Another day, another ATDM(C)L! This spring break is turning out to be a lot more productive than I thought.
The early years, continued: a new challenger appears!
Let's fast forward through my memory a bit (Altair is that you?), to when I get my chubby mitts on the controller.
At my disposal are a slew of games- with the exception of SMB 3, they are all packed into two cartridges that call themselves "100 in one" and "50 in one." Thinking back, there were an awful lot of big titles in there- Bomberman, SMB, Ice Climbers... only now, considering how good of a deal that would be, do I suspect these may have been bootleg cartridges.
But no matter! What's important is that I enjoyed such a great variety of classic titles! Let's leave the piracy and other misdeeds to a later section, shall we?
As you can imagine, I did not fare well at the games I played. All of the mechanics had to be understood from trial and error, given that I didn't possess any manuals. But at least now it was me at the helm, applying my own hand-eye coordination. Very few games were actually complex enough to actually put me off completely (though Lode Runner seemed impossible at the time), and being so young my tolerance for repeated failure was extremely high.
I think it's safe to say that I didn't play a single game to completion back then. Hell, I'd probably have a tough time getting all the way through the original Mario Bros. even now. Games back then were hard, repetitive, or both- something that has gone out of style as media formats expand. But that didn't discourage me in the slightest!
Modern games have their own doses of challenge, too. But more often than not I get the feeling that when I hit a tough section, that the game is being unfair to me. I get exasperated. Just recently, I spent a good chunk of the afternoon on Call of Duty 4, playing "One Shot, One Kill" on Veteran. If you've played this level, you'll know which part I am referring to: it felt like an impossibility. But are the hordes of Russian soldiers any less fair, than, say, groups of fast-moving baddies in Bomberman? In fact, if I had to choose, I'd take death by Spetsnaz over death by giant coins any
So, what kept me sane back then?
The main reason, I think, was that I've been spoiled by more forgiving games. As games evolved, more genres opened up, many of which didn't necessarily require the player to have perfect reflexes, or photographic memory from repeated attempts. For instance, the Final Fantasy series generally makes it hard for you to screw things up. By following the plot progression, you can generally fight your way to the end with ease. There are, of course, some notable exceptions
For me, returning to games with rather brutal methods of stopping you (large, seemingly endless swarms of enemies being just one example) is like stepping out of a sauna and jumping straight into a frozen lake. I'm so used to having the game hold my hand to some extent, like some kind of clever method you discover if you look closely, or a short cut scene showing the weak spot of an enemy. In simpler games, these things don't appear and sometimes you're left feeling a little lost.
That's not to say either extreme is inherently bad. It's good to be guided once in a while, and a real challenge is refreshing. I've learned, though, that too much of just one can cause the opposite to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Keep the player invested in the game by involving his reflexes or wit, and leaving parts for him/her to figure out, but at the same time don't toss arbitrarily large odds against them just to keep the game "interesting," either.
A good example of this is God of War, I and II. While difficult, it manages to make sure you know what to do nonetheless-- every puzzle or fight is a test of your skill and a means to improve yourself. The highest difficulty is extreme, yes, but only masochists play that mode anyway.
Well, I get the feeling you're sick of my writing by now. I'd hoped to get into the co-op (and "backseat gaming") experience here, but I think that's big enough to warrant another section. Until next time!