I suck at games: And that's the way I like it


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Remember when you were a kid? You got a new game, excitedly unwrapped it, and put it into your chosen console. The title screen appeared, in all of its glory, and you pressed Start to begin. Then, you were faced with your first choice: Easy, Normal, or Hard? Which did you pick?

For me, it was Hard. Or Very Hard, or Lunatic, or whatever the game decides to call it. No matter the name, I start every game that I play with the full intent of sucking at it. Is it because I want bragging rights when I finally beat the game on the hardest difficulty? Is it because I instantly master every game that I play and need an extra challenge?

No, I choose the hardest mode because I like to lose.

See, when I was a kid, I played a lot of NES. We've all heard the term Nintendo-Hard before, and that's exactly what I was raised on. Some of my favorite games from my childhood include Ninja Gaiden, Megaman, Battletoads, and Ghosts'n Goblins. As a kid, I never beat a single one of these games (Hell, I've still never beaten Battletoads or Ghosts'n Goblins), but I enjoyed every moment of them. Where other kids would feel controller-tossing frustration, I would laugh and eagerly press Start to begin again.

By the time the Super Nintendo came out, I was already starting to think that games were becoming too easy. Instead of practicing for weeks just to beat a single level, I was finishing whole games in a week. I started to gravitate towards RPGs around this time because, despite not really being hard, they were games that I could play for a long time.

More than I could ever fear dying in a game, I was terrified of the day when I would inevitably finish it. I had it set in my mind from childhood that games could be infinite. Because I was never able to beat any of the difficult games on the NES, I thought I could play them for years and still feel that there was something left for me to do.

And now? I'm lucky to find a non-RPG game that lasts more than eight hours. Many mainstream games are phasing out difficulty for mindless fun, and beginning to focus on multiplayer more than single-player.

Even Nintendo, the company that used to be known for the difficulty of its games, is releasing New Super Mario Bros. Wii with an option that allows the game to play itself.

Now, let me clarify. I have absolutely nothing against people who like their games to be easy. I have nothing against Nintendo for putting this new feature in their game; it won't stop me from playing through the game without it.

What I am, however, is afraid. I'm scared that this is not a trend, and that it will only escalate. That games focused on single-player narrative adventures will start to be phased out, and multiplayer frag-fests will take over. While I do enjoy multiplayer games, there is a simple sense of pure satisfaction that comes from beating a difficult single-player game that cannot be achieved through any other media.

Do you feel proud of yourself after watching a complex, psychological film? Do you feel a rush of accomplishment after finishing a hard-to-understand novel?

Now, how did you feel when you finally beat Ikaruga?

I realize that few people reading this blog have ever beaten Ikaruga, but think of any game that you were proud to finish. It is a feeling unlike any other. It is something only video games can give us, and it is slowly starting to fade into oblivion. Games like Mega Man 9 let me know that there are still gamers like me out there, but there's no guarantee that will continue forever.

I like to suck at games. Not because I am a masochist. Because I know that, someday, I will master them.

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phantomile   gamer profile

Most of the time online, I go by Phantomile, a reference to my favorite game from my more + disclosures



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