April 25, 2009Extreme difficulty in video games seems to have gone the way of the dodo. Extra hard games are about as popular as a fat kid in gym class these days. Is this an inevitable product of the gaming evolution? Do we really need games to be super challenging or are we just nostalgic?
Games of yore were generally much harder than current gen fare.Were old games hard because developers wanted to challenge us or were they hard simply because of their style?Most old games were built upon repetition and timing.After playing a level enough, you memorized the patterns and couldproceed, mario-style.Though at times, developers were just sadists. Battletoads I’m looking at you.
I don’t even want to try and put a number on the how many times I replayed that damn hover-bike level.
Old games were also harder because few offered saves. You die and you go directly back to the start.Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Saves can be part of the problem, but there is no way we could get rid of them. Games are just too large at this point. Nobody wants to have to play 40 hours straight to complete a title. They could, however, be used more judiciously.Saving whenever you want feels like a bit of a cop out to me.I’m more of a fan of rewarding a player with a save for completing a task or reaching a certain point.
Some recent games have even taken away the penalty for death. See: Prince of Persia or Too Human. You remove the penalty for failing, as well as any sense of achievement that comes from beating a game.I understand that gaming is a business that needs to sell as many copies as possible by appealing to all, but at what cost?Isn’t that what the adjustable difficulty setting is for?This dumbing-down of games, let’s call it “the wii effect,” is a tad disturbing.
Not all current games are a cake walk though.Some, most notably Ninja Gaiden II, still carry the extreme difficulty torch.So how hard is too hard?If you are buying a product to be entertained, should it piss you off?Should games make us want to throw them at the wall or should they just provide an enjoyable experience that we can complete without needing blood pressure meds?I guess I land in the middle. I want a challenge. I want to feel proud of beating something, but I don’t want to spend hour after hour repeating the same level. If developers can tweak the adjustible difficulty to provide more than just harder to kill AI, so much better, but until then I guess I can live with their version of “Insanity”.