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Technical Difficulties: The Masochist Gamer


There is a difference between a difficult game, which can be a challenging version of a familiar and accessible scenario, and one which is brave enough to manipulate its players' negative emotions. Sadness, anger, powerlessness and boredom are a part of everyday life and while many would argue that games should be an escape from those things, they are also emotions which can enhance the positives and elevate an experience, be it a book or a film or a game, to a level where you feel better for having gone through it and maybe even teaches you something about yourself. I'm not going to pretend that gaming is the only medium where those kinds of experiences are kept outside the mainstream, but it is a medium that more than most seems fixated on the short-term reward, constantly throwing treats to its players to entice them a little further towards the end. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does result in a lot of games feeling emotionally flat and forgettable. In games like Call of Duty, that's fine: who wants to feel something when there's shooting to be done and kill/death ratios to increase? It would be interesting though to play a war game that challenged gamers to take in the boredom, or the more mundane difficulties, of being a soldier, rather than a constant flood of viscera and explosions. If combat only broke out once or twice in a game where the vast majority of time was spent performing menial tasks, those moments would be absolutely heart-pounding, especially if combined with the permadeath which AwesomeExMachina so eloquently advocated in his Monthly Musings post.

I don't know or much care whether games can be considered art, but I do know that when I look at many great works of art, they inspire a mix of positive and negative emotions and challenge the way I would normally look at life. When I play games, the emphasis almost always seems on positive things, be it offering regular doses of success or looking visually attractive, for example. (Ice-Pick Lodge's Pathologic is one of the few games I've played with the courage to be genuinely - and deliberately - unpleasant to look at, yet is stronger for it.) Games might not need to be art, but it wouldn't hurt to step back and take some inspiration from it. Van Gogh's depression caused some of the most stunning paintings ever put to canvas. James Joyce's Ulysses expanded my views on what could be achieved and conveyed through literature. Ice-Pick Lodge's The Void inspired me to come up with a topic for this Monthly Musing. Sometimes a little suffering can go a long way.


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About Xander Markhamone of us since 3:08 PM on 02.07.2010

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I'm a 26-year old English writer, formerly known on the CBlogs as Xandaça. I've been an avid gamer since I was a wee lad, gripping a NES controller in my hands and comprehensively failing to get past those infuriating Hammer Bros on Level 8-3 of Super Mario Bros. I've stuck with Nintendo since then (not for any animosity towards the other console makers of course - Nintendo just make games I enjoy and have grown up with), apart from a brief sojourn with a Sony PlayStation, several woeful attempts to play Half-Life 2 using a laptop touchpad and sporadically wrangling a turn on my sister's beloved Sega Saturn.

In addition to burping out the occasional novel, I'm a passionate critic, writing reviews and articles of films, book and games for my school magazine and university newspaper, for which I created and edited its film section. In addition to starting up my own blog, covering television, games and movies, I am also a writer for Destructoid's cine-geek sister Flixist. While primarily a film geek, the evolution of the games industry over the course of its short lifetime has fascinated me and provided vast quantities of content for some incendiary pieces of work - perhaps a few more might spring up on here?

My Favourite Games of All Time (because who doesn't love having a few Of All Time lists?) are GoldenEye 007 (which I still play through at least once a year to remind me of its glories), Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Gunstar Heroes, Super Mario Bros 3 (I don't know who told Shigsy Miyamoto-san that raccoons could fly, but I'll love them forever) and No More Heroes.

I hope you find great enjoyment in my many scribings, and please keep an eye out for upcoming news on my novel(s) and do pay a visit to my blog sometime. And yes, the Dtoid community's 'no copy and paste' rule will be fully respected!

Good gaming, everyone!