Game Philosophy: Stealth

I’m on fire these days!

Welcome to yet another:


Today’s topic:

Let me first give a notification that whenever I say “Recent games do this and that, dagnabbit” and all that, I’m not actually saying that older games were always better.
In fact I’m actually pretty un-nostalgic at times because I actually tend to like newer games in a series, simply due to not having any Nostalgia Goggles on like most people.

I rather have Super Mario Galaxy than Super Mario Bros 3, I rather have Sonic Generations than Sonic 3 & Knuckles, I rather have… okay Majora’s Mask is still my favorite Legend of Zelda game, but either way, I’m not blinded by nostalgia all the time.

But today’s topic is something that I ACTUALLY think should be redone as it was from the past. Stealth Games.

Mind you, I still like recent Stealth Games, but in comparison to older Stealth Games, there is something missing.
And that is the feeling of being a ghost.

See, the definition of Stealth Games nowadays is “Kill everyone without being seen”.
You are seen as a great player when every body in the room is dead and nobody saw it coming.

But the definition of Stealth Games in the old days was “Get through the level without being seen”.
You are seen as a great player when the enemy never even thought you were there to begin with, which means NOT killing anybody.

You see, in the recent games, they kind of want to make your character seem as the “Smart” Soldier because he knows how to effectively kill everyone.
It gives you a satisfied feeling, like you’re way too clever for those dumb enemies who panic about your whereabouts.

But the older games were the opposite.
It focuses on the world around you. It makes you appreciate the lives of the enemy, because you observe them.
You’re not there to kill them, you’re there to leave them alone, do your mission while watching your enemy’s moves.
And that would give you a certain feeling which not a lot of game genre’s can rival, the feeling that your surroundings actually are alive.

It gives you the feeling that the enemies aren’t there exclusively to kill you. They’re doing their daily jobs. They probably have a family, and they’ll probably even talk about them with a friend, or in fact they simple mutter it to themselves, not knowing that you’re watching them.

A game that does this well would be:

In this game, you play a Thief called Garret and, to be quite honest, I don’t actually care about his character that much.
But then again, it’s kind of the point, you instead care about the world around you. You sneak through multiple places trying not to be seen while you steal certain valuables, like a cup or a candle or… stuff…
But while you do that, you also  get to hear the daily lives of the guards in the game. They have lives, they talk to eachother, they react to what the others are doing.

The game still lets you kill them if you want, sure, but that’s not the point of the game.
You’re a thief, not a murderer.
Your job is to steal stuff, not kill everyone in the building. The game would actually call you out on it if you do.

It shows the great things about a stealth game. It’s able to put you in a realistic world and NOT be pretentious about it.
It’s main appeal IS the fact it’s in a realistic building, at times making you feel like you’re actually sneaking into a place you’re not supposed to be in instead of an obstacle course.

And a game that does it wrong would be:

Now now, hold your horses, people. Let me first make one thing clear.
I LOVE this game. No seriously, it does many things wrong in term of how a stealth game should be, but I friggin love this game.
The thing is though, I actually enjoy it as a tactical shooter rather than a stealth game.

In this game, you play as rogue spy Sam Fisher.  His daughter died, but then they reveal she actually isn’t dead. And this fuels Sam for his little vengeance… thing…
Yeah the story isn’t actually that spectacular, but what makes me love the game is how it does it’s story telling. I might even say it’s my favorite story telling technique I’ve seen in a game ever.
But that’s not what we’re going to talk about here.

What this game does wrong is this:
It encourages you to kill everybody. Hell you even get a “kill everybody” button.
It’s not about appreciating the world anymore, it’s about destroying it.
Well okay, you’re actually there to save the world, but you’re friggin high profile for someone who’s supposed to be a shadow.
Sure, it’s justified in the story, but for a Stealth game, it kinda goes against everything a stealth game is supposed to be.

See the thing is, if the game didn’t do “Kill people stealthily” so friggin well, I’d actually have hated this game. A lot. Because it represents everything wrong about recent Stealth Games.
However because it DOES do that so well, I’m willing to give it a pass.

But either way though, the difference is apparent, and while I recommend both games to any Stealth gamer, I really wish Stealth games would go back to the concept of “be like a ghost and observe”.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

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