Like a lot of people, I play games to enjoy myself. I typically do not partake in actions or activities that I do not enjoy because that's the sure sign of a miserable life. If I can avoid making myself miserable, I do so in the fastest way possible. With that said, games are not always the most relaxing or pleasurable things in the world. Whether it is having to deal with incompetence in an online game where teamwork is key to victory or a game is just downright frustrating due to intentional or unintentional spikes in difficult from various contributing factors, gaming can be downright infuriating. To weigh my thoughts in on this I'm going to bring in a few examples of games I find hard, games I don't find hard, and then why I enjoy and/or do not enjoy that given game.
To begin with, we have a notoriously difficult game for most people, Demon's Souls/Dark Souls. This game has such a stigma about it's difficulty that it became a marketing campaign for Dark Souls with the tagline "Prepare to Die", and die you will. This game is brutally difficult, but only to a point. The game and it's difficulty are very symbiotic in that it typically isn't the games fault for being difficult, it is the players. It's entirely possible to get through this massive game in the span of a few hour and no deaths if you know what you are doing and how to defeat enemies. Your first time through the game is going to be littered with deaths, but in my experience, none of them pissed me off. I had plenty of opportunity to realize what mistake I made, realize it was actually my mistake, and then be able to fix it. This is either accomplished by myself, or by using the knowledge of the incredible community this game has fostered. Personally, for this reason I never felt the game was too extreme, and I never felt that I "raged" about dying as I have in other games because the reasons and solutions were so easily accessible to me. For this reason, the supposed difficulty is one that makes the game challenging and enjoyable, it is so wholly a part of the game that the game would be itself without it.
Now we get to Super Meat Boy, another notoriously difficult game, albeit a different monster completely. A very simplistic platformer built as an homage to everything that made classic gaming what it was. Simple, constant design and purely gameplay driven. There are no whistles in this game, maybe a few bells, but you're a wad of meat...that jumps. In my eyes this simplicity is what makes this game so maddening. There are no "other ways" around a certain thing you can't seem to do, or often times what seems like the game just isn't letting you do. You jump, that's it, and a lot of times there's only one way to jump to progress. If you mess up, you have to start the level over again. Giving the game the benefit of fairly short levels is it's only saving grace in my opinion. In a game like Dark Souls I was able to out-think my problems. If my approach didn't work, I'd try a new one until I succeeded. In Super Meat Boy, you monotonously jump into death and repeat the same sections until God smiles on you and you pass through those sawblades or whatever abysmal obstacle has been keeping you held back the last 100 deaths. On top of this the game seemingly taunts you for your failures with a replay of every death you had (while a cool feature) all in on the same screen making your errors all the more obvious. Does this give a sense of satisfaction when you finally succeed? Hell yes, but not because you actually did it. Most of the time I was only happy because I didn't have to see that level again, not because I accomplished something because chances are it was only a lucky jump to begin with.
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