There are exactly two different types of video gamers: Those who choose “New Game” right after starting a game for the first time, and those who click on “Settings” first. I don’t really dislike video gamers who immediately click on “New Game”, but they are a bit suspicious to me. Depending on the game, there are countless setting options to discover here, which you should definitely go through thoroughly beforehand. In fact, the options menu can often give you an idea of the quality and depth of a game in advance. At least that’s what I’ve been thinking for a few years now. It’s not automatically true that an options menu that is meager in terms of setting options must indicate a simple game – with more extensive setting options, I still somehow expect a better main game. And so every new game starts for me in the options menu.

Tab by tab, point by point, I go through step by step and systematically. In most cases, I have no idea at all what the effects of changing individual points would be: Reverse dash function sounds absolutely cryptic when you don’t even know what this dash function is yet, nor what happens when you reverse this dash function now. Whether I should turn down the music in the game a few percentage points more than the voice output is something I can’t judge in advance, just like the optimal stick sensitivity or the perfect position of the FOV slider. And even if I’m happy about the possibility to freely and individually assign the keys in the options menu under controller settings – I consider that much, much more valuable than the mere selection of two to three predefined alternative button mappings – I would never get the idea to change these controller settings in advance. The developers must have thought of something. As with all the other presets, why should I change anything here?

The options menus in video games have become a bit overwhelming – and thus almost exhausting – over the last few years. Nevertheless, I start every new game in the options menu. The last time I changed something in advance was a few years ago. It was neither color adjustments to the crosshair, nor the strength of the PVE camera shake – and yet this option gave me a better gameplay experience: The piece of toilet paper to be torn off has to be in front, of course!

Options menu from the point and click adventure Thimbleweed Park (2017)

In games, we visit places that can be strange, scary, abstract, or just plain beautiful. One of my favorite places is none of these, and yet it can be found in almost every video game. It doesn’t appear on a single virtual map, but should still be the first place visited before actually starting the game: The trip to the options menu is an absolute must!

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