Get Gud, Scrub

A shot of

I’ve always loved video games. My whole life, I’ve been enamored with the gaming world, from the PS2 to the Nintendo Switch, from arcade machines at the movie theater to the PC (which is obviously the best but we’ll save that for another post). But there is one thing I’ve been noticing recently that I never really had an issue with when I was younger. I’m not sure if it’s just me or if it’s like, a newer game problem, but: Everything is too difficult.

I know, I sound like a big crybaby who isn’t very good at video games. And you’re right, I am exactly that. But I honestly believe that combat in recent video games is too difficult! I tried to play Fallout 4 on the PS4 this year and no joke I got my shit rocked by glowing ghouls and synths alike. I’m less than halfway through the game because I simply can’t complete the missions I’m supposed to, I just get sick of trying after like my seventh attempt.

I’m mentioning all this because I was planning to write a post this week over Red Dead Redemption 2. All I had to do was complete the last mission and then I was going to write up my post, easy peasy. However, when I sat down yesterday to finish the game, I found that I was getting my ass handed to me on a silver platter by some cowboy NPCs. So instead of making that post, I’m making this one to complain about how tough this shit can be.

Most of my life, I’ve played games where you can adjust the difficulty setting. Even some newer games, like Spider-Man for the PS4, have choices between easier combat for players who are more focused on the story, and harder combat for those who like a challenge. Some games like this will make fun of you for choosing the easy route, but I’m not about to set myself up for failure by picking something harder than I can handle.

A picture of the Castle Wolfenstein difficulty setting "Can I Play, Daddy?"

This difficulty setting from Wolfenstein is especially funny to me because when I was a kid I would play games with my dad on his computer. I would sit in his lap and he’d let me be the guns and he’d do the movement, and we’d kick the shit out of aliens in Half-Life.

When it comes to games being so difficult you can’t even play them, I think the first one that comes to anyone’s mind is Dark Souls. Absolutely bonkers. Rage quit every time. Listen, I bought the remastered version on the Switch earlier this year and I’m quite literally not even past the second boss. This game gets a pass in my mind though because it’s specifically meant to be hard as fuck. Or is that false, and I just think that because I’ve heard my whole life that it’s ridiculously hard?

Anyways, maybe I’m just worse at video games than I previously thought. Maybe I just don’t have that pro-gamer gene in me. All I know is, I’ve abandoned a lot of games, games that I really liked and enjoyed and thought were super cool, just because I simply can’t continue. It’s just too hard.

This is one of the interesting things about a game like Skyrim. You can go around and explore and find things to fight in the woods. However, if you accidentally come across a level 90 dragon priest up in the mountains, you can RUN AWAY. You don’t have to fight! You can outrun pretty much any enemy. So yes, the combat can be hard if you stumble upon an NPC that’s a way higher level than you, but you can just as easily avoid said conflicts or even run away from them. You should always have a “chicken out” option.

There are just so many games I’ve stopped playing either halfway through, or at the final boss fight. Another good example is Breath of the Wild. As much as I adore practically everything about it, the Divine Beasts are ridiculously hard. I started with the elephant and the camel, and I had to look up walkthroughs for both. I would have never gotten them on my own, and they’re supposed to be the easier two of the four!

I’m really starting to think this might just be a me problem though, because all of my friends that play the same games seem to have no trouble with them. Especially the handful of my friends that are really good at Dark Souls. Maybe I’m just the weak link in my gamer group, y’know?

(Unrelated to combat being too difficult, but can we talk about how RIDICULOUSLY DIFFICULT Rocket League is?! GOD that shit is so annoying.)

Okay, back to my original point. It’s especially frustrating to not be able to beat a game when you spend sixty bucks on it. Like, at that point I’m just mad at myself that not only am I not good enough to win, but I spent money on this unbeatable game!

So, yeah. Just wanted to have a quick vent about that and explain why you all shan’t be receiving a Red Dead Redemption 2 post (yet). I’m off to give it another whirl. Yee-haw!

-AMS

86 Comments on “Get Gud, Scrub”

  1. Just to offer up my own quick thoughts on this:

    1. Like Athena, there are a lot of games where I get to the final boss and I just stop, because a) fighting the final boss is just a boring grind, b) the “payoff” of finishing the game isn’t worth the slog, c) I can watch the final cut scene of the game on YouTube anyway.

    2. I think a lot of game difficulty these days is predicated on the idea that you have the time to grind daily on a game for hours on end, which might be true if you’re a 14-year-old boy who isn’t doing much else than video games, but less true when you are (in my case) a 51-year-old dude who has a couple hours every few days.

