination. It's really a stealth rouguelike game, with platformer elements. Hence most of the buttons being mapped to combat and stealth. It doesn't have enough free buttons for a devoted jump button. That's why it has to overload it. Because platforming is not the main focus.

    You're basically criticizing a game that isn't a platformer for not being a platformer and just incorporating in elements of it.
  • November 19, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^^ Cutscene Boss, not an example here.

    Shima's also correct that there are plenty of games that blur genre lines and include elements from what might otherwise be considered disparate genres.
  • November 20, 2012
    MorganWick
    Basically, this is an aversion of a certain type of those dreaded Tropes In Aggregate. That sounds really thorny to me.
  • November 20, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I agree. Even the laconic is placing a value judgement against it by saying "something that should otherwise be interactive". Your YKTTW laconic is the person's first impression of the definition; it's really hard to steer people right if the laconic is misleading.
  • November 20, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    I don't think it is misleading. That is exactly what the draft describes. It is accurately leading toward the conclusion that this is not a trope.
  • November 20, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    I edited the laconic and text to add examples and remove as much bias as I could. Whether a game automates "too many" or "not enough" activities is a judgment call. Whether it automates a gameplay mechanic that, previously in EVERY game of THAT GENRE has been player-controlled is, I feel, objective. As for Assassin's Creed not being a "platformer," it is in every way EXCEPT for lacking a "jump" button a platformer (and a stealth game and a beat-em-up game). You are required in that game to jump and climb and reach obstacles or chase opponents, and you are punished (by being slowed down or worse) for jumping the wrong way. It's listed on the trope page for Cinematic Platform Game. The first game review site I tried, Gamespot.com, for the first game, in the summary at the top under "The Good" writes "Joyous mix of stealth, action, and PLATFORMING." (emphasis added). Now, I get that they automated jumping to de-emphasize platforming in favor of the stealth and action, and many people think this was a good choice. But it still fits the trope of "Game Playing Itself." Maybe people don't like the title "Game Playing Itself" because it carries a negative connotation. Should I call it "Automated Gameplay"?
  • November 20, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Game genres are not objectively/rigidly defined. Definitions based on them can't be, either.

    Review sites express opinions.

    It doesn't matter what it's called. Rephrasing the laconic doesn't help. The meaning would have to be different.
  • November 20, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Might Turn-based Strategy Games where the combat is handled off-screen count?

    • Sword Of The Stars features real-time tactical combat but the player can choose to let the computer play it out if they feel pressed for time.
  • November 20, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    rodneyAnonymous: Obviously no word in the English language is rigidly defined. But this website does use things like "FPS" and "Platform Game" as tropes defined by this website, and the trope I've suggested is where a mechanic that previously partly defined a genre/trope is subverted. And obviously a review site has an opinion, I was simply using that as an example of how Assassin's Creed is generally considered a platformer, and thus its lack of a jump button has subverted the genre definition of platformer. Let me draw an analogy: Romance Arc is a plot/subplot/genre with certain mechanics/elements, one of which was traditionally that the couple got together at the end. Until that started being subverted, then you have the trope Did Not Get The Girl. By your logic, you would claim Did Not Get The Girl should not be a trope because the Romance Arc is not objectively/rigidly defined.

    zarpaulus: The earliest example(s) of strategy games that offered a play-it-for-me option for skirmishes would count, but after a while when that option became adopted as a genre convention, later games that use it wouldn't count. RPG's wouldn't count simply because they don't have have action mechanics, because the early RP Gs never had hack-and-slash mechanics.
  • November 20, 2012
    DracMonster
    This might work as trivia. Nonstandard Automated Element or something like that (The current title sounds like an idle game.) Trivia items have somewhat looser restrictions on precisely defining them since they're "fun facts" rather than tropes.
  • November 20, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    "But this website does use things like "FPS" and "Platform Game" as tropes defined by this website..."

    As far as I am aware, no it doesn't.

    Many games blur genre lines and this seems to be effectively complaining about that.

    I am not talking about the inherent subjectivity of all language. All words may be subjective in some sense, but some are objective in others. This is not objective in any sense. It is thoroughly an Audience Reaction.

