video game time gimmicks

I’m not good at video games. Like, at all. And I’ll freely admit that whenever I complain about them. Whether it’s due to my poor executive management skills, my OCD demanding that my gameplay be unrealistically perfect, or even simply struggling to complete straightforward objectives, I’ve been struggling with games since I started playing them at the age of three. It’s gotten easier over time to manage them, but they’re still no cakewalk. However, the worst that still gets me every time is time gimmicks in games.

It places an emphasis on the clock, as opposed to the game itself, and immediately ruins the fun for me. Plus, it’s incredibly stressful. It’s bad enough that I struggled with deadlines in school, so why must my entertainment be that way as well?

The three-day cycle of doom

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on Nintendo 64 is a well-crafted sequel to Ocarina of Time, taking what worked and refining it. Despite how excellent it may be, however, I could never get all that far in it. I kept getting fed up with and stressed out by its three-day game mechanic. It eventually got to the point where, even with a walkthrough, I gave up.

video game time gimmicks

Here we go again!

There are many arguments in favor of the time gimmick: It sets the game apart from the rest of the franchise. It heightens the suspense. It makes for a deeper experience with the game. It forces you to prioritize objectives, hence adding to the game’s enjoyment. Despite these arguments, I still find it really frustrating to get somewhere significant, realize that — crap — I’m out of time, and have to play the Song of Time and start all over, albeit with critical gear retained.

30 days of torture

Despite being a huge fan of the Pikmin franchise, I could never get into the original game. The whole premise, like in Majora’s Mask, revolves around a time gimmick: Captain Olimar has 30 in-game days to find a minimum 25, total 30 pieces of his broken ship, or else he’s doomed. Pikmin is actually more manageable than Majora’s Mask in some ways. But the days go by extremely quickly, making it hard for me to sit down and actually enjoy traversing the game’s world. I’m so busy trying to keep track of how many days I have left that I screw up and lose half my squad, forcing me to restart the game from my last save point.

It doesn’t help that the game isn’t always so easy. I may love the Pikmin games, but they require a lot of time to strategize and figure out where to go next. Sometimes, I even have to spend a few extra days scouting out possible objectives that I’ll come back to later. All of this adds time to my play, something a day counter makes all-the-more limiting. I end up being more stressed and frustrated than entertained.

video game time gimmicks

Of course, this moment only adds insult to injury.

Finding a compromise on time gimmicks

The single exception to my dislike of time gimmicks is Pikmin 3. It has a food-based time gimmick. Pikmin 3 allows the player to extend its time gimmick by collecting fruit and pulverizing it into food rations. I appreciate this because I at least have some control over things. I can manipulate my day count, giving me agency over something that’s otherwise stressful and not fun. It also incentivizes me to 100 percent clear the game, something not even many games without time gimmicks can do.

Ultimately, time gimmicks are more of a hassle for me than fun. If I’m given the option between being timed and not being timed, I’ll almost always opt for not being timed. It’s much less stressful that way, even when the time gimmick goes the route of Pikmin 3.

But what do you think? Do you like time gimmicks or hate them with a passion? Let us know in the comments.

Zachary Perlmutter
News and editorial writer for Nintendo Enthusiast. Is hoping to one day publish a graphic novel or two.

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