Hacked Off: Having to Complete Tasks Three Times in Games

Repetition is one of the fundamentals of gaming. Most video games just revolve around completing the same tasks again and again but in slightly different scenarios or even just backdrops. So, getting peeved with repetition might seem weird. Most of the time, repetition is of no bother, but instances like traveling to each planet in a solar system to just scan them and a super annoying scene which starts off cool but eventually breaks down every will of playing the game you have left can be quite bothersome. Most games have an annoying section, and all you can hope is that it is a one-off and not a recurrence. The main problem I have is the rule of three.

This rule of three is an age old system and has been around for centuries, no, millenniums; actually, I’m pretty sure the first humans had a fascination with doing tasks three times. I have no clue who came up with the idea that this was the optimal number of times until you reach the peak of enjoyment. Why not four? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the number three just as much as the next guy, but give some other numbers some attention. It’s been a part of gaming for as long as I can remember, so we’re talking since at least yesterday.

One of the areas you see this most is in boss fights. A key offender of this is The Legend of Zelda. For those five people who don’t know the typical Zelda boss fight, you use an item to expose the boss’s weak spot and then attack it. It will eventually pick itself back up, and then you rinse and repeat. Do this two more times, and Bob’s your uncle, the super scary monster is dead. Now, the boss fights are often enjoyable, and if in the real world I was ever faced with a massive monster, I would know to look for the obvious weak spots. Though, wouldn’t the fights be a little more exciting if sometimes they took longer to beat? Maybe you had to perform slightly different tasks and they lasted six hits. Breath of the Wild and Twilight Princess have tried to do this, so maybe the rule of three is falling from its throne.

How many times have you played a game and it’s followed this pattern? Exactly, at least twice. Maybe this has become a gaming convention just because people are afraid to question it and have decided to go along with it. Then again, doing something once would be a waste, and any more than three could be ridiculous. Imagine fighting the Architects in Mass Effect: Andromeda and them having seven legs you have to destroy. You’d be there for days.

While they can get annoying , bosses can be forgiven. The worse ones are the tasks you have to complete. Knocking down three towers, hacking three computers, finding three documents. Doing these once is enough, but having to hunt halfway across a map just to get the last one is just pointless. I’m hardly sitting there thinking, ‘man, I love knocking down towers, but I only want to do it three times. Two times will feel too few, and I wouldn’t have gotten tower destruction out of my system. Then four times is too much, I’d be tired and worn out of all the fun, I wouldn’t be able to cope.’

Repetition is a major part of gaming and with it the rule of three. I’m not saying we should get rid of it completely, just mix it up so you don’t always expect to do tasks three times.

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