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Gaming's guilty pleasures: Games that are "too easy"


Being part of a "Hardcore Gaming Community" as Destructoid calls itself, where you can hear complaints about the low difficulty level of modern games every day, I definitely feel kind of weird admitting that, despite my nearly twenty years of video game experience, I really enjoy it when games are easy. In fact, when I fire up Metacritic to read reviews about a game I'm interested in, discovering that the game is widely considered to be "too easy" then this can be the final reason I go out and buy it. You could ask yourself now: Can someone be called a "real gamer" if he nearly doesn't care at all about one of the aspects of gaming that defines it for many people - challenge?

It's not that I can't enjoy a game if it's challenging. Many of my favorite games could be described as quite hard. And of course, once in a while I also like playing a particularly challenging game, looking how far I manage to get. But most of the time, hard games annoy me. They destract me from the aspects that I'm really interested in - things like story, characters, art design, atmosphere.

I never cared for sports. I approach games like I approach movies and literature, the great thing to me about gaming in particular simply being the interactive experience. When I deal with a piece of art and/or entertainment I demand a time-out from our achievement-oriented performance society where most define themselves over nothing other than their careers and numbers of people they have slept with.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I don't want to see difficult games anymore. It's great when something like Contra 4 comes out, that is about nothing other than challenging the hell out of you. I have nothing against the fact that there are hard games. But the point is: Not every game has to be that way. There are so many other, more interesting aspects you can build a game around, especially today.

Let's take an example and look at a quite recent game that was critized over and over for being "too easy": Sam & Max: Season One (yeah, technically it isn't one game but six episodes, but in this case that's irrelevant).

I love Sam & Max: Season One. I probably never had that much fun with an adventure game since the big days of LucasArts. It's filled with original ideas, hilarious writing and cleverly designed puzzles. Anyway, every time an episode was released, it wasn't long until the complaining started: "Way too easy! Hit the Road was harder! Where's the challenge? This is for babies!" And I kept asking myself: Why do these people need a challenge so badly in something like Sam & Max? Isn't it about story, dialogue and humour? When I say that, people normally answer: "Well, if you only care about those things, why don't you just simply watch the cartoon version?" Which is rather stupid, because in the same way I could ask: "Well, if you only care about challenging puzzling why don't you just simply solve a bunch of fucking Rubik's cubes?"

Of course puzzles are an essential part of an adventure game. But the thing is: The actual puzzle design of Sam & Max: Season One is incredibly great. You can tell how much effort the designers put in making them original, varied and simply fun - they really stand out. But still there are people that are pissed, because they don't get stuck every five minutes. During the whole season I had to consult a walkthrough just once (and that was because of a design flaw, but well, that's another story). They call it "too easy". I call it fluent gameplay. And yes, sometimes those types of gamers annoy me. Just like RPG players who first grind all their characters to Level 99 and then bitch about the final boss being not challenging enough.

Of course you could argue that I simply suck at video games. But it is excactly this kind of elitist thinking that is part of what prevents games from being recognized as an art form by the mainstream public.
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About Perry Simmone of us since 1:06 PM on 03.23.2008

Location: Vienna, Austria
Age: 24

Currently Playing:
- Mass Effect 2 (PC)

Currently Owning:
- Atari 2600
- Master System
- Mega Drive
- PS2
- Game Boy Classic
- Game Boy Pocket
- Nintendo DS
- A bunch of PCs

Some of my favorite games:
- Adventure games by LucasArts
- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
- Bureaucracy
- Deus Ex
- Earthbound
- Portal
- Psychonauts
- Ultima VI: The False Prophet

Feel the hatred: PAL conversions