I hate timers

I like the Zelda games but I never really got into Majora’s Mask… I mean, I guess I should like it – after all, it’s literally a darker version of Ocarina of Time and it has some great elements to it both presentation-wise and gameplay-wise.

But I guess the main reason for why I didn’t like Majora’s Mask was the fact that it had this giant creepy moon – and also a mega doom timer that was ticking down, constantly pressuring you. I didn’t like the concept back then and a lot later I noticed that you can actually reset the timer with a certain song but I still never got back into it and uh…. that brings us to today’s post:

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

I hate timers.

Timers stress me out. They put me under pressure, just like the clock ticking down on me during an exam. In video games, there are timers that are actually well-made, like in Risk of Rain, for instance.

In Risk of Rain, the game gets harder the longer you play/the longer it takes you to finish the game.

Hence, you’ve got challenges associated with the timer and it’s also not a timer ticking down. Instead, you’ve got a game that rewards you with increasingly intense combat and tougher enemies so that it doesn’t get boring for you. To beat the game, you need skill (and the items) but also need to survive. You’ll lose if you die. Not if the timer reaches “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” difficulty. The timer doesn’t lose you the game. You do. The game is fair and I like that.

A timer indicating how much time you have left to clear a game is bad game design, in my opinion. It puts people under pressure which is usually bad when you try to relax. And sure, people play games for different reasons but I doubt that a lot of players enjoy the “ticking time bomb” character that some decks, characters or games have. When you play League of Legends and you’re playing against a Veigar, you eventually will have to face off against the Veigar with 2000 to 4000 AP who can one-shot towers with one normal attack and who one-shots your whole team with one W or a Q. Deleted with a button press.

Same goes naturally for the Bomb Warrior in Hearthstone or the Teemo Decks in Legends of Runeterra where you face off against someone who just holds out and stalls the game for forty minutes straight while you draw one bomb after another, reducing your life by drawing cards… yup. Very nice game design.

I don’t like that. If you have a section where you need to defeat enemies in a certain time-frame to get a reward, that’s a bit better, I guess… but having the “You’re fucked when this timer reaches 0”-character as a game mechanic for the whole game is just major bullshit – Pardon my English.

Either way, I hope that you don’t have the doom clock ticking over your head and that you instead have a pleasant day.


7 thoughts on “I hate timers

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  1. I won’t disagree with you disliking timers (this is your personal preference, nothing wrong about that), but I am disagreeing about the way you portray timers.

    Yes, some timers are meant to put you under stress (I, too, dislike most of them). They try to invoke a sense of urgency, but more often than not, they end up being misguided attempts of keeping the player on track. It’s even worse with invisible timers, like in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where your boss tells you “come here as quickly as possible”, so naturally you dick around in the starting area and explore. Little did you know that a timer was running and people died…

    Here’s the part I disagree on: Timers can be used as a game mechanic, and the timer in Majora’s Mask is a good example. It’s not a “complete the task before the clock hits zero, or get dunked on”, but it’s a time loop. There’s no game over when the time’s up, but everything resets. It’s supposed to happen. You have unlimited time, but play the game in hour-long segments.

    It might seem like stressful, impending doom, but it’s really not. This gets clearer when you play games that have an even shorter timer, like Outer Wilds (20 minutes) or Minit (60 seconds). From what I know, the time limits are not super tight, so once you make your peace with the time loop mechanic, you can take your time exploring, thinking, and doing everything you would do if there wasn’t a timer.

    In essence, what I’m trying to say is: Timer = bad; Time loops = cool concept.
    Hopefully, this makes any sense to you, and maybe you can even overcome your dislike and see some games in a new light :-)

    Oh, and there’s a cool video by Mark Brown on time loops.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I (I think?) mentioned I later noticed that it’s not a gameover in Majora’s Mask but a reset but I then never played it. As a kid, I didn’t like the concept at all.
      I wouldn’t say that all games with a timer like that are bad – but I’d rather say that it’s a mechanic that I don’t like. Minit is a great game that did the timer thing well. But there are countless games that don’t do that well when it comes to game mechanics like that, and that’s just sad or rather “schade”. :)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, it seems I have misunderstood you, then. Right, many of the games featuring a timer don’t do it too well. It is very schade, indeed :-)

        But I almost prefer them to games where there is no timer, but they “pretend” to have one. For Example, Batman: Arkham City (SPOILER IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH):

        At the end of the game, when the helicopters blast everything to pieces, and they always say “pressuring” stuff like “another 10 people dead”. The game clearly wants you to haul your ass to where the main story is happening to save lifes. But if you want, you can spend the next two hours just doing side stuff and not care.

        Personally, this annoys me more than it would have any right to it. If I don’t do the story right away, I feel like I miss something and I don’t get to play my preferred way. If I don’t do the story right away, the narrative basically destroys itself…

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I hate it in Monster Hunter World when the game doesn’t allow you to explore a bit more while the Handler is with you. Not only does it not allow that to you but suddenly the Handler starts talking a lot more than usual, commenting on everything you do, calling you over to that direction where you’re supposed to go to and being just overly annoying. She’s a timer of her own, it seems – and you know what happens when that timer reaches 0? You quit the game.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. This is why I never finished Majora’s Mask, and why I’ve been really slow on getting into some of the Atelier games. The latter in particular are really insidious: the timers in the beginning of the game are really generous, so they lul you into a false sense of security and mental pacing, so that during the last part of the game things can get quite stressful.

    Liked by 2 people

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