    (PS: Also, the "by your logic" claim is false. The definition of DNGTG does not depend on the definition of the Romance genre. It has an objective criterion: Did The Hero end up with the romantic female lead? Yes or no. There is potentially a lot of subjectivity surrounding that--for example, the trope is subverting the expectation that the answer will be yes--but at its core it is not subjective.)
  • November 20, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    Another vote for the "this is just a bunch of subjective whining" camp from me. And anything salvageable from this is probably covered by Context Sensitive Button.

    If you want to come across as less subjective and negative, I suggest you stop shouting things at people in all caps. Nobody likes getting yelled at.
  • November 20, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    First Person Shooter

    Platform Game

    Hollywood Action Hero depends on its Super Trope Action Hero. It's not independently objective but this site considers both tropes valid.
  • November 20, 2012
    DracMonster
    ^Those all have concrete, objective ways to define what does and does not qualify. This as written can shoehorn in any time the computer does anything. For instance, I dont think the Call of Duty example qualifies as "automated" or the game playing itself by any reasonable standard. And not being able to control your actions in a cutscene is definitely People Sit On Chairs.

    As I said above, it might work as trivia but still would need a good bit of narrowing down.
  • November 20, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    I didn't mean to type in all-caps, I just don't know how to bold or italicize for emphasis.

    The Co D:BO example refers to the fact that past games required you to shoot your way through, and just running would always get you killed. What's automated about that level is the deaths of the enemies.

    It is a People Sit On Chairs thing, in the sense that all videogames make choices about what is and isn't interactive. What makes this a trope is that fact that a specific choice for non-interactivity is made in defiance of standard genre convention, for example, imagine if 100's of Sci-Fi films were made where everyone was always standing and no chairs existed and that became a genre convention (like Dilating Doors) of "futuristic" settings. Then People-Don't-Sit-On-Chairs-In-The-Future would seem to be a valid trope.

    Context-Sensitive Button might be a subtrope of what I suggested depending on how it's used.

    I suggested this trope because I wanted a recognized term I could use when I was describing a videogame mechanic, in the same way[[ people might use [[Multishot Multishot]] or Regenerating Health in describing, say, a shooter.

    But basically, I think I've explained the concept of automating traditionally interactive mechanics of a genre as best I can. If anyone else wants to edit this so it's viable, feel free. If you don't think it's trope-worthy, don't vote it in.
  • November 20, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Second the motion to discard.
  • November 21, 2012
    SenseiLeRoof
    How about when Metal Gear Solid IV relegates what could've been an exciting boss battle to cutscene status?
  • November 21, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Cutscene Boss. There can be specific reasons for it, too, like if the script calls for something that's not possible in actual gameplay.
  • November 21, 2012
    plotlessviolence
    Cutscene Boss examples apply to this trope especially when they show you doing something that is possible in gameplay, at least in gameplay of games in the same genre. I.e., the Hitman Absolution example, where you kill people all the time in various different ways as gameplay, and then some of the bosses are killed in cutscenes.
  • November 21, 2012
    cubicapocalypse
    Sounds like a trope to me. YMMV, of course, but essentially it's this: the game automates a task that the player expects to control himself.
  • November 22, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^^ No, cutscenes do not (necessarily) count because the cutscene itself is not a part of actual gameplay; it's the narrative and cinematic glue between gameplay segments.
  • November 22, 2012
    m8e
    Might be related to Press X To Not Die. If Press X To Not Die is common in a game/series the real cutscenes will be Game Plays Itself.
  • November 22, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    • Master of Orion III automated a lot of planetary development tasks previously unautomated in the series, in an attempt to simplify play. Unfortunately this doesn't work too well, but fortunately this automation can be overridden--but the tasks are fairly time-consuming.
    • Workers (units that build infrastructure such as roads and irrigation) became automated in Civilization beginning with Civilization III--but again, the player can still opt to control their actions instead.
  • November 22, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    ^^^^ "Sounds like a trope to me. YMMV, of course, but..."

    There is no such thing as a YMMV trope. If it's YMMV, it's Not A Trope.
  • November 23, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^Um, no. There are such things as Subjective Tropes.

    Besides, I am not convinced this is subjective.
  • November 23, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ Have you actually read that link?

