Created By: Triterope on June 13, 2012 Last Edited By: Blubble on December 31, 2014

Artificial Handicap

When a video game character can't do something they should be able to do.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Gamers are used to Acceptable Breaks from Reality: superhuman jumping abilities, unlimited ammunition, no encumbrance, and so on. This trope is the opposite: when video game characters 'can't' do something they 'should' be able to do, given the nature of the character and the game environment.

A Super Trope to:

See also Commonplace Rare. For the non-video game version, see Forgot About His Powers. When the character can learn the skill they already should know, it's You Have Researched Breathing.

Examples:

  • The Trope Namer is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the NES, in which That One Level is about the turtles having to swim through a series of non-deadly obstacles.
  • In the classic arcade game Kangaroo, the titular character could be killed by walking off one stair step. And it's a 'kangaroo'; they're supposed to be adept at jumping.
  • God of War takes this trope to new levels. Kratos can battle enemies the sizes of mountains, but can't climb fences.
  • In Jungle Hunt, one of the hazards of the swimming level is bubbles... which can't be popped with your knife.
  • In Real-Time Strategy games, it's frequent to see strange discrepancies between what kinds of groups transport units can carry, usually due to the way the loading mechanic works. For example, in Age of Empires II, a ship can hold 10 elephants but not 11 longbowmen, or in StarCraft II, the medivac dropship can move 5 siege tanks across the map but not 6 marines.
  • The slot based inventory system in Minecraft is notorious for creating paradoxical situations since all items occupy the same space (with the exception of a small number of items that cannot be grouped into stacks, such as tools). For example, you can carry up to 36 stacks of 64 solid gold blocks while wearing a full set of golden armor, which weighs an estimated 44,518.667 tonnes and takes up about 2304m of space. But you can't hold 2305 (36*64 + 1) feathers or pieces of string.
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • June 14, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    This might be a trope, but this name will never fly. Too obscure to people outside the AVGN's fanbase.
  • June 14, 2012
    Arivne
    The phrase "When a video game character can't do something they should be able to do" from the Laconic should be in the main description also.

    Related to:
  • June 29, 2012
    Triterope
    I still like Why Cant A Turtle Swim as the name -- I don't think you to have to get the AVGN reference to understand what the trope is about.

    Would be a supertrope to the examples Arivne gives.
  • June 29, 2012
    LittleLizard
  • June 29, 2012
    falver
    God of War takes this trope to new levels. Kratos can battle enemies the sizes of mountains, but can't climb fences.
  • June 30, 2012
    HugoLuman
    Frogger; he dies in the water, but is an amphibian.

    Any FPS where you have a rocket launcher but can't get through chain link fences.
  • June 30, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Definitely a bad title; don't name a generic trope after one specific subtype/example of itself.

    There is also ... let's see ... You Have Researched Breathing.
  • June 30, 2012
    CaveCat
    I agree that this Needs A Better Title.

    • In the Frogger games, Frogger is completely incapable of swimming, so if he falls into the water, he just drowns.
  • June 30, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ That's vanilla Super Drowning Skills, and not worth mentioning on a proposed Super Trope.
  • June 30, 2012
    Triterope
    I think we need to limit examples here to things that don't fit one of the supertropes. The God Of War example would seem to fit under Insurmoutable Waist High Fence.
  • July 1, 2012
    MorganWick
    Do you mean one of the subtropes?
  • July 2, 2012
    Rognik
    I don't think there's anything wrong with the title. It may be inspired by a specific example, but it gives a very quick example to a reader of what it's about. Most people will know that video game heroes can be all sorts of creatures, so mentioning a turtle that has trouble swimming makes sense. What's more important is if this will be confused for some different trope, or too obscure for a novice to find.

    @Little Lizard, turtle can swim innately, which is the issue here. It would be similar to not being able to open a closed but unlocked door, which is the case in some games.
  • July 2, 2012
    MusikMaestro
    If you're going to go with that name, you could also have another trope as it's exact opposite. Something like " Why can that plumber fly"- referring to Marios ability to fly after eating a leaf
  • July 2, 2012
    surgoshan
  • July 8, 2012
    TBeholder
  • July 9, 2012
    FastEddie
    The trope is about an artificial handicap. So go with Artifical Handicap.

    Nothing could be more opaque than that turtle thing. Please give it a name people will actually use. An example of the trope is not a good name for any trope. Just name the thing directly.
  • July 9, 2012
    goto124
    In Club Penguin, without swimming aids, penguins can't swim across rivers. In fact, the game simply doesn't even let you in the river (so it's not Super Drowning Skills).
  • July 9, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    In Pokemon you need specific moves to surf across water on a Pokemon's back, or to get your Mons to fly you from town to town on their backs. Fair enough. But you also need specific moves to cut down small trees and light up dark caves. Even if one of your pokemon is partially ON FIRE, you need a special move for that fire to actually provide any light.
  • July 9, 2012
    planswalker
    May I recommend Why Can'tFroggerSwim?