    3. I do also think there are some games that are just “look, this is tough, deal with it,” and that’s meant to be a selling point. The already mentioned Dark Souls is one; Cuphead is another. With regard to the latter I was disappointed that was the case, since I love the aesthetic of it, but I find it hard to enjoy because I can’t make any real progress on it.

    I don’t think game makers owe me an easy experience, but on the other hand these days I don’t feel bad playing games on the lowest difficulty level, because I think games have gotten harder, and I have less time and patience for the upswing in difficulty. And I tend to avoid the games that don’t allow for the “play a couple of hours now and then” gamer to enjoy them. If they can’t be played the way I have time to play them, I can take the hint.

  2. It used to be similar on some of the older games too. Like XWing and Tie Fighter, where the play time of the game would be padded out by Oh ! Sudden Impossible Unbeatable Mission where they’d set something up that was just about possible … but you had to be absolute perfect to get past it and if you couldn’t no way to progress outside of cheat codes or editors. I think it’s changed lately though with the increased amount of complication that can be added in. I’m often bouncing off games because I just don’t want to learn their systems.

  3. Athena, I’m a lifelong gamer (started in the 70s) and have (even more now with my advancing age) exactly the same problem. I cannot compete with the reflexes that seem to be the gold standard for action oriented games. I am moving away from this category because they do not take care of my needs.

  4. As a Gen-Xer, I’ve never gotten into console/”serious” PC games basically because I’m not willing to dedicate the brain cycles to mastering the controls. Fighting zombies is one thing, but fighting the interface isn’t fun for me. I just about top out at the Tempest arcade game from the 1980s, with a position knob, a trigger button, and a bomb button.

  5. I usually play games on the lowest difficulty setting, especially the RPG likes. Some games, like Spelunky (soon 2), need to be hard.

    Some games I like don’t have simple difficulty levels, but you can still adjust multiple things. I’m now playing the Battletech mercenary campaign and on purpose I set the options so that it’s not too hard.

    I agree with John there that a lot of games assume that you play them a lot. It’s kind of understandable with mobile games, which often make money from the ads they show you during play, and where you can help your game by micropayments. Then they want you to play much, or at least as often aas possible. I don’t really play those, but when I buy a game for a set amount of money, and it’s a single-player one, I often don’t want to spend too much time on re-doing some of the hard parts.

    It might be that the companies are geared to make games for the “wrong” audience, and they don’t realize there’re a lot of more casual gamers who still would like to enjoy the game.

  6. This is why I love rogue-lite that you keep something between run. LIke Heroes of Hammerwatch and Children or Mortha. First, game session are small. Second, if it become too difficult, just continue playing those small session, it become easier and easier. It will take me a lot more time (because a lot more run) than most of my friends. But who cares, I am having fun.

  7. As an aging gamer (I am getting old). I’ve noticed this too in a different way. I have years of experience and carefully honed reflexes to fall back on but as I get older and my body is breaking down, it’s just not enough. My twitch skills are failing. I’m noticing it. I can still manage my way through games like Hollow Knight and even some of Cuphead, but it just doesn’t come as easy as it used to be. I cannot react like I used to. I have to lean more heavily on study, recall, and anticipation, or like your dad said, grind. I don’t have the time to really grind and MMOs like Destiny (that have turned it into a thing), I like them but I cannot dump that much time into them.

    Lately, because of the state of the world (or maybe because my body is falling apart), I’ve been turning more to “chill” and thoughtful games. Spiritfarer, Death Stranding, No Man’s Sky. These games don’t really require quick reflexes like some other games. BTW, I’m sick of roguelikes. I don’t want to constantly die. It’s annoying, on the flipside of this, I LOVE Dead Cells. I don’t know why, but they did something right with that game.

  8. It is for this reason I am holding out on playing Mass Effect. I have never been good at first person shooters, but I have heard nothing but good things about it and really wanna play! But . . . the difficulty settings . . .

    For this reason I stick to the casual Untitled Goose Games and Final Fantasy’s.

  9. Been going on GOG and playing a lot of old 80’s and 90’s games. There is so much choice out there, I just avoid all of the games that piss me off. Not what I play for. I think the thought process is that the difficulty is suppose to justify the price, as in why pay $60 for an easy game that I could whip through in a day or so. Kind of stupid if you ask me. Design a better game instead of trying to screw your players with the super hard boss shit. Thanks for the tip, going to try Skyrim.
    Dave

  10. I’ll define “video game” as any game, commercial or consumer, that uses a CRT (old-school TV) or more advanced to display the game to the player. With that, I’ve been playing video games since the mid-1970s, starting with video arcades. From that point in time to today’s games across many platforms, there have always been the too-hard-to-beat levels, with too-hard-to-beat bosses. That’s regardless of whether you’re playing in an arcade or on a home system (starting for me with the NES in 1988).

    There are also a class of games I’ve come to strongly dislike, especially on iOS and Android, that are equally bad; pay-to-play. The most egregious in my humble opinion is DomiNations. DomiNations has weekly sub-contests in which you can easily spend up to $50 to participate and pick up all you can win as you advance. That’s $50 (or more) per week, not per game. And DomiNations has another prod to get you to spend cash to advance, and that’s how advancing in the game slows to a grinding crawl as you advance upwards through the levels. A task that might take minutes or an hour to start at a low level soon reaches the point where it can take two or more weeks. That’s if you don’t spend crowns to advance. If you want to advance immediately then you spend real money to buy crowns in-game, and use those. Buying enough crowns just to advance regular tasks can get real expensive, real fast, as well.

    As far as regular games are concerned, I’m not ashamed any more to admit I look for God mode in the PC version of the game, and activate it. Quake III was one of those games, as was Doom 3 (2004). I loved the look of Doom 3 in particular on my PC. All I wanted to do was walk around and look at everything. I wasn’t interested in killing any of the in-game monsters, unless that was what allowed me to walk and look further.

    I’m at the point in my life where all I want is something that I can pick up for a few hours of game playing from time to time, and nothing involving violence. The Quake series of games starting in the late 1990s satiated all my fragging desires. These days I’m concerned enough with all the real-world blood and violence; I can do without the stylized in-game versions.

  11. How shitty would it be if every baskball pickup game in your driveway had to be played at NBL pro level to win?

    Pretty shitty.

  12. Oh, same same on Breath of the Wild. I adore it (and you can run away from things you aren’t ready to tackle yet) but I defaulted to looking up walkthroughs on everything that takes more than one or two tries for me to figure out, because I only have a few hours a week to play and I realized that I was never going to make any progress in the game if I didn’t “cheat”. (Also I forget which effing buttons control which function if I go more than a week or two without playing.) And it took a while for me to accept this, but I’m now completely okay with that approach to the game – I still get to play and be challenged; I also think the enormous availability of walkthroughs (some of which are more thorough than others) works in Nintendo’s favor, because otherwise I’d have gotten frustrated and bailed a couple of months ago. It makes me wonder if Nintendo even goes so far as to release walkthroughs (or makes help available) to the major sites which cover games and publish walkthroughs/how tos.

  13. Far to many games, especially FPS games, appear to absolutely demand you be a pro-level, Twitch-streaming, hardcore player. There are exceptions (Doom Eternal, for example, has a fairly good range of difficulty settings), but as a general rule, I completely agree with you. It seems like game designers approach the whole thing with the philosophy of “how can we make this so hard it’s nearly impossible” instead of “how can we make this as fun as possible”. Duke Nuke’em was crazy and could be hard, but it was also fun as hell. Halo, especially when you were fighting the flood was just plain frantic, but damn was it fun and never seemed impossible. But way, way too many games now are just incredibly hard for no damned good reason.

  14. I feel you! I suck at games (to the point where I rarely ever play anything multiplayer, because it’s no fun), and I agree that they’ve gotten harder. I’m lucky I haven’t had to abandon only two gamea so far (Oxygen Not Included and Brütal Legend, a shame because both of them are super fun) and I regularly don’t finish my Factorio campaigns (I did manage to make it through twice though!). Borderlands 3 also had me rage quit a few times, but I did finish it eventually.

    Luckily, there are exceptions! Half-Life: Alyx managed to get a good balance, despite the fact that aiming in VR is *hard*

  15. The Dark Souls franchise can eat a bag of dicks. I don’t even buy them anymore. I had the same experience with Jedi: Fallen Order. The bosses were so damn hard, I rage quit on the 2nd. I watched my 16-year-old kid beat it though. Great game with a great story. In Skyrim, just wait until you stumble across The Ebony Warrior. he’s a random encounter boss that can spawn in after you reach level 45. He will always spawn in and level 90 and is a relentless dick. If you run from him, he’ll just find you later. Good times.

  16. In the same vein as Dark Souls, I spent way too many hours playing Sekiro but I loved the way they changed the combat mechanics and just couldn’t get enough. I probably spent 8-10 hours worth of stubbornness on beating the final boss. Now I’m happily enjoying the latest installment of the Paper Mario franchise. I don’t even care that it’s easier and aimed at a much younger demographic, I just love the vibe and aesthetic of it!