    A proper "Subjective Trope" would be something that seems objective in concept but ends up being subjective in execution (i.e. deciding what is or is not an example of the trope).
  • November 23, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Yes, I did read it. A Good example of False Dichotomy, in practice.
  • November 23, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    That link (Subjective Trope) says "Well, not quite. That's a contradiction in terms. A trope is either objectively there or it is not there."

    Not sure how you could have both read that and included a link to it in your comment.

    "Trope or subjective?" is not a false dichotomy. You are mistaken. There is no such thing as a subjective trope.
  • November 23, 2012
    elwoz
    Antihat as this appears to be turning into a squabble. Second motion to discard.
  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Why is this subjective?
  • November 24, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    This suggstion is defined by subverting player expectations. There are no objective criteria by which to determine what is "traditionally player-controlled in that genre of game". It could support complaints about anything a game does automatically. This is "automated but shouldn't be", rewritten to not literally include those words.
  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    The description says "Genre expectations". That sounds s lot more objective than mere player interpretations. At least to me, it looks like an aversion of genre-specific things.
  • November 24, 2012
    Stratadrake
    But genre lines are blurry. I agree that automating some tasks for the sake of having a simpler control scheme is an objective ... thing, but the problem is clearly defining what is and is not an example. Otherwise, like rodney says, we just end up with a list of things that "automated, but could have (or worse, "should have") been performed manually".

    Like:
    • In Devil May Cry, "Easy Auto" difficulty means that Dante automatically strings together combos when attacking, while normal (and higher) difficulties rely on timing and directional input to determine what particular attack he performs next. It also allows the player to fire their guns without having to hold the R1 shoulder button to ready their gun stance.
    • Newer Mario Kart games tend to combine the "brake" and "reverse" functions into the same button; if you're moving, it's a brake. If you're stationary, it's reverse.

  • November 24, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    I wonder if we need to make this genre-specific just to avert this issue. Are there things that aren't automated in certain genres by genre?
  • November 24, 2012
    Pig_catapult
    I'm sure there are. Like, there's a freeware game by Hamumu Software that's basically a roguelike, but the only player interaction is buying items/inventory management between levels. Once you start the level, the computer handles your character's movement, fighting, and item use.

    And please count this as a vote against discarding. There IS a trope here. Progress Quest and the game I just described wouldn't be novel without it.
  • November 24, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    They wouldn't be novel without... what? Please elaborate on that statement.

    And please address Stratadrake's post. So far the "pro" column seems filled with nothing but "is so" and "there must be". I, for one, am unconvinced.
  • November 25, 2012
    Pig_catapult
    It touts itself as a "zero-player game" and, to that end, minmises the game's actual "gameplay" aspect in a way strange for its genre.

    NPC Quest is ostensibly a roguelike, with many hallmarks of the genre (deletes your save on load so you have to start over if you die, randomly-generated dungeon levels, hunger meter that needs managing) but the computer plays all of the dungeon levels for you, which strips out a lot of the strategy that would normally be involved.

    Progress Quest is ostensibly a text-based RPG, but other than picking your name, race, and class at the beginning, everything is automated, making it probably the Most Triumphant Example. As the page itself describes, it's really just a bunch of Exact Progress Bars with the flavour-text trappings of an RPG.

    . . . I guess what I'm trying to say is that some games use this as their primary gimmick, and their creators say as much in the game's blurb (i.e., it's a "selling point", even though the two I've cited are freeware). I know that's a much more narrow definition than the OP is probably intending, but Stratadrake does have a good point about people getting all prescriptivist and whiny if it's allowed to get much broader than what I've described above.

    If this is insufficient, then I'm not sure what else to say.
  • November 25, 2012
    elwoz
    So maybe we should zero in on the "subverts the player's expectations" part of the original description, and also broaden from "player expects to have to do X but surprise, the computer does it for them" to all subversions of player expectations for the game interface. That would allow us to include things like Achievement Unlocked (achievements are not normally the entirety of gameplay), and Desert Bus (the adversary is not normally sheer boredom), and ... hang on, I think we already have this: Deconstruction Game.
  • November 25, 2012
    WaxingName
    We kinda already have a non-complaining version of this trope: Scripted Event.
  • November 29, 2012
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    As this has had a long time to be fleshed out into something non-complainy and there still hasn't been an objective bit of this hammered out, it's being discarded.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable