Tense Video Games

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COD 4 tells you that on Regular, “Your abilities in combat will be tested.” which, if a dog picked up a controller with his mouth, that might be right. Veteran though, is actually pretty accurate. “Ok. We got-” “Oh” “We got two grenades” “I mean, that’s- (stutters) Fine” “Ok. Now, there’s another one.” “All right!” “Oh. There- There- There-” “And…” “My own guy just picked up a grenade and threw it next to me.” (Laughs) “Ok, now. There’s another grenade” “We’re just gonna chuck that-” “Ok. And now, we just gotta wait for the flashbang to wear off” “What killed me?” When the difficulty is this blatantly artificial it trivializes your achievements. Some games do put in more effort, though. For Silent Hill 2… Uh… the easier difficulties cause the puzzles to make 4% more sense. This year’s Megaman 11 is full of NES era horseshit. You have this part… and then, there’s this part… and then, we got this classic part… These severe jumps in difficulty are just the result of poor design. Ideally, a game should get progressively harder as you play, but the reality is, most of them are like: Hmm… Hmm- HAI! Yee… WAH!

Then you got Kirby… [Heartbeat Flatline Sound Effect] Then you got Donkey Kong Country which is like: “All right!” “We’re gonna hit you with some difficulty bumps.” “Minecart level,” “hard-ass barrel part” “and then you get to K.Rool.” This is where the game goes from tough, but fair… to tough, but “Fuck You!” If you’re gonna lock me in a hell fuck, with a fucking Hitler bitch, then at least give me some decent checkpoints, man! Come on! Undoubtedly the cruelest part of older games is how when you lose, they will just kick you all the way back to the start. Even some of the hardest NES titles like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden would have the courtesy of only knocking you back to the start of the stage when you got hit off a ledge by a guy who spawned in midair Uh… that you already killed. Without checkpoints, you force players to repeat large chunks of a video game, which is not only irritating, but fatal to the overall pacing. On the other hand… saturate your game with checkpoints and you lose that anxious feeling which makes challenging games so tense. The iconic bonfires of Dark Souls and not only a much-needed reprieve, but a glowing beacon of your progress, in a game whose atmosphere is dishearteningly oppressive. Meanwhile… Resident Evil 1, which is a game where doors take 17 minutes to open, requires you to use an Ink Ribbon item, every time you want to save. Fighting games are in a tricky spot where, if you play against the computer –and this is on the hardest difficulty, keep in mind– they’re just Incapable of winning.

Then you hop online and you fight this guy… Team games like Overwatch and Call of Duty lower the bar for entry considerably by allowing five other people to pick up your slack and… if you lose… you can just blame your team. When you’re losing a fighting game, though. It’s like: “Dude…” “Game sucks, not my fault.” Many players, when they’re met with a seemingly insurmountable challenge they just say: “Fuck this!” For me, that game was Bloodborne. When I played this in 2015, I couldn’t even get past the first boss. It wasn’t until last year that I actually figured out how simple these games are. Not to suggest it’s easy, just simple. It’s just dodge and hit. And once you understand that’s dodge and hit, ♪ then you realize that the game ain’t shit ♪ (rapping to the beat) – Pac. I think it’s always better to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Take Ikaruga. This game is just… Ridiculous! What you’re staring at here is, of course, Hard difficulty. Now, let’s turn it down to Easy… “Ah, yeah!” “Now, this makes it much eas-” It doesn’t pull punches yet. If you go into the settings, it allows you to have infinite lives. Now you may ask: “How can a game be challenging when you can’t even technically lose?” Uh… Like this! “WHAT…” “THE…” “FUCK?!” “WHAT THE…” “”F…” “FUCK?!” I died so many times on that first run-through that, at one point, I thought I might run out of infinite lives. It was merely the first step and on subsequent playthroughs, I would go: “Oh, wow! Only 68 deaths, this time.” “Oh, wow! 50.” “20” “13” Each time I returned to the game, I understood it a little bit better. Just like the 80s Coin-Ops that inspired it the idea of accomplishment doesn’t stem from beating the game, but rather mastering it. The thing about difficult games is that they tend to grow on you, but… is it the challenge that makes them so exciting… or rather the artistry… hiding beneath? – Pac.