  17. This is where I admit to playing games like Ratchet and Clank because if nothing else you get a gun that can turn people into flying ducks and a Groovitron ball that makes everyone disco dance.

  18. Yeah, Skyrim is a fun sandbox game. You can mess up in fun ways. Once , early on I explored the vales to the south of the main city. I was using the invisibility scroll so I would not get stomped early. I found a unicorn and mountded it like a horse. TADA, one newly minted unicorn rider. Now I could curb stomp monsters. Draw-back (and a big one), it would attack anyone with a drawn weapon, including the owner and would not stop.

  19. May I suggest a gaming alternative?

    Atari!

    Some great iconic titles. Cheap (or free) and a minimal learning curve.

    Also, at the risk of overstepping, I know a great podcast – ATARI BYTES – about these games that also happens to feature an original shory story that is not fan fiction, but is inspired (usually tangentially) by that week’s game. I might be biased.

  20. I hate to think of all the games I’ve spent 60 bucks on only to stop playing after a few hours. This year I’ve been using Microsoft’s game pass for PC, which is great for trying out lots of different games to see what sticks. (Turns out Fallout 76 is pretty great, at least for me.)

    I hope Steam and Sony move toward a subscription model so I can switch between them, like with Netflix, HBO, Hulu, etc.

  21. I am a long time gamer (closer to your Dad’s age) and I have never had the reflexes that modern games seem to insist on. That and because I am more interested in the story and characters is why I often play RPG based games and will freely admit I play at the level that allows me to progress comfortably. As an example I played the new FFVII Remake at classic level finished the game and then tried replaying at Hard level with character’s at level 50+ and was getting wiped out. What is the fun in that?

  22. I totally agree it’s bloody annoying if a boss fight or something suddenly ramps up in difficulty. Power to you for actually quitting; I compulsively finish games even when I hate them *cough, cough, Resident Evil 5*.
    Still, I loved Ori and the Blind Forest and that was very hard as well.
    I think getting the difficulty of a game right is as much a combination of skill and voodoo arts as writing a good story.
    Personally, I feel a game can be more difficult if the story is good, loading times are low, the difficulty ramps up steadily, and it doesn’t feel as if the game is cheating. But adding difficulty just to stretch a game out really detracts from the experience, or making boss fights completely out of tune with the rest of the game’s gameplay (Deus Ex: Human Revolution).
    And yeah, they should all have difficulty settings; I’m too old to grind, and I’d like to be able to introduce my four-year-old daughter to gaming without her being punished from the get-go.

  23. Climbing on the “wimp wagon.” I play almost exclusively single-player games on a PC for just this reason. I play games for story. If I can’t cheat/console my way around boring (to me!) obstacles, I can’t be bothered.

  24. Old (like reeeeally old-) school arcade gamer here (Joust, Xevious, Battlezone – oh, the 70’s wireframe graphics..!)

    I was introduced to console games when my son got his first PS2 to be his opponent for the old SW Battlezone shooter and then HALO once he’d moved to the Xbox. He’s now way above my level, but watching him play now I agree that the “let’s design a game that you have to be pro-gamer good to beat” is 1) a thing, and 2) is probably designed to reward players who either are willing to devote massive time-suck to figuring out the level-ups, or are okay with just randomly running around shooting things (which seems to be my kid’s choice; at least I could never figure out what the hell else he was doing n Overwatch…)

    Open question from an old GI to FPS gamers here. The first thing you’re taught is that soldiers fight as teams. Your buddy covers you while you move, you grenade her through a door…we won’t go into mortars or artillery, but…

    Anyway, my son and his online pals just seem to run around at random, even tho they all have headsets and chatter constantly. But there’s none of the sort of “chatter” I’m used to: “Dave’s, cover 9 to 12, I’ve got 12 to 3!” “Moving! Gimme some fire!” “Stacey, I need an RPG through the left side window!”

    Is that just them? Do better shooter-gamers imitate IRL troops, or is that just not a game thing?

  25. At 49, I’m noticing that while I can still play twitch-based games fairly well, and my starfighter piloting is still top-notch, I am losing patience with overly-hard games. I’ve never played games on “Hardcore” difficulty, but usually on Normal–but lately I’ve found myself playing on “Novice” or “Story” difficulty level in some games, just because the gameplay is always secondary to the story for me.

  26. Came here to mention Cuphead, I see MR. Scalzi already did. I have poured a lot of time into this game. Not proud.

  27. I love the Dragon Age games, and I play them on the easiest setting. Because I don’t actually care about dragons and archdemons and the mage rebellion, I am here for my companions and my relationships with them and ensuring Thedas has a good Reverend Mother at the end of the day. If I wanted to think strategically and optimize my character as a battlemage or whatever, I could do that. Or I could just run headlong at enemies with a large sword, and chat with my companions at camp afterward. I make my own fun.

