Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Difficult games: My miserable little pile of failure

10:42 AM on 11.05.2007 // Leigh Alexander

So, extending my... extended Castlevania kick recently, I started playing Dracula X Chronicles on the PSP over the weekend. Firstly, it's a toe-curlingly good remake -- when Richter first crosses the bridge and it begins to rain as the theme plays, your hair will stand on end. Ayami Kojima is one of the best character illustrators in the history of game art, and the whole works just looks great-great-great. A remake of Chi No Rondo was long overdue, and finally having this update on the PSP is like filling in a big, naked gap in your bookshelf. Dude, it's like you had a collection of really fancy encyclopedias and you just now finally bought the letter "S".

I can't freaking beat the first boss.

For a while, as I died repeatedly, struggling to get through the first stage, I wondered what the hell was wrong with me. I've been playing games since I was quite small, and I've fancied myself, if not a competition-quality maestro, at least possessed of a certain competency. Maybe it's that I've only a little while ago gotten a PSP and haven't had occasion to play much on it, and I'm just not used to it. But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me: holy crap, old games are hard. We've got it so easy these days.

I recently got Ecco the Dolphin on XBLA, recalling a soothing, intellectually challenging romp through the shimmering sea. But this go-round, my dolphin didn't romp with intellectual grace. It sort of flopped around on jumps it didn't clear, bumped spikes repeatedly with its nose, was accosted to death by jellyfish and suffocated in the depths of the sea. "Just gotta... give myself a few minutes to get back into it," I said, about a dozen times. "I used to be really good at this game."

I did. Used to.

I was thinking about this while playing Phantom Hourglass, which I only recently got around to starting. Phantom Hourglass could be the finest title released for DS to date -- when I did that double-screen bomb battle with the tornado squid thing, I have to say, I found it pretty amazing. In fact, Phantom Hourglass might possibly be the most technically excellent Zelda title ever made. It's just so much fun.

But it's so easy, man.

I mean, there are some challenging moments, sure. But it made me remember the days when we had to draw game maps ourselves on dot-matrix printer paper just to figure out what the hell was going on, when we couldn't buy potion without a bottle, and we couldn't even buy bottles -- we'd have to trudge twenty miles uphill in the snow to search for 'em. Phantom Hourglass literally draws you a map, and you can frickin' pay dudes in dungeons to show you where the treasure chests are.

I feel a little conflicted that the lack of difficulty does not take away from my enjoyment. I mean, I'm not a little kid anymore, and with the comparatively limited time I have to spend on games these days, I appreciate that I can spend it having fun and being engaged, rather than singlemindedly trying to leap the same glitchy, irrational platform gap again and again, or dying repeatedly in the same mazelike dungeon, only to have to start all over at the beginning again and again. I appreciate no longer having to peer dumbfounded at an opaque game mechanic, wondering at the nature of weird power-ups and scrutinizing the inscrutable. And I appreciate that, because of this accessibility, society understands me a little bit better -- when people watch me play DS on the subway, generally, they understand what I'm doing and are interested. If I were to hand Phantom Hourglass to a galpal, maybe even one of my parents, for a sec, they'd immediately be able to try it, be able to understand why it's fun. The era of confounding, grueling button-mashing is mostly over, and we live in a time of "user engagement," "social gaming," and lots and lots of talk -- from myself, too -- about the "reward center."

But, man, being unable to handle Richter Belmont anymore made me feel soft, inadequate, guilty, like J-Lo pretending she still hangs out in the Bronx. I had become the thing I hated -- some impatient adult mashing confusedly at buttons, cringing in embarrassment, and wailing sadly before looking for a pro to hand it back to.

We no longer live in the time of the arcades, and nor does gaming continue on in the arcade-inspired period that lasted way too long, considering home entertainment had become widespread -- I'm talking about giving the player "lives" and "credits," confronting them with "levels," and pitting them against enormous odds, all in the quest to make them spend as many quarters as possible. Somewhere along the line we realized we have more fun when in-game death is not a final frustration; the autosave developed, the limitless Continues. Developers began to realize they ought to reward, not penalize the player, because games should be fun. Good; great. I'm not saying they shouldn't. But I feel the anxiety of a warrior in peacetime, and I find myself missing that sense of perverse satisfaction I achieved when I finally conquered a challenging title, mastered an impossible control scheme, discovered a secret room so obscurely hidden, so well-cached that I couldn't be sure it wasn't a bug.

I miss the days when I found those kinds of things because I played for hours, practicing, searching, intent on working for my rewards -- and not because an NPC shouted for my attention and described the location several times with "hints" so blunt a kindergartener would get it. I am quite sure that a return to that era would suck a lot of the relatively newborn, naturalistic joy out of a gaming space that's just begun, at long last, to climb the hill toward maturity. But what do you think? Are new games too easy? Do you suck at Ecco the Dolphin, too? And if so, how's that feel for ya, champ?


Leigh Alexander,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Donald J Trump avatarDonald J Trump
Found this image of myself on Ted Cruz's computer, disgraceful! Further proof he isn't natural born, no true American would have a disgusting image like this! (Censored by some idiot's ugly face)
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
That moment when your dog eats one of your figures but don't notice until it's to late. 10/10 Dog. Yah fuck.
Alphadeus avatarAlphadeus
Love, Lost, Live, Lost (2014) - Yesterday was me and my girlfriend's 16th year anniversary together, so I decided to share this song. It deals with being in love, losing that person, moving on, and learning to love again. It's 9 minutes long, too :P
gajknight avatargajknight
I have done my part. Thank you Niero. Question: Does blocking someone also remove their front-page articles too?
iam16bit avatariam16bit
I've been on this site for sometime and for some reason I've never done a quickpost until now.
TheKodu avatarTheKodu
So I'm hearing the UN called Japan in to discus "Banning the sale of video games or cartoons involving sexual violence against women " Which by Anita's standards = any Violence able to be done. Japan sent a 40 page long NO back to the UN in reply.
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Why did I have to read that Austin Grossman was going to be one of the writers on a cancelled Half-Life 2 episode?
Parismio avatarParismio
Dammit its 3 and i cant stop reading cute gay romance mangas.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Going to be honest; I love out-of-context anime screenshots. They're... kind of incredible.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Retweet of the year goes to President of Worldwide Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., Shuhei Yoshida.
Voodoome avatarVoodoome
Just got home from Deadpool and ... it's not good. I liked the jabs at Green Lantern and the previous movie Deadpool, but that was about it. The rest was just painfully forced dick jokes. Wife fell asleep.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Larxinostic rule34
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
Looks like I'm not gonna be able to 100% Tearaway Unfolded until Monday at the least. I'm definitely writing about it this weekend and am trying my hardest to get my screenshots off of my PS4 (especially hard as I don't do social media anymore)
Darth Wachen avatarDarth Wachen
I've never done a blog before, so I may as well try one with a review of Stranger of Sword City....well, when I get entered into that contest of course
ikiryou avatarikiryou
Shakedown Hawaii is giving me good GTA vibes. I missed the topdown GTA games when they were a thing. I have to decide what platform to get it for since it's coming to 3DS/Vita/PS4/PC (probably the Vita version for moi).
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
You think your art sucks? Here's the rule34 I made of Larx yesterday. Look at it and despair.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Hey Dreamweaver? If you think your art sucks, you should have a look at my magnum opus. It's of Cloud from the popular game, Final Fantasy: All the Bravest.
Agent9 avatarAgent9
I never thought this would happen, but here I am. all of my 700+ pokemon gone in one day. My cart stopped working and there's nothing I can do. I quit, you can't just rebuild all that. Time to find something else.
taterchimp avatartaterchimp
Tom Collins is a pretty great drink, and well suited for poutine. consumption
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
It may be because I've been drinking but... We need some dung beetles from ark for the front page. Move that dung on out.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -