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As someone who likes linear games and thinks they can be good, would it be fair to say that linearity itself is a bad thing?

Content of the article: "As someone who likes linear games and thinks they can be good, would it be fair to say that linearity itself is a bad thing?"

Now, I'm not here to hate on linear games. I love linear games, open world games, and anything in between as long as they are good.

That being said, there have been some discussions that, while they haven't really called into question my love for good linear games, have had me question the reasons why I like linear games and whether linearity itself is a good thing for video games.

Something I've noticed when people discuss what separates good and bad linear games is that some people claim that there is such a thing as "TOO linear" while the better linear games have some sort of openness or way to deviate from the beaten path. In other words, the better linear games have some kind of nonlinearity, whether that be open areas or branching paths. It's the reason why games like Xenoblade Chronicles and God of War PS4 are hailed for having open individual areas within their linearity. It's also the reason why the original Crash Bandicoot games are hailed for having their alternate death routes or even the original Super Mario Bros. is hailed for having secret underground and Coin Heaven shortcuts.

However, this need for "nonlinearity" is not limited to just having a lot of running room or different routes to the end of a level. I'd argue that mechanical depth, i.e. the amount of possibilities that can be exercised by a game mechanic, constitutes its own form of nonlinearity as it also leads to trying different ways to beat a game. This is why Half Life 2 is hailed for having many ways to defeat enemies and solve physics puzzles within its linearity. Even things like equipment or weapon variety can spice up linear games by offering the nonlinearity, as seen with linear shooters such as the Uncharted series or recent Doom games.

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This leaves games like Final Fantasy XIII, the last two Pokémon gens, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and The Order: 1886 in the position of being "bad linear games." These and other similar games aren't bad as in Big Rigs unpolished bad, but instead bad in that they don't offer much freedom or depth within their linearity.

Once again, none of this makes me hate linear games as a whole, but given that there seems to be this near-universal demand for some form of nonlinearity in video games, I almost have to conclude that linearity by itself is a bad thing. There's a reason why everyone and their dog wants Pokémon to be open world. There's a reason why Halo Infinite didn't even have a vocal minority complaining about it being open world. That reason may be that people don't really like linearity in itself, even if they might like linear games as a whole. Again, I think linear games can be good, but the good ones are more than just their linearity alone.


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