Opinion- Mission Rankings Are Dumb

I am a firm believer that video games are made to be fun. Perhaps it’s part of my mentality growing up as a child of the 90s, where every TV show, toy, video game, and even article of clothing seemed to be bursting at the seams with zany excitement (which example would you prefer: the brightly-colored clothing, light-up shoes, or the no-tie, springy shoe laces?). But even taking off my nostalgia goggles for minute, it’s no secret that if you take time to play video games, you want the experience to be enjoyable.

Video games have long provided players with feedback based on their performance, with nondescript “points” being the most common currency for well over a decade. It was a way of trying to improve your arcade score, either shelling out quarters to push further than the last time or measuring how many points you can acquire before dying with your allotted lives. But over time, home consoles took over the arcade scene. Why pay a fistful of quarters for a short time of playing when you could own the game at home and enjoy it as much as you wanted? This new way of gaming began taking away the incentive of earning “points” despite many titles still including them. But somewhere along the way, a nefarious soul plotted long and hard about a revised way of gauging a player’s performance on consoles: a form of dark trickery that would artificially expand game time beyond what had been achieved in a product thus far by tricking players into playing the same levels again and again in a vain, deluded spiral of self-masochism. This cursed concept is known as a “Stage Ranking.”

I also individually call them “Badges of Shame,” because it seems that no matter how well I do in games that measure your performance, I almost always tend to get branded as mediocre at best. It doesn’t matter how many fanciful moves I pull off or what mountain of collectibles I drag with me: the brand always leaves a smoking “L” right on my forehead. But why? How does my performance of surviving a level replete with vicious monsters and ridiculously hard boss enemies warrant being effectively called a loser when that stinging “C” smacks the screen? I’m tired of being judged by a single, burning letter. The “You Died” screen from Dark Souls feels less insulting.

Being given a ranking based on certain level criteria takes away a large portion of fun that a game might otherwise provide. Traversing a stage might be a joy, until you realize at the end that you were “too slow” in completing the objective or you didn’t complete enough fighting combos, regardless of the fact that you didn’t take a single bit of damage and also nabbed every single bit of currency in the level. Games rarely take everything a player does into account. It’s irritating beyond belief when you aren’t rewarded for the efforts you put forth and are instead punished for irrelevant things left undone. I genuinely couldn’t care less that I didn’t perform the over-complicated “Mega Dragon Combo Kick” five times in a row and it has literally no bearing on the game’s story, so WHY is my rating decreased? 

Perhaps this is just my own mental block. After all, not EVERY game that ranks performance takes it to the same extreme as my example. But I still feel that encouraging the player to enjoy a game their own way is a far superior approach to being told how to spend your time during a level. My most recent experience with this mechanic is in Wargroove on the Nintendo Switch. I love the game so far, but its mission grading system leaves me feeling demoralized sometimes. A mission might be going swell, then a late-match factor comes into play and messes up my strategy. Units die. Villages are battled over. I enjoy the gameplay part of this challenge: I just don’t like the stinging “Yeah, you passed, but you sucked it up there,” that a C rank leaves off with. I want to experience something fun and exciting, not a jury on how poorly I did despite conquering the level.

What about you? Do you enjoy the challenge that mission rankings provide, or are you a hater like me? Let me know with a comment! Thanks for reading, friends, and game on!

-Brink

4 thoughts on “Opinion- Mission Rankings Are Dumb

  1. I agree here. In particular, I feel like mission rankings stifle creativity in approaching a mission. Part of the fun of video games for me is having fun with the different ways that I can approach the same mission. Putting an arbitrary grade on me makes me feel like I always have to be at my best, meaning that I find one strategy that works for me and never vary it through the entirety of the game. It takes a lot of the fun out of gaming for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! It takes the feeling of victory away from missions/levels that you complete using your own strategies and makes you feel that you MUST play a certain way. I much prefer creativity to “pure efficiency,” hence why games like Pokémon are much more enjoyable to me when I don’t focus on things like EV training.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cheer up man! At least you get an A+ from me for your wonderful post. And yeah, don’t worry about the whole “You Died” and “C” thing in games. It’s meant to happen reminding us of how human and imperfect we are. I salute you for not giving up in finding the euphoria in games. Lastly, Wargroove is a fantastic game.

        Liked by 1 person

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