After recently spending 80 plus minutes on a single level in Super Meat Boy all while calling it every name under the sun, I came to the realization that video games just aren’t difficult anymore.
With this current generation of gaming there has been a shift to makes games much easier especially outside of the downloadable market. It is completely understandable why a game developer would want to make their games easier. It makes them accessible to a larger audience, it also increases the chances that the consumer will purchase a sequel and or DLC. They also did spend over 2 years of their lives on this product, they want people to enjoy it all the way through. However, is this necessarily a good thing?
Obviously this is a very sensitive subject, but personally I yearn for the days of old. When there were games that I just couldn’t beat, not because the game was cheap, because I wasn’t good enough to. Having to actually play a game repeatedly to build up my skill, making my timing nearly perfect to the point where I could do a level nearly blind folded was so rewarding. Now when I play a game it feels as if I’m just going through the motions, now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, challenge isn’t the only thing that makes a game, quite the opposite actually, a game can have no difficulty and still be an amazing experience. In the end though, it just isn’t as rewarding as it would have been had the game offered some extreme challenges.
There is a counterpoint to this, saying how “why don’t you just put the game on a higher difficulty setting.” Well it’s simple really from what I’ve experienced is that changing the difficulty setting doesn’t feel genuine when you play it. You can tell the game wasn’t designed for this type of an experience and when you play it, it becomes painfully obvious. For example, recently after going through Halo 4 on legendary, it was one of the most vanilla and flat out boring experience I’ve ever had in gaming. It became a game of, pop out of cover, kill one enemy, go back to cover so your health regenerates, rinse and repeat. It wasn’t that difficult either, the enemies weapons just did a higher amount of damage than in lesser difficulties, in result it changed the gameplay into something that felt more like a chore than an entertaining experience. The game just wasn’t built to be a challenging game, even if you do play it on a challenging difficulty. You can say this for nearly every game of this generation, whenever you ramp up the difficulty to hard or higher it changes the gameplay of the game in a way that isn’t enjoyable.
On downloadable market this isn’t the case, with games such as Mega Man 9, 10, Super Meat Boy, Ikaruga (even though this game originally came out in the arcade and then the dreamcast then finally making it’s debut on the gamecube in North America.) All of these games offer a high level of challenge and none of them make it feel as if the game killed you, when you die it’s your fault and you will die a lot. Recently playing through Super Meat Boy and Mega Man 10 specifically, they made me feel something I haven’t felt in awhile when I played a video game. That feeling is a sense of accomplishment, beating Super Meat Boy was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had as a gamer. Dying over 2,000 times just to defeat the light world, knowing that each and every one of those 2,000 plus deaths were my fault, knowing that with each failure brought me closer and closer to the ultimate goal of defeating Dr. Fetus, brought me back to the reason I fell in love with gaming in the first place.
I do realize that I might come off as an elitist and that maybe the case. I for one miss the days when not everyone was meant to beat a game. Those days are behind us now, it’s not necessarily a bad thing by any means, it’s just a thing. It’s understandable as to why this is and quite frankly from the developers point of view, it’s the correct thing to do. I myself will just always miss those days of infuriating failure followed by unbridled bliss.