  28. Hi Athena – regarding Fallout 4, I find it surprising that you would have trouble with any of the missions unless you are deliberately playing a “no drug” playthrough (which would be kind of deliberately or accidentally choosing a harder mode). In particular there is a stim called “Jet” which if you start stocking up on, you can hit for 20s of slow mo, or ultra-jet to make it… 60? 35? Either way, any fight that looked remotely hard, I stacked up taking one of every drug with an effect that would stack and generally had no problem tanking the living hell out of any of the most difficult fights in the game, even up to, if necessary, standing full up in the bad guys face and punching them calmly in the face.
    most of these are fairly easy to restock once you know where there are a few chem vendors, as well. I did really enjoy playing with powered armor and jump-jets which also helped some, but mostly, stim packs and jet were the combination that really worked well for the entire game.

    there was a point where I accidentally triggered every synth in the big baddie lair, and spent an hour or two fighting a solid few hundred of those things. so, fallout 4 isn’t really a twitch thing, i think you could probably make progress on it by changing tactics!

  29. TBH, the increased difficulty of games nowadays is a reaction to the decade of games that made the normal difficulty a snoozefest for core gamers. Hopefully they’ll find equilibrium sometimes soon. And the second problem, i think, is the correct setting of expectations for the difficulties e.g. Remnant: From the Ashes. It is still very hard but you know what you are getting into at least. The third problem is that all to often difficulty levels do not do anything interesting outside modifying monsters stats so it’s basically the same experience but with added frustration. Hades does really good in that direction: after you clear the game once you can up the difficulty of your run a bit in many different ways depending on your preference.

  30. I’m the other way, I think games are getting easier. I finished RDR2 a couple weeks ago and my only difficulty in the final mission was figuring out what to do when Dutch and Micah were pointing guns at me. I kept trying to shoot one or the other.

    Dark Souls? Yeah, gave it a couple hours and gave up. I want to have fun, not be beat to a bloody pulp.

    Pay to play? Not even once. If a game review says that mis-feature is in a game I just move along.

    I used to love online Multiplayer, especially Modern Warfare 3, but nowdays there are just too many cheaters.

  31. I’m short of your dad’s age, but fall into similar grouping of gamers, I started with an Atari 2600 which we still had and did play into the 90s. When games started moving into more and more complex controllers and required movements to play a game, I became less and less interested in them. Over time, as others mentioned, I don’t have the quick twitch movement to deal with the difficulty levels prebuilt into the game itself, let alone any added difficulty with multiplayer modes. I am at best, a super casual gamer. I don’t have the time or brain cycles to pour hours on hours into fast twitch gaming or playing a game against the game *and* a crowded fields of dedicated players.

    When I do finally plug in a system to play, I want fun, I want casual. I want a difficulty level that doesn’t require near perfection and a honed level of skill to play at a professional gamer streaming on twitch for $1mm+ a year. As for fragfest styles, I’ve got a nice version of Unreal on my original Xbox where my solo profile is described as Psycho and that works for me because I can also set the NPC difficulty levels. That works for me.

    So, it’s entirely possibly that while you’re still crazy young in comparison, you’re starting to find that break point in your gaming preferences too, where your brain may have determined where the line is between fun, difficult fun and not fun difficult. But the rest of you is still catching up. And that’s OK.

  32. Combat definitely seems to me to have become difficult, and I’m 55 years old and don’t have time for long playing sessions to improve my reflexes! Fortunately, most of the games I play have a setting that’s basically a story setting, where the combat is easy and fun and it’s more about playing through a story. I don’t use a console; I play on computer, so I don’t have the physicality of a console controller … an I’m fine with that. I play alone, I’m not competing with anyone, and while I enjoy the occasional challenging battle, I mostly am content to play on the normal or easy settings.

    I absolutely LOVED Skyrim; I’m a huge fan of all the Elder Scrolls games. Morrowind may be my favorite game of all time, and Skyrim is a very close second. They’re all so great about being able to explore big sprawling worlds. I also love the Dragon Age games, and Icewind Dale and of course Baldur’s Gate. And Baldur’s Gate 3 is coming out any day now! Hugely excited.

  33. I don’t do videogames, although I played some Zork back in the day, but I did a 500+ piece solid color jigsaw puzzle in my youth, and now I don’t need anything that hard. I already proved myself and now I just want to relax and have fun.

