Rewind as game console feature?

It seems like heaps of games feature some sort of “rewind feature” these days. From the never-really-made-it-big Blinx, to the let’s-keep-making-sequels Prince of Persia series, to the art-house title Braid… everyone is doing it. And why not? It feels like part of the logical progression from creating machines that eat coins to a more conceptual view of “gaming”.

I need to segway a little bit here and explain my view of the timeline of major game innovations (aka. realising when stuff doesn’t matter):

  1. In early games you have a certain number of credits (or lives) and play for a high score. This is so that arcade machines make money by appealing to our competitive nature.
  2. We’ve been moving away from the concepts of lives and scores for quite a while. Home users have already bought the console, so you don’t need to continually slog them for coins. Moreover scores are meaningless in many games.
  3. (Some) companies realise that it’s stupid to punish the player when their character “dies”. It’s incredibly rare that you have to start the entire game again because you are out of lives, but you are generally still set back in some way.

The minimal punishment you can inflict on a player when their character dies (or when they hit point in the game where they can’t progress due to something they messed up) is to return them to just before that happened. An excellent way to put them in control of the situation is to let them rewind the game whenever they want.

Rewind and fast-forward are used in a some of classic console emulators (eg. NesDS) in order to make the games of yester-year more palatable to today’s gamers. Why not make it a standard feature in future game consoles? Throw in other standard controls like pause and fast-forward. There’s already more feature integration at the console operating system level (networking, billing, save game management, quitting, achievements/trophies).

It might sound weird now, but it could be part of making games more mainstream. People are used to rewind, fast-forward, chapter selection, etc. in other media. Why not in games?

Bottom line: I’d play more platformers if I could rewind, and I’d definately play more Japanese RPGs if I could fast-forward.