I had intended today to bring you a review of super-chunky pixel Metroid-me-do. I’m not saying which, because then it becomes personal against the developer. It’s a lovely-looking game, really boiling down the complexity of Metroid-likes into super-simple presentation, with deceptively smart pixel work. I was having a tremendous time for the first hour, and was looking forward to recommending this, no matter how similar it is to Environmental Station Alpha. And then I reached the first boss fight.
Now, for you, I’m sure it’s fine. You are that person who’s so proficient at boss fights that you condemn all others who struggle, and are incapable of the empathy required to accept that not everyone is you. And no, I’m not talking about you! I’m talking about him. We’re not here to cater for him.
The first boss fight at first appears fun!
It’s the usual set-up here – your ship crashes into a space station, it’s crawling with enemies, and you’re trying to work out what’s going on. It doesn’t have an original element in the opening, just delivers the Metroid experience fairly competently, with lovely movement and a splendid jump. Enemies are bog-standard, slimes that crawl around platforms, robots that fly or dash about, and you can easily polish them off while exploring what’s available, and what is currently unreachable. There are a couple of power-ups to be found, one improving your weapon, the other adding an extra bar of health, usual stuff. And then, once you’ve explored all possible avenues, you fall down a long, long drop and arrive in what is obviously going to be the first boss’s lair.
Said boss is a bigger version of one of the particularly easy robot enemies, but this time can only be hit from below. He fires out a spinny square enemy too, and occasionally jumps in the air, letting you run underneath and fire a good few shots at his belly. It feels like standard stuff, and it’s not too tricky to defeat! Hurrah! A game that wants to be played. Except, no, because the boss – despite your having depleted his health bar – isn’t dead after all. He gets back up and carries on, this time firing out two spinny squares, and being more aggressive. And I just don’t have enough health to start with to be able to defeat it again. I’ve tried a bunch of times, to the point where I’m just sick of the short section from save point to drop to waiting for the boss, to crashing through the floor, to starting the fight again.
I figured, hey, I must be getting something wrong here. This is obviously way too difficult, this early on, and surely I’m missing a trick. So I went to the Steam discussions, found the inevitable thread, and… turns out the boss has three stages. Even if I’d gotten past this second one (which I felt was in reach, if I had the patience to bother), I’d have a whole third time to get through, presumably more difficult than the first two. And, well, screw that.
But since I obviously wasn’t the only person struggling, I figured there might be some support, some option to lower the difficulty, or cheat past it, or what-have-you. The sorts of things that make him so mad, but are perfectly normal and acceptable to everyone else in the world who thinks games are things to enjoy. Except, wow, nope. In fact, I encountered something that made me properly sad.
“It’s about where I want it to be in terms of difficulty.”
From the developer, in response to people telling him they can’t get past it. On being told by the same person they can’t carry on playing the game because of this, he replies,
“Fair enough. No plans for an easy mode at the moment sorry.”
Now, let’s be absolutely clear. The developer is welcome to make any game he wishes, any way he wishes. He is perfectly entitled to respond to comments from people finding it too hard by making it harder, and then replying with just a poop emoji. It’s his game, his creation, and he gets to make it as hard as he wants.
But I also get to say: that sucks, dude.
I understand the boss has been made slightly easier since that discussion, based on the demo, in June. See how terrible I must be at games? There are inevitably a bunch of him-type comments from those who beat it the first time even though their eyes were being pecked out by a crow at the time. But I can’t do it. So I can’t carry on having fun with the game.
So I’ve stopped playing the game. Now, I’m not woefully incompetent. I likely would eventually beat the damned thing if I tried enough times, got so incredibly practised at it that I had every move down, and also just plain lucked out that it dropped health (sometimes it just doesn’t). And then I’d get access to the game I was enjoying again! Until the next boss fight.
For many, this is just what they want from a game. They want those repeated attempts, to refine their tactics until they have it down. I get that. But for so many others, massive difficulty walls gating access to the rest of the far, far simpler game, is bewildering. The idea that a game that is 90% designed to be enjoyed by those people, but cannot and will not because of the 10% that’s incongruously hard, seems so damned odd! What is lost by letting those people skip the boss fight? They’re not enjoying that 10% at all, but also cannot access the 90% they were loving!
