Musings Of A Mad Hatter: Difficult Enjoyment
Should games be hard? They should be challenging yes, pushing your boundaries and taking you out of your comfort zone, but should they sacrifice enjoyment for that? It’s one thing for a game to be hard, but should it be infuriating and almost cringe-worthy to play? I don’t think so.
This has become apparent to me in recent days. In my GamerScore Whore tendencies I started a lot of games on Hard just to get achievements. Darksiders, Bioshock 2, Halo ODST and a few others. The more I played these otherwise fantastic games the more I started to resent them. I was consistently dying on Darksiders’ Apocalyptic difficulty that I started hating the game later on. It was still an absolutely brilliant game, but I was so frustrated by the tiniest mistake that I just wanted to get the game over with.
I didn’t give Darksiders the chance to wow me like it did a lot of people. I was so focused on getting GamerScore and bragging rights that I lost touch with why I fell in love with gaming in the first place. I was so focused on trying to be better than other people that it killed my sense of enjoyment.
Same for ODST. I started on Legendary and after the 20th time failing one measly section, I just rage quit. I couldn’t handle it anymore to be frank. I wasn’t having fun at all. So there I was, with no incentive to play any games because I knew I was just going to scream FUCK and throw my controller into my brother’s balls.
Our very own Rudolf pleaded to me to just play the games on Normal because I needed to experience it first and not hate the game for being too hard. I’m a stubborn son of a bitch so I dusted myself off and went at it. I started Bioshock 2 again from my Hard playthrough and after struggling for 2 hours with one part I just called it quits. Fuck that shit. The fat lady has fallen through the floorboards. The cows have flocked to the butcher shop. A snowball climbed out of Hell. I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore. Basically I just decided screw it and changed it to Normal.
I started to have fun again. My room didn’t echo with the words of sailors and constipated railworkers. I was playing a good game for the fun of it and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I realise what I’ve been doing to myself. I was subjecting myself to absolute torture for the sake of pointless reward and acknowledgement. I’m not the only one guilty of this however. Other gamers play games for the sake of becoming famous or to get status and that’s wrong. We should not do that. A good example of this is the Guitar Hero YouTube crowd who play a single song hundreds of times just to get a Full Combo on it. Sure, it’s impressive, but that’s not why Guitar Hero was made. It was made to have fun with your mates and feel like a rockstar, not obsessively playing a song because it has a lot of little notes and not even remotely enjoying it.
I’ve made a pact with myself that I will play a game on Normal difficulty first to just enjoy the game and not be bothered with achievements and whatever. If I like the game enough I will go through on Hard with my new found familiarity with the game and I will breeze through it. I will not subject myself to endless scream fests and insane boss fights before I get to enjoy the game first.
There are the obvious exceptions to difficult games, however. Games that are extremely fun and rewarding just by difficulty alone such as The Witcher 2 on Dark was immensely fun (Well, for me at least) and the obvious Dark Souls which made you feel triumphant for every little feat you accomplished. Games like that have their place, but have to be pulled off very well to be worth your time and effort.
I was an idiot to think that I was going to have fun if I started a game on its highest difficulty. Something I will, from now on, never do again. Gaming is supposed to be a form of enjoyment, not some manner in which you test how much of a beating your balls can take and how strong the average controller is. We need to get back to our roots where playing games for the hell of it was the only reason we did it. If you’re up for a challenge, then by all means, start the game on Nightmare and enjoy yourself.