    Frogger is also notorious for doing this in his games and is a LOT more well known.

    • Frogger games have the title character, a frog, jump through various deadly obstacles as a One Hit Point Wonder. Un-intuitively, one of the major threats to his health is water. He apparently drowns in it. A frog... who can't swim...
  • July 9, 2012
    Blork
    Any variant of "Why can't X swim?" sounds too much like Super Drowning Skills, which is a subtrope but this is broader than that. Also, I don't even get the Turtles example - you can swim, the whole point of that level is swimming through annoyingly narrow gaps between obstacles.
  • July 9, 2012
    BecomeTheFuture
    Better Name: "Improbably Incompetent."
  • July 9, 2012
    Duncan
    If it's a software parsing problem, it may be an example of You Cant Get Ye Flask.
  • July 10, 2012
    Arivne
    For those of you who don't know: Fast Eddie is the owner and Admin of the TV Tropes wiki. Around here, what he says, goes.

    Up above (^ x 7) he said that the Why Can't A Turtle Swim? title was unacceptable. In the past, if he gave such a warning and the title wasn't changed immediately he has been known to discard the proposal from YKTTW.

    In addition, he gave a direct order that the name be changed to Artifical Handicap.

    I am therefore changing the title to Artifical Handicap so that it won't be discarded. If whoever wants to launch it decides to use a different title, be sure that it's legal (e.g. not a Bad Trope Namer or Bad Snowclone).
  • July 10, 2012
    Blubble
    Great idea for a trope. I took the liberty of adding a few examples directly, I hope that's not against the rules.
  • July 10, 2012
    nitrokitty
    Probably a sister trope of The Computer Is A Cheating Bastard
  • July 10, 2012
    planswalker
    Definitely a related trope to Nintendo Hard.
  • July 10, 2012
    Tiiba
    "The *Trope Namer* is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the NES..."

    Not any more. (Old name was "why can't a turtle swim?")
  • July 10, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Subtrope of Fake Difficulty?
  • July 10, 2012
    Blubble
    IMO, the artificial handicap does not necessarily increase the difficulty. It could just be one detail that is noticed occasionally throughout the game.
  • July 10, 2012
    YouKeepUsingThatWord
    Yes, it might not be about creating difficulty, it could be about limiting the scope of the game, like the insurmountable waist-high fence. If they give you a climbing ability, that's a whole new set of animations and control schemes they have to deal with, and they need to account for all the new locations you might climb to, etc. Same goes for swimming.

    Blork- There were water levels where you could swim, but there were non-swimming levels were you would die instantly if you fell into water. I would guess allowing you to switch between water and air in the same level would have increased the complexity of building the game.
  • July 10, 2012
    planswalker
    Nintendo Hard may use this trope as part of how they crank up the difficulty.
  • July 10, 2012
    0dd1
    • Superman 64, where Superman's powers are simply power-ups, and not all of them appear in the game. And, because of how buggy the game is, those powers don't even always work.
  • July 11, 2012
    Blubble
    Since 0dd1 mentioned a really crappy game:

    • ET The Extra Terrestrial is infamous for the set of abilities and limitations given to the eponymous alien controlled by the player: they are both frustratingly nonsensical and unrelated to the plot of the original movie.
  • July 13, 2012
    TBeholder
    Slot entries are glued on the side - it's not a thing in itself, more of a model optimization issue. Perhaps having something separate, like "sliding scale of discrete vs. linear mechanics" could be better (hopefully, steering clear of TBS/RTS mire as a subtrope group).

    Otherwise is good.
  • July 15, 2012
    LordCirce
    Would examples such as ceilings in games for how high you can fly be included here, or is there a separate sub-trope for that? Also, would objects that you can't interact with until after a certain point be included in this? Like where you can't try to type in a code into a keypad until you have been given the code, even though you should be able to try and guess.
  • July 16, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Lord Circe: about the ceilings thing, I think this is more for if you have a seagull character that can't fly (whereas seagulls in real life obviously can fly) and there's dissonance there.
  • August 6, 2012
    TBeholder
    <poke> <poke> is it alive?
  • August 6, 2012
    MrRuano
    The 2-D Bionic Commando games are notorious for the player's inability to jump, thus forcing you to use your bionic arm to grapple across every chasm. The 3D one has averted this to the surprise of several.
  • December 31, 2014
    DAN004
    Pmub?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=t40ky6ls1hr0kh6ebhy2s8fk