I’ve yelled this over and over, and each time received more hatred and bile in response than for any other subject I’ve ever covered in 20+ years of games criticism. Him, that guy, is FURIOUS about this subject, absolutely incandescent with rage that anyone else would want access to the 90% of the game they enjoy playing. He will reply with phrases like “git gud,” thinking this is wonderfully original and hilarious, failing to understand that what’s actually happening is a rather grim presentation of his own lack of self-esteem, processed as cruelty to others.
So yes, my time has been wasted by this game, which I had so wanted to recommend because of 90% of its content. But the 10% blocks my access, and honestly, reading those words from the developer put me off ever wanting to play it again. “I don’t care that you bought it and can’t play it. It’s how I want it.” Sure, that’s his right, no one can take that away. But goodness gracious, what a weird attitude to your players.
I admit my opinion here might be a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, but this is one reason I am coming to appreciate Game Pass more and more.. I’ve come across several games where, when the difficulty wall spiked, I was able to just quit, delete the game, and move on to the next one. Without having actually purchased the game I feel minimal obligation to beat it and get my money’s worth from the purchase; my money instead has gone towards the entire suite of available games so it’s still served well by moving on. I also feel like it helps me avoid the trap of “endgame”, although I tend to ignore that on games I have purchased separately anyway.
I tried to play Dark Souls again recently. I love so much of the game. I love the slow, sedate progress, the swordplay, the art design, the lore. But the boss fights are just unpleasant. Unless you’re an expert, they just feel random and punishing. I’m good enough at games to enjoy the challenge of the normal baddies, but not good enough to enjoy the bosses. Bye bye!
Gotta say I’m ambivalent about this. I’m absolutely in favour of all kinds of accessibility features, and I’m happy for any and every game where the developers include generous, flexible difficulty options – but I also think it’s valid for developers to decide that challenge and frustration are essential to what they’re trying to do with their game. I don’t want games to be 100% commodified content delivery machines only, I want them to be able to do different things than just provide fun, and this includes them being able to be unpleasant in certain ways. This doesn’t mean that any and every difficulty spike is automatically good – more often than not, they’re bad design rather than purposeful – but I do think that making the bits that may not be immediately enjoyable optional changes what is there. Not in the sense that you not having to fight a boss changes my experience of the game, that’s just idiotic rubbish, but in the sense that a developer may consider frustration or anger to be integral to the experience in the same way that you may consider it to be arrogant and shitty.
If the result of a developer’s desired effect is that most people give up and stop playing it, then I’d argue their motivations are a little strange. There are plenty of imaginative and inventive ways to frustrate a player without making the entire game inaccessible to them.
I might as well glue all the pages of a book together, and declare it’s a statement about frustrating the reader.
But it isn’t inaccessible for most of those players, unless a player chooses not to continue. As you say yourself, you could continue playing and would probably even get past that fight, but you don’t – for perfectly valid reasons. If you’re not getting anything out of the repetition and frustration, why wouldn’t you stop? I just don’t automatically consider the developer’s reasons to be less valid, and I don’t think that this is as different from someone not continuing with Finnegan’s Wake after page 50 because they find Joyce’s writing impenetrable and are getting zero enjoyment from it, and this wouldn’t change if they skipped the next 50 pages either. Sure, technically the rest of the book is accessible to them, but IMO that’s a silly distinction if they feel they’re not getting anything and would have to reread every page a dozen times just to get the sentences on a syntactic level.
But again, it would be like if every 50 pages into a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible book, there were a page that was so impenetrable that it made following the plot madly difficult.
And I was speaking more generally – there are many games I have had to give up on because I simply cannot get past a particular boss.
To me, that sounds like badly designed, badly balanced boss battles – and that sort of thing doesn’t even have to be a boss battle. To my mind, something like Psychonauts’ Meat Circus wasn’t bad because you couldn’t skip it, it’s because it was done badly so that you wanted to skip it. Same with a boss battle difficulty spike. If they require skills that the game hasn’t even begun to teach you, I’d consider the problem to be the design of the boss battle (or of what led up to it).