  34. I started gaming on my Dad’s Atari 2600 and TI-99/4a (Hunt the Wumpus and Parsec ftw!), but stopped having much time to spend gaming around the era of the PS2 and Windows XP.
    I’ve been using the past few months of pandemic lock-in to fire up Steam and GoG and catch up with old favorites and things I missed because I couldn’t afford them back in the day. Some, like Dark Forces and most of the LucasArts adventure games, have aged pretty well. Grim Fandango is worth playing just for the soundtrack alone. Others, like the old TSR gold box games, are somewhat painful to current sensibilities.
    I’ve also been trying out “newer” stuff like Crypt of the Necrodancer and Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms. My friend group is working on setting up a game of Among Us, which has apparently become the new hotness.
    I’ve resigned myself to the reality that I’m probably going to be a “filthy casual,” if that’s still a phrase in use, in any gaming I do from here forward. “Cred” doesn’t matter that much to me anymore, as long as I have fun.

  35. I never beat the final scene in Streets of LA for the PS2. Doom is pretty hard for me (although I can’t play it anyway because it depresses me). I’ve had decent times with Wolfenstein on not-nuts settings (though I am sad that Bethesda got bought by Microsoft).

    My wife and I played Tiger Woods 2005 for about a month to get past one of the challenges (beat the Greek woman playing Greek Isles coming from one stroke behind).

  36. Glad to see another Parsec fan here!
    At 49 I’m in a similar boat (I’m also stuck in BotW, in a stealth-required area that I’m just not sneaky enough for), I hope to finish RDR2 sometime this pandemic…

  37. I agree with you.

    There is no reason a game cannot add a difficulty setting ( though I once spent 2 years modding a favorite Palm Pilot game just to add a difficulty setting. Both easier mode and harder mode. ).

    Only having hard mode just make the number of people who can enjoy your huge investment of time and effort even smaller. And video games already have a tough time finding an audience.

    My most enjoyable game experiences are starting with lowest possible difficulty – learning the game, what is filler, what is core game play and following the story – and then working up to Perma death mode.

    Recently I fell in love with Stardew Valley – almost the definition of “no perma death mode” and now people have tournaments and competitions by setting self imposed hard goals.

  38. There are only 2 reasons to do something. For yourself or for an obligation. If you’re playing for an obligation, then you have to do it (even if you hate it), but you might question some life choices. If it is your call then play the game as you enjoy it. There are to many titles out there to put time in on a game that you do not enjoy. I enjoy a handful of games and I find that each game gets easier as I replay them (sometimes I have to use mods to bring more challenge). The first play through involves lots of reloads, and later play throughs get some cussing because I forgot to save for the last several hours and something stupid happens.
    I think that the endgame often is much harder because the publisher wants to make the 5 time gamer work for it as well. Sometimes it is just a matter of finding the big boss’ glass jaw like in Outer Worlds. I failed 8 times with not even the slightest sense that I could win (walk through videos didn’t help at all), then on the 9th time I tried something different and beat the boss without using any healing at all.
    I get more upset when the end game is a slog like New Vegas… Kill 10 bad guys in room, kill 10 bad guys in identical room 2, kill 10 bad guys in identical room 3 until it it is just boring.

  39. I don’t know if I feel that games are getting more (or less, for that matter) difficult, but I’m definitely in the school of “give the player lots of options so that they can enjoy your game as they like”, especially for single player story driven games.

    Sometimes I like the challenge of a hard difficulty, but only if the developers have done something interesting to make it hard, not just cranked up enemy HP and made them all damage sponges that you have to grind on to get by, while often also making the player character’s damage resistance equivalent to tissue paper.

    One example of developers making increased difficulty balanced well, I felt, was in the Metro games (2033 and Last Light; I haven’t played Exodus yet). They made it so that getting wounded or shot hurt a LOT, and a single headshot would probably kill you. On the flip side, they made the exact same rules for the enemies. This made for a more fun challenge, I thought, because it was more about not being detected or about getting the first (and often only) shot or hit in.

    Contrast that to something like Breath of the Wild’s Master Mode, which all it does is increase enemy levels and HP and gives them ridiculous health regeneration, while doing nothing to balance that, so that even small fights can turn into annoying, frustrating grinds. It just becomes not fun.

    I can’t speak to SoulsBorne games yet, but Dark Souls Remastered is next up in my queue on my Switch (just as soon as the weekend really starts for me, I’ll start trying it out).

