Dear Game Devs: No Report Cards In Games!

I realize this is going to make me sound just a tad crazy, but I've really begun to loathe these things:

Report cards.

In video games.

They seem to have become increasingly popular over the last 5-10 years - and not just in phone games, where you might actually expect poor design choices, but everywhere.  And they've started driving me crazy.

Do you remember playing Super Mario Bros as a child?  If you're anything like me, you probably had a really hard time as the levels started to progress - those blasted Hammer Brothers, those long, bottomless pits, those flying fish.  The first few levels were really easy, but it got difficult.  Nonetheless, the challenge could really pay off - finally reaching that flag pole at the end of the level was a really satisfying event.  It felt like an achievement.  The game even gave you fireworks.

There was another satisfying feeling playing Super Mario Bros - that feeling you got when you found a "secret."  Maybe it was an invisible extra life mushroom, or a pipe you could go down for a bonus stage, or a warp zone.  Maybe you didn't really "find" it so much as your friend told you about it - but it was nonetheless a nice feeling.  It not only felt like you discovered something, but that you discovered something you weren't supposed to.  You were gaming the system a little bit (or a lot).  You had access to special, insider knowledge.

The trouble with report cards is that they corrode both of these warm fuzzy feelings.  When you beat a level in Mario, you had beaten it.  If you found a secret, you had gamed the system.  When a report card pops up at the end of the level, telling you that you didn't find all the Star Coins or that you didn't kill all the monsters or beat the level fast enough to get 100%, that damages both concepts.  It's sort of like the gods of the game telling you, "You know, Sonic, that was really great the way you beat Dr. Robotnik and rescued all the animals, but really, if you think about it, you could've done it better.  Also, you missed a bunch of gems and rings on the way.  Don't you want to try again and get all the gems and rings you missed?  Huh?"

The real answer to this is NO.  I DON'T want to play the level again.  I want to feel satisfied that I beat the level NOW, and then I want to be presented with NEW variety of content (because I am a selfish, entitled millenial, according to Newsweek's age range at least... sigh).  I don't want to be told that I missed three "secrets" and, in order to get 100%, I have to go back and scour the level for fake walls and hidden details.  Secrets are supposed to be secret!  They should be bonuses.

It reminds me a lot of my 9th grade biology teacher.  He made us do these handwritten "lab notebooks," and graded them with a meticulous eye for detail.  At the beginning of the semester, he informed us that in order to get an A on our lab notebook, we would have to go "above and beyond" in some way.  For me, this was particularly frustrating, because I valued my grade point average (a little too much, as it turned out).  "Above and beyond" is great if it gives you real bonus points.  That's fine.  But to say I have to go "above and beyond" to get an A?  That's not "above and beyond!"  That's "expected!"  That's the opposite of "above and beyond!"  (Fortunately, as you can see, I am totally over this now.  *cough*) 

With these in-game report cards, what used to feel like an A (just beating the level) now feels like a C, or worse.  And what used to feel like bonus points now feels like an A.  It's... it's... satisfaction deflation, is what it is!

They also take you out of the game world, if you're the type of person who likes to feel immersed in video games.  No sane Mario would care whether he had found all 5 dragon coins in a level - he just wants to save the Princess!  Popping up a report card is like a direct kick to to your, uh... sense of immersion - you're not really on a quest to kill Dracula or beat Ganon or whatever - you're just playing a game.  It's not a dungeon, it's an obstacle course.  And don't you think you could be beating the game better?

Of course there are game genres where report cards are perfectly fine - sports games and collect-a-thons most notably, where the organic goal of the game is to check items off a list or execute a task optimally.  That's fine.

And part of me understands the temptation to include the report cards.  I even thought about putting them in my own game (The Adventures of Chris).  Like achievements, report cards are a way of artificially padding out content by adding in extra challenges to existing levels.  Instead of just one level where you only have to beat it, now it's like two or three levels where you have to get through it FAST or get through it COMPLETELY, etc etc.  Unlike achievements, however, report cards are much harder to ignore.  Achievements are bonuses for people who like them (which is great).  Report cards are judgments for people who don't (which is less great).  

So, to all my eventual players, I apologize for even thinking about putting report cards in my game.  I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, the way that I will someday, some year, find it in my heart to forgive my 9th grade biology teacher.