Though, to go back somewhat on my earlier point: I’d consider the difficulty of Dark Souls or Bloodborne to be integral to what those games are doing, and while I wouldn’t have any objections if the designers allowed players to skip fights, I think it’s fair enough that they decide not to include that option. Same to some extent with a hard-as-nails platformer. If the Metroidvania you allude to in your post is perfectly pleasant and playable up to the boss but then you hit a wall, and fighting the boss just means that you keep running into that wall with little to no sense of progress, then I doubt that this is some kind of statement about frustration or repetition or anything like that. It does sound like bad boss design, or bad game design if the rest of the game is supposed to prepare you for the bosses to some extent.
I love difficult and challenging games … sometimes. It really depends on my mood, and this is something that cannot really be calculated. I do understand where the developer is coming from. If I play a game, and begin to suspect that it is purposefully making things easy for me, that can really kill the enjoyment. Not every game mind you, but a metroid-vania kind of has to be tough for me to enjoy it. It’s a personal challenge of sorts.
I get the frustration too though. I have quit any number of games that did this. For whatever reason, the exploration was not compelling enough for me to stick through the boss fight. Adding an easy mode might have made me continue playing … but that feeling of “cheating” may have spoiled it. I did this with one of the Wolfenstein games … bosses were way tougher than the rest of the game, so I switched to easy for the bosses. Seems fine at first, but because I had to step outside of the game’s boundaries it spoils the immersion necessary to really enjoy it (for me).
But I totally understand both sides of this. As a game developer, I do try to make my games accessible to people. As a player, I guess I have to live with two minds on the topic.
I’m with you on the Environmental Station Alpha difficulty. I’m still angry at that game for asking so damn much of my time and patience as a player.
I think the type 1/type 2 fun distinction is relevant here. Sometimes bosses are easy enough that they stay fun the whole time. Sometimes bosses are hard enough that they get frustrating, but that’s ok if the experience feels fair and well designed — I’ll remember it fondly. ESA managed to be frustrating enough that my whole opinion of it curdled, despite being otherwise something with a lot of enjoyment to offer.
Let us know what this one is so we can avoid it!
The developer attitude is interesting – normally I’d be very put off, but given it’s an hour into the game, and the discussion is on the Steam forum, where you can get a refund for any game that you haven’t played two hours of – it feels a bit fairer. It reads to me like “yeah, the game isn’t for you, you can get your money back”.
A difficulty spike 3 hours in and a developer with that attitude would be a much bigger problem to me.
Listen, I’m far from being for capitalism. But this is where the Free Market actually makes sense.
You (author) want me to be frustrated with your game? Fine. I won’t play it then, nor I’ll buy it. Because – you know what – there are countless others out there, and I’ll be just as fine without yours.
But you won’t be as ok without my purchase. Which may be just a little thing, yet is a little less in your pocket. Remember that when you’ll be standing in line to beg for a job at an Amazon warehouse.
Or – since we all love using the ‘games are art’ metaphore: you are welcome to write your wonderful novel in black on a 98% black background. Just don’t expect me to read it, much less to pay for it. If novelist get this, game designer should be able to get that.
And that’s it, really. This is why I have grown to plainly skip any game promoted as “hardcore” or “punishing”, or whatever 10-years old special kids think it is cool to suffer through.
But there is also the harsh reality that every thing created in the game takes time to make. Many people are making games in their own free time, speculating that there is an audience. Many games translate into less than minimum wage compensation for their efforts, and few teams have the advertising and marketing abilities to even understand what kind of games will be profitable.
Only the largest and most corporate companies have survived more than 5-10 years publishing video games. So many classic games were created by companies that no longer exist or had to be absorbed by more financially solvent ones.
Since you are putting all that time and effort into something, be the smart guy and make it usable while you are at it!
If a feature of your product is “you won’t be able to fully utilize it”, that’s a pretty good sign that you should change your design (or job).
It’s an interesting topic, and like you allude to, you either find that steep, repetitive try-and-try again learning curve fun, or you don’t. I do not enjoy “Soulslike” games for this same reason, because I prefer the feeling of progression, exploration, and a real but gradual learning curve over a Live Die Repeat design. But I have mates who recommended the Dark Souls games to me for this very reason, and they (bizarrely) loved it!