    But, anyway, I definitely appreciate the game developers who put in plenty of options for adjusting difficulty or really focus on getting a good balance in difficulty between frustrating/grindy and fun/rewarding. We’re all in this to have fun or at least have good, memorable experiences, and the more widely accessible such things are for everyone, the better, I think. :)

  40. I’ve been gaming since the NES, and it is basically how I spend all my free time. I’ve found I’ve gotten better at games as I’ve aged; over the past several years I’ve beaten several super hard NES games like the Ninja Gaiden games and the Castlevania games. I chalk this up to two things: the first is that decades of experience has given me better instincts and reactions, as well as better impulse control. The second thing is that I’ve spent more time looking into the realm of the really hardcore: the speedrunners. Watching the GDQ events has given me insight into little tricks and tips for getting past particular parts which end up making it easier than trying to go through in a slow and methodical way.

    In terms of game difficulty over time, I feel there’s been a curve to things. In the early days you had arcades an games derived from arcade design, where killing the player was important for longevity. Then when budgets starting to get really big and they started to get more access to player metrics they realized that large portions of players weren’t seeing large portions of games; presumably due to difficulty. So they started reducing difficulty to increase access; they wanted players to not have anything get in their way of seeing the game. It’d be like finding out that most people didn’t get more than 15 minutes into your movie for a reason you could change. But then they’ve started going back to challenging the player again. I think some of this comes from the success of the Souls games and some of it comes from the metrics showing that completion rates before and after the shift really hasn’t changed, so players don’t finish games more because they move on for a variety of reasons.

  41. Dark Souls is not necessarily hard in the twitchy sense. There’s usually an exploit or a rhythm of strokes. Also, Dark Souls is very shield/caution friendly, whereas Bloodborne/DS 3 encourage more of an aggressive style. Sekiro has been very daunting and I have quit it a few times. The internet can often be your friend if you are stuck on what approach to take, but maybe Athena is a purist who disdains such assistance.

    I am a little surprised that the consensus here seems to be that games are getting harder. Most gamers compare today’s titles to the twitch fests of the 1990’s and say we have it soft now.

    Everyone has different strengths and preferences: I just suck at the metroidvanas like Hollow Knight, even though I really wanted to finish that journey. And I don’t play most FPS games ’cause I don’t want to.

    Second the love for the Groovitron and the Quackenator; Ratchet and Clank is my all time favorite franchise. If you like a game with a disco/70s cheesy SF vibe, try “Headlander.”

  42. Take a look at Faster Than Light, rogue-like space game. Feels incredibly hard to begin with, but when you get the hang of it, is really fun.

    Not played FPS since Unreal Tournament 2004, now that was quality.

  43. There are a lot of games that I don’t think I’d be able to finish but am still interested in. One way to get a little bit of enjoyment out of those games is to watch people much more practiced than I am. I particularly enjoy combining watching video game speed runs with supporting charity through the semi-annual Games Done Quick marathons. A week of watching people play games as fast as (or in the case of TASBot, tool-assisted speedruns, faster than) is humanly possible that also raises millions of dollars for charity ($2.3 million for Doctors Without Borders this summer!) is good all around. Plus the speedruns are published on YouTube afterwards, so even if you miss a run it’s easy to go back.

    For instance, there’s no way in hell I could do what runner happyf333tz did in the arcade game “Pump It Up” at the last two marathons. Search YouTube for “summer games done quick 2020 pump it up” — I got tired just WATCHING him! But it was fun (and amazing) to watch him work!

  44. I look for games that have a “story mode” difficulty setting now just because of this. As John said earlier, I don’t have the time to grind through games on the hard settings anymore, but I do enjoy the stories a lot of games tell, I love that many newer games have story mode as an option.

  45. yes yes yes absofreakinglutely. My hand-eye coordination just isn’t there, and a lot of these games require a LOT of practice before you can use the powers or weapons in the right way to win. I love stories and roleplaying but some of the dynamics in games are now leaning towards hardcore gamers with months of practice behind them.

  46. I am not or will be a gamer. I do however have gamers in my life. I always thought it was stupid to buy a game for $60, and then finish it in a very short time. Not enough bang for your buck. However, there has to be some kind of happy medium between a waste of money and wasting it because you need to be a pro to finish it.

  47. One of the nice things about being older and having more money than time (which is uhhhhh a tradeoff) is that once you hit the tough/grindy/bad part of a game, you don’t feel bad putting it down because you can just pick up another decent game since you don’t have time for that shit.

  48. Excellent article that brings back some memories.

    Some early Nintendo games I recall being brutally hard were “The adventures of Bayou Billy”, “Ninja Gaiden”, and Golgo13”. I was also never able to find a cheat code for any of them. Bayou Billy was the only one I am certain I didn’t beat but recall the others being brutally hard and I cannot imagine the end storyline was very meaningful.

