Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Loading screens give time to rest & refocus during intense gaming sessions.
  • They provide art, lore, & helpful tips that enhance immersion in the game world.
  • Loading screens create anticipation & mark progression, adding structure to games.

No one can argue that faster loading times in video games isn’t a good thing, but I think that the loading screens that were necessary to cover those period when new data was fed into memory were actually cool. Sadly, for the most part, this is one aspect of gaming that’s gone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t reminisce about why loading screens were actually kind of cool.

It Gives Me Time to Breathe

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to get hyper-focused on my games to the exclusion of everything else around me. The odd loading screen here and there does me the favor of kicking me back to reality occasionally, and gives me some relief from the tension of certain relentless and action-packed games.

Modern games are, more and more, designed to keep your attention at all costs. Having no loading screens means never letting you unplug from the Matrix, even if only for a few seconds at a time. It’s definitely a convenience, and makes for more immersive games, but I think there’s a downside to it as well.

The best alternative I’ve found is to set a timer on my smartwatch or phone, to ensure that I get reminded of real life every hour or so!

Cool Art and Lore

One of my favorite things about loading screens is that it gives the game developers an opportunity to slip in bits of lore or cool artwork that pull you further into the game world. One of the best examples has to be the Elder Scrolls series, which shows you interesting information about the game world, and let you look at detailed art or in-game models.

The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Special Edition screenshot showing a loading screen with lore and tips.

Sadly, there’s no real modern replacement for this. Some game developers are quite good at making you discover lore naturally during the course of play, but it’s just not the same. I guess I’ll have to head over to that game’s wiki and read it like some sort of caveman.

Tips and Things I Might Have Missed

It’s not just game lore that makes its way to loading screens, but also practical tips. I often simply miss or forget things that the game has told me before in the tutorial or as part of normal gameplay. Sometimes I just miss things completely the first time around. Either way, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a tip or game info on a loading screen that got me past a part I was stuck on, or opened up new possibilities in the game.

Honestly, the best alternative to this is YouTube. There are just so many YouTubers who have great spoiler-free videos just on how to play the game properly, or that explain game mechanics the game developers themselves did a poor job of demonstrating.

It Makes It Feel Like Something Special Is Coming

No one wants to twiddle their thumbs and do nothing, but sometimes the anticipation of something can feel almost as good as the experience itself. Loading screens feel almost like a microcosm of that, and loading up a new level, or hitting that loading screen just before a boss battle or big story moment can really get you psyched up. There’s just no substitute for that!

It Gives Sense of Progression and Structure

I’m really starting to feel that mainstream games are starting to gel into a sort of metaverse-ish soup of open-world life simulators. Games are less linear, and more like playgrounds or sandboxes than actual games. One of the main reasons gamers have celebrated the end of load screens is because it gets in the way of their traversal of these large open worlds.

Fair enough, but a sense of progression is still an important part of video games, and loading screens help signal that you’ve put one thing behind you and something new is coming. For games with traditional levels, loading screens are like chapter markers. For large games, it’s a sign you’ve crossed the threshold between one area and the next. In any case, seeing a loading screen tells my brain that something new is going to happen.

It’s Perfect for a Body Break

Maybe the most mundane, but ultimately, most important thing loading screens can do, is remind you that your body has needs too. Whether it’s getting another drink to stay hydrated, stretching, or a trip to the bathroom, it’s good to have these little breaks. Which is why I have to give a special shout out to those game developers that make you press a button when the loading is done to proceed, because they know lots of people are still making coffee!

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By John P.

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