You say your time (and money) has been wasted, so how can that be avoided in future? I’m not a fan of pigeonholing, but perhaps the developer should make it clear what “type” of game it is first to set some level of expectation and avoid disappointment?
Boss fights are a the number one reason I stop playing a game. Reading this article made me realize games are the only medium the that don’t let you skip over content. I wonder how much of the problem could be fixed with options to skip challenges or a Luigi that shows you how to overcome the challenge mechanic.
I like trying new games. I like experiencing new or different or weird ludological concepts and attempts. I tend to get a lot of new games (especially on sale or inexpensive ones) and play until I understand “it’s exactly this kind of game, doing nothing new or interesting,” or, “you spiked the difficulty too much, too soon.” Because the 2nd thing is usually a flavor of the first.
Making a boss harder is almost never about a new mechanic or interesting use of a tool. It’s usually about making the boss faster or giving it more hit-points or making it invulnerable except from certain angles or with certain weapons.
This is not interesting to me, because the game mechanic required to “git gud” is usually just me learning how to repeat a very particular set of reactions. To me, that feels the same… regardless of what game I’m playing. That is, beating the boss that requires that kind of “muscle memory” (or whatever we’d call it) on a metroid game feels the same as beating a bullet hell boss or a space-invaders boss for that matter.
It is, I think, kind of lazy.
Boss levels are weird anyway. Why should one bad guy be one more more orders-of-magnitude harder than other baddies? It’s a trope, frankly. Interesting and fun in some settings, sure. And if not too much of a hindrance, a nice break from whatever the non-boss repetition loop is.
I wouldn’t compare it to sticking pages together in a book. I’d compare it to forcing a reader to slog through multiple pages of description of for one character who doesn’t advance the plot much. 🙂
I think, if a developer wants to include “tough”, content-gating boss encounters, it comes down to meticulous and extensive playtesting and balancing.
This issue reared its head in Hollow Knight for me… I loved the game, up until the first boss, then absolutely hit a brick wall… couldn’t even begin to make a dent, and it ruined a wonderful game for me.
Contrast to the first Ori game, where especially the first of the chase sequences was a major difficulty spike… I just didn’t feel the same punitive sting – it was a tough challenge, and I tried until I beat it. I think it was entirely down to it being so carefully crafted an experience that every single attempt felt like a I was *juuust* on the edge of cracking it… rather than just being pounded unforgivingly into the ground, left thinking “there’s no way in hell”
…or one of my personal favourites of recent years – Rain World – which is relentlessly tough and unforgiving, but built on systems so carefully and perfectly tuned that twenty hours in, you build up such muscle-memory and instincts that the earlier areas that felt so hard before, now feel trivial, without ever artificially “upgrading” your character… it’s all skill you learn organically, and is amazingly rewarding.
For my tastes, the classic boss-battle-pattern-memorization thing is such a tired and lazy bit of design, unless it’s done absolutely perfectly… and most times doesn’t feel like it has a payoff in feeling like I’ve actually *learned* anything even once I do beat a boss fight – I just feel like I managed to fluke it at last, and thank god it’s over and I can get back to enjoying the game.
Genuinely tough challenges have been done in so many better ways over the years. Devs need to stop falling back on these old crutches so readily.
I’m in two minds about this, because if you’ve bought a book, you’ve bought all of it. A knotty dream sequence doesn’t actually hold you back until you’ve decrypted the symbolism and understood the characters pysche better. In this analogy: fine! Let the boss fights be skipped, let many customisable difficulty modes allow for maximum accessibility. Let me finally play Bloodborne and explore that world and its lore without being pulled apart by horrible dogmen.
On the other hand, if someone just finds the vocabulary of a book beyond them, the structure too complicated to understand…I don’t think the author should issue options. I don’t think they need to provide a simplified text or shorter words. You have the book as it is: you can try and understand or you can put it aside.
