We all have our small, petty hills to die on. Here is mine: I think fishing minigames are bad, and games would be better without them.
The word "minigame" should describe a small game within the game, featuring minimal mechanics and some intrinsic playfulness. But I see no joy in the act of tapping a button to cast a line, waiting a bit, then tapping the same button again — and nearly all fishing minigames are like that! It's a genre devoid of innovation, stuck for decades in the same tap-wait-tap loop (or the equally common, but more inaccessible tap-wait-smash-button variant). I almost enjoyed fishing in Ys VIII, because it makes sense for a group of castaways to fish, but the hardest catch required an amount of button mashing that hurt my fingers and made me fear for the structural integrity of my pad. I can only imagine how painful the activity must be for less abled players.
[I know this video isn't about any of the games mentioned here, but I like the idea of FISH BITING BACK paired with the text of this article. - ed.]
When games do try to shake things up, they often fail to explain how their fishing minigame differs from the norm. That's why my pirate friends in Sea Of Thieves never got much fish from me: despite the time spent googling "how to catch fish" while feeling incredibly silly, I still don't get how it works. You have to pull your rod in the opposite direction of the fish, I think? And the joypad rumbles if the line is too tense? How can people with a keyboard and mouse play this minigame?
At least it makes sense, from a thematic standpoint, to have fishing minigames in Caribbean-themed games like Ys VIII and Sea Of Thieves. I can even begrudgingly accept their presence in life sims like Stardew Valley. But do we really need to add fishing to every game featuring a single pond, I wonder? Did horror game Witch's Heart truly need a fishing mechanic? Did Warframe? And can we talk about Hades for a second? Why does Zagreus keep stopping his escape from the underworld to cast a line? Is he secretly hoping for his angry dad to catch up with him, so they can enjoy some father-son fishing time?
I just don't get why everyone seems so obsessed with fishing. Is this a decades-long revenge plot orchestrated by a secret cabal of developers who wanted to see the River King series localized in English?
I know what you're thinking: let people enjoy things, Giada! Why can't you simply avoid fishing, if you hate it so? Readers, I'd love to — but games need to stop slowly forcing me to play their damn fishing minigames first! The "optional" fishing activities are the only way to make some decent cash in Nier: Automata, to get quality equipment in Regalia, and to get some powerful weapons in Final Fantasy XII.
To me, fishing minigames seem to have reached the same memetic ubiquity of petting dogs: a cutesy action that has now become a mandatory addition. I'm not much of a dog person either. Perhaps that's the problem. If you're a developer looking for minigames ideas, may I suggest scrapping fishing in favour of a minigame where you have to try to pet a cat without getting scratched?