Wednesday, 13 September 2017 07:44

Static to Fluid Freedoms of Gaming Difficulty, or a 401(k) of Disdain

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Gaming is an escape for me.

I enjoy being a filthy casual, much to the chagrin of my online friends. Allow me to wax nostalgic for a mo, taking you back to the space year of 1989 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES. Swimming level, underwater mines, many deaths, and a look of confused hatred on my little face. I could not complete that level, no matter how hard I tried. To spend so much time staring at a screen in disgust, something not experienced since some years earlier (when Robocop shot that bloke’s donger off), left me sour. I held on to that malaise until adulthood; from The Secret of Monkey Island on the Amiga to Starcraft played against adolescent Koreans, I did not care for difficult games.

In banking these negative emotions like a 401(k) of disdain paying out dividends every decade, I missed out on many popular games simply because I didn’t have the energy to understand the non-Euclidean geometry of jump puzzles, or hotkeys set on an eleventy-button mouse that looked like a fidget spinner graveyard. I took a leap upon the recommendations of peers towards NieR: Automata for PC and my thought at first was pure amazement.  The game is beautiful, set in a dystopian landscape of overgrown plants and crumbling ruins. Controls are responsive, tight, and easy to adapt, but the margin for going from alive to dead is quite narrow. It’s one of those games where actions have weight, and every melee attack strongly connects, but overall the game (which ran as a majestic griffon on consoles) somewhat fell short on PC (which seems a bizarre thing to type out) [EN: Yes. Yes, it does]. I’ve a huge respect for Square Enix — in everything they do — but, I do feel they have consoles in mind foremost in their releases. But, I digress.

A stagnant game would not hold the attention of a generation hungry for slap bracelets and Tamagotchi; no, an evolution in how games are developed must happen, and it did.

Bringing us back to difficulty settings with PCs: since forever, one could always get into the guts of the game and change key components to one’s own favour. Take DOS text games where one could edit rude words in there to the delight of his or her mates, or modding Skyrim where all horses are 2004 Reitnouer flatbed trailers for some reason. The games could be made easy, if a person wished, with unlimited everything; alternately, a game could be made more challenging (an idea as offensive to me as pineapple on pizza). Collective experiences nurtured us to understand accomplishment was defined by the limits of a particular game; if a person breezed through nightmare mode, how could he or she develop a definition of goals? In such a state, a game is left sitting on a shelf never to be played again.  I might not enjoy taking five hours to complete a tutorial, but somewhere, someone bloody loves it.

A stagnant game would not hold the attention of a generation hungry for slap bracelets and Tamagotchi; no, an evolution in how games are developed must happen, and it did. MMOs are the kings of flexibility. Black Desert Online has been my go-to since the North American launch, and crafting is just a relaxing escape for me far removed from PVP and grinding monsters. That is what a game should offer: an ever expanding ceiling of achievement to an individual, a tailored experience to everyone’s unique playstyle.

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David Von Hoffman

David is a fine purveyor of snark, has passion for wine both boxed and canned, thinks Yummy Mummy was the best monster cereal and tries his darndest making playlists comprised of reggaeton and K-pop. David will fight you over what the greatest tea is (Lapsang souchong being the correct answer) enjoys travel and historical cookery. He also finds it odd that a goblet is a container and not a wee goblin.