Ultimately, I think I come down on the side of ‘let things be what they are and try to judge whether they’re right for you or not’. I certainly don’t think the author’s out of line to say “I’ve made the experience I wanted to, sorry it’s not up your street”
I very very much appreciate it when developers give me options to “finish” a game. Being able to choose from multiple strategies, or lower the difficulty, or skipping altogether the toil of pressing the right buttons in the right combinations at the right times, makes me want to keep playing games by those developers.
A great example is Divinity Original Sin 2. The final fight can be as difficult as you want based on your game settings and choices you can make before the boss fight. It can be a multi-NPC affair with every surface in fire or a co-op on the easiest setting where you just have to burn down one character. It’s great and it’s entirely your choice how you want it to go.
I’m really divided on this subject because I’ve had games where the difficulty spike made me quit playing the game and I’ve had games where the difficulty spike was a satisfying challenge that forced me to learn skills that made the whole rest of the game more fun.
And it’s usually impossible to tell which is which until I’ve banged my head against that wall for a while. Many of those satisfying, rewarding challenges I would have skipped if there had been a button to let me do it. And that would have been a real loss. But some of the games that I didn’t finish because they didn’t have that button were also a real loss.
I love a good boss fight. I like pretty much everything From Software, and Hollow Knight is one of my all-time favorite games; I didn’t just circle back to 100% its achievements, I went mad enough to combo up the challenges, and did an iron man speed run.
But I also love Celeste, which has an excellent in-game set of difficulty-adjusting options. Which directly made the game accessible to some of my friends that I usually wouldn’t be able to recommend a challenging platformer to, while in no way keeping the default game’s settings from kicking my ass up and down a mountain. I particularly like the settings that slow the game’s speed while leaving the balance of all the other game mechanics intact.
I do understand that the Dark Souls games default to having online multiplayer features that would interact badly with customizable difficulty. But those games /can/ be played in an offline mode– they could definitely reach a larger audience even if people who adjusted difficulty settings needed to be locked out of the multiplayer features. Hollow Knight was made by a very small team– perhaps they didn’t have the resources to implement difficulty options well. Sekiro was a huge-budget blockbuster with neither of those excuses!
More games should be like Celeste.
We understand color-blind accessibility options. We have subtitle and hearing options.
Reflex speed and hand-eye coordination are at least in part physical limitations that cannot be improved past a certain point by any amount of practice.
Every time an argument on video game difficulty breaks out, I picture the people sneering ‘Git gud’ telling someone in a wheelchair they should ‘git gud’ at walking. Or maybe they’re standing atop a flight of stairs, smirking down while they say ‘this game’s not /for/ you’.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be difficulty spikes and difficult boss fights.
I remember a moment of insight I had while running a high difficulty World of Warcraft raid — the best boss fights aren’t just a test to see if the player has engaged with and mastered all the skills and systems the game wants the player to have learned (though that’s important, too), they are dances. Half choreographed, half improvisational. The game leading with cues from mechanics and systems until the player finds the steps and matches the beat. Since that moment, I see the dance in other games, Bayonetta and Bloodborne and Hollow Knight.
And just giving the player more health or damage could break that– lead to the player just standing there and trading hits with the boss until it falls over, with none of the dance (and no test to make sure the player has engaged with mechanics and systems). But letting the player turn the speed down, and learn the steps of the dance in slow motion?
Some people need that, and it’s weird that we’re fighting so vehemently about whether having the option is even a good thing or not.
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a boss fight since Super Mario 2 on the NES using the princess as my character. Maybe one of the Sonic bosses was fine–I guess they all were livable because I beat them all.
I was a lot younger then though, and not so crippled by anxiety and arthritis.
I think it would be nice if, in at least some games, you could choose your challenge: Boss fight or really challenging puzzle. Until then, I just sadly skip over platformers and metroidvanias when I’m looking for a new game. What used to be just amusing frustration at not being able to get past a boss is now actually anxiety-producing, and I’m not going to pay good money to be made to feel that way.
Devs certainly have the right to create their games any way they want to, and, they have the right to be snotty to players who are just saying “I want to love your game but….” if that’s their choice.
And I, who spend most of my entertainment budget on buying new games, have the right to choose not to buy *their* games. If they don’t need my money, I surely don’t need their games. There are too many actually good games–meaning fun-all-the-way-through–out there.
I was kind of looking forward to reading about a game called The Arrogance of Boss Fights in which you control a deer smacking its hooves against another deer for some reason.
Though I have to confess it doesn’t look like something I’d have enjoyed playing.
Have you played Axiom Verge 2 yet? Not only does it have scalable difficulty all the way down to taking 0% damage from enemies, but it lets you simply walk past boss fights, like Evan’s Remains does with puzzles. I’ve only played a few hours, but it’s great so far. And you know what? The knowledge I could skip those fights has in no way diminished my sense of accomplishment in beating them. Shocking.
Hopefully this becomes a more common approach to game difficulty in the future. It really is incredibly player-friendly.
[Sorry this rather got away from me. Executive summary: for the case in point I don’t see why it can’t all be fixed by a Steam/Itch/wherever tag indicating that most people will get about an hour’s gameplay before ragequitting.]
I come from a brown-ish, gray-ish, beige-ish place called The World. It’s
governed by physical, criminal and economic laws.
In The World, if you bludgeon an old lady to death then the criminal law says that you have to live in a special place full of like-minded people, called a prison. This is because the criminal laws strictly govern when it’s OK to bludgeon people to death (tl;dr: seldom).
In the world, if you want to buy a big shiny thing, you have to grind away at work, which gets you a few little shiny things. If you’re lucky after you’ve given other people enough shiny things so that you’re allowed to continue living, you get to save up some of those tiny shiny things and use them to buy the big shiny thing. That’s an effect of the laws of economics as currently agreed.
In the world, if you want to travel among the stars, swish swish swoop zap pow, smoke me a kipper I’ll be back in time for tea, you can eff right off, according to the laws of physics as currently understood.
There’s a bag of constants — the speed of light, Planck’s & Newton’s constants, electric & magnetic constants, vacuum impedance, and a bunch more that are just numbers. These constants tell us what’s possible, and the word ‘constant’ is well chosen.
So I play games. Games which only touch the laws of physics, criminality and economics for as long as it takes to stuff them into a sack, ram the sack into a cannon and fire the cannon into the sun.
In a game I can do appalling things to other people consequence-free — even in the game they’re often consequence-free. I can acquire shiny things beyond my workaday fantasy, and even though they only exist in the game they’re still fun to use. As for the laws of physics, in gamespace those constants I mentioned become variables in the physics engine.
It’s generally a great place, until someone decides they’re The Fun Police and comes barging in erecting barriers and keeping gates and smothering everything in ‘police aware and unamused’ tape.
I do believe there’s a place for romhack-difficult games, pixel-perfect platforming and punitively unfun bosses, though. I mean, there are people who make money from playing games, which makes it their job, and godsdamnit you’re not meant to enjoy a job, so they need games like ESA and Dung Beetle Rampage (I forgot its real name) and Buried Treasure’s mystery game to make sure they’re earning their pay.
Er, that’s all. Mind how you go.
About Celeste: this is a game that people like to talk about as one that does things “right,” with the various ways you can tweak the difficulty. But I must say, it didn’t work at all to me. What if these options hadn’t been available? Well…I would have either somehow powered through and beaten the game anyway (unlikely), or I would have given up. Instead, I “beat” the game but felt absolutely no sense of satisfaction or anything. It just felt like a meaningless waste of time to me. And sure, you can say “well, you shouldn’t have turned the cheats on, then,” but I don’t feel like pretending human nature isn’t what it is is a very useful thing to do.
Part of what Celeste gets right is that the options are so customizable– you can tune the game to where you feel it’s presenting the level of challenge you want.
You definitely shouldn’t just smash all the ‘game easy now’ buttons to where it feels like a meaningless waste of time.
I have a friend who played through the whole game at a reduced speed while leaving all other settings at default, as a puzzle platformer about climbing a mountain, because he feels he doesn’t have the reflexes to play any action game. Celeste is one of his favorite games now, and he just wouldn’t have played it, without those options. And those options didn’t interfere with my experience of mashing my face into the B-Side levels for hundreds and hundreds of deaths at all.
So… this might be a you problem, rather than a problem with the game or with human nature?
To be fair though, isn’t your opinion in the majority? Most modern games have many difficulty options and accessibility tools. Most old games re-released in the modern day have either quality of life improvements or difficulty options. Really old abandoned games are often played with cheat tools like rewinds or save states. The number of games that require players to improve their skills with no other recourse may be rather small.
I guess my question is, how big is this problem when there is something like 2-4 new video games released EVERY DAY? Does every game that it is possible to play really need to play in 60 fps and 1080p? Does it need cheat codes? Super hard or easy modes?
I’m just not clear of the scale of the problem.
A totally different perspective that I think gets at what you are saying is that there is a huge gulf in empathy and understanding between someone who has a skill versus someone who does not.
Your perspective of how difficult summiting a mountain is while you are climbing is massively different when you are telling the story about a mountain you climbed. It is the same with a video game challenge. Those who developed the skills to overcome a challenge will have a massively different perspective than those who have never tried or attempted and failed. I think it is definitely a common peril for a game maker, who literally spends their life understanding the game, to over estimate their audiences skill level. (Sorry for the double post! Is it possible to combine them?)
Oh. That guy. I know HIM. I do not like HIM.
See I’ve been playing video games since a little after video games became a thing. I’m old and I’m cranky, but I didn’t start out that way! John, things were great back then, as you well remember. When we used to send electronic letters to weird nerds who listened to The Buggles and made computer games, and they sent them to you in the mail if you asked nice. All the neighborhood kids would come to my house because we had a computor, with three games. They came on a diskette, as we very sexily called it, and one of them was an encyclopedia. (Golden years, John. Golden years.) That said, I’ve never considered myself “good at games”. I was there, I damn well remember, and kids, I promise you that for the longest time, that wasn’t a thing you could be. Truly, I have expertly sat on chairs my entire life, several times a day, and I hardly ever fall off, but I would not declare myself Good At Chairs. That’s not a thing that means anything, you see? Oh, but then I fell in love with adventure games and that was it, my path was locked in, I was a dork among dorks. Where was I? Right, yes, so, when HE (you know the guy) assured me time and time again that Dark Souls was the hardest game ever and the limitless frustration was the point and only elite bros could take the heat, I said “oh okay” and didn’t play it. I was tempted by claims of brilliant environmental storytelling, because my favorite games are the ones that do things only games can do. No other medium can do environmental storytelling. Unless you count footnotes, I suppose. Liner notes arguably? Regardless. I passed on Dark Souls is my point. The whole affair just sounded like a terrible chore and I prefer my games to be the opposite of terrible chores (good fun). Games, like fingers, are one of the ways us humans give pleasure to one another and truly it should never have gotten more complicated than that.
But John, these people, they would Not. Shut. Up about this dreary game for miserable depressives. Always these children were braying at my window about how rewarding it was, and how brilliant but so, so hard, but oh oh OH LORD that saucy lore hurts all the sweeter when it’s carved into your flesh by a boss monster made of weaker bosses’ vagina flaps.
Fine. FINE. It took until the release of Bloodborne but FINE. You win, children of the village. You can stop throwing rubbish at me when I do my shopping. I’ll play your cunting Dark Souls.
And you know what, John? I did okay. It was not easy! I’m not an internet tough guy, I’m a fat grumpy widow with a dodgy back and never enough gin. My hat isn’t even backwards and Discord gives me gas. I need no nerd cred or reddit updoots for being the guddest. But John, listen to me John, dodge rolls and parries are not THAT hard. They’re just not. It’s just rhythm. That’s it. It’s the same skill you need to play Guitar Bloody Hero, or clap along with a shark song for babies. It was not fun! Oh no. But the point is John, I was not pleased with how I’d let myself be spiritually diminished by these strutting schoolboys and their haughty airs.
Now listen here though John, don’t get mad now. I’m not saying you were wrong and this hard boss was, in fact, an easy boss. No no. What I’m saying is that I took a different path to a natural truth. What I’m saying is that HE, HIM, THAT GUY is a pathologically insecure wanker whose every hysterical banshee wail about the sanctity of Pretend Hit Video Mans With Sword should be treated like the mewling of a very edgy kitten in a backwards hat, and that I’m out of gin.
I just… John, I’ll be honest, I just do not like that guy at all.