    I agree with Skyrim being a great game for all player levels. I wish Nintendo Switch would port the earlier Elder Scrolls over as I’m not into playing on the PC. I thought I read Bethesda was sold to Microsoft so new releases might be captive to their systems.

  49. I remember grinding on Ninja Gaiden (for Xbox) and Ninja Gaiden II (for X360), getting crushed until I got good enough to advance. It was very satisfying, but after the latter game, I decided that I never really wanted to do that kind of thing again. At least those games had learning curves, steep though they were; like Scalzi the Elder, I have had to quit multiple games in the last few years where the difficulty was no problem until the last (or next-to-last) battle. This can be true of turn-based games (e.g Divinity II) as much as twitchier ones. And games where one spends tens of hours building capability and skill (both your own and your character’s), only to be thrown into a rules-changing boss battle where all of those skills and capabilities are rendered irrelevant can go fuck right the hell off.

  50. I’m always startled at how badly video games fall down on being able to customize difficulty, compared to what they could do.

    I come from the board game world, where any cooperative / solo game worth its salt has *at least* a few levels of difficulty, if not more. And board games are a *lot* more constrained in how they can implement difficulty changes – it takes careful design work and/or different components and/or more complexity and/or making players remember to use different rules. Video games have a bazillion parameters they can adjust behind the scenes without the player needing to worry much about it at all.

    Why don’t video games offer not just “how hard”, but “how hard *in what way*?” One player might love a game’s twitch but hate the unending grind for resources that cranks up game-time. Another player might love the chance to just dive into the world for hours every day but find the twitch overwhelming. A third player might love the hard choices forced by the advancement system, while someone else might find it overly constraining and want to explore it more free-form. Take each axis along which your game could be easier or harder, from the local-tactical to the larger-scale arcs, and make it a sliding-scale difficulty.

    Will every possible combination be a pure manifestation of the designers’ vision? No, but that’s what the defaults are for. Will the different difficulties (and combinations) get less testing, so possibly open up degenerate combos? Sure, but “let more players have more fun” is, IMO, a far worthier goal than “gatekeep content behind unavoidable skill challenges”.

  51. I’m an intermittent gamer at best – which brings out it’s own set of drawbacks, in that by the time I’ve got the time and interest to make another stab at playing a game, I’ve forgotten all the controls (we’re looking at a maybe once every six months or so game-play rate) – especially with console games. And, by that point, of course we’re well past the tutorials for the controls.

    I did quite enjoy Jedi: Fallen Order though – played on my PC. Other than that, the vast majority of my gaming time is spent on games like the Total War series (played on “easy” with the computer doing all the combat).

  52. The hyper difficulty thing goes way back. At the risk of showing my age, I remember the InfoCom text adventures often being unnecessarily deadly… and then there was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was just insane. I can only imagine that Adams was in one of his nihilist phases when he scripted it.

    As far as FPS games go, I’ve only played Doom, on the lowest difficulty level and saving over and over again. I prefer easy and fun if death is on the line… I’ve been known to create shell scripts to circumvent the tendency of “Roguelike” games to delete your saved game when you die (showing my age again).

    I much prefer puzzle solving games like Myst. Even then, Obduction (the most recent offering in that series) is so complex I need to refer to a walkthrough. Ditto for some of the LucasArts games like Grim Fandango.

  53. Most of my computer gaming is single-player, we’re not going to go into just how many hidden-object/HOPA games are on the hard drive. On the other hand, even the expensive ones are under $20, and anything programmed within the past decade or so automatically comes with multiple difficulty levels.
    I have gotten into Guild Wars 2 recently with my pre-pandemic board game group. (We’d been playing online board games since the area first locked down, but one guy was griping about not being able to just kill things.) The AI can be a jerk at times, it steered my 15th level character into a zone that starts at 45th level. I died really fast, clicked on a waypoint in a different zone to revive, and started checking zone levels online before taking the game’s suggestions from then on. But it can be played either solo or with a group, and player-vs-player is in separate areas instead of clogging up the main game.

  54. John Lawes: “Is that just them? Do better shooter-gamers imitate IRL troops, or is that just not a game thing”

    Former military and current fps gamer here:

    most fps games are nerfed for playability. From doom to quake to call of duty to fortnite, first person shooter games are designed for single player enjoyment, not combat-accurate simulation.

    Most in game ranged rifles take multiple hits to kill, even a 50 cal. Call of Duty had claymores with a lethal range of about 6 feet. Grenades are totally worthless. In real life, grenades take out everything in a room and claymores have an effective/lethal range of 50 yards.

    Most games are designed for close combat. A 50 cal in game will take 2 hits to kill at a hundred yards, in real life they can take someone out one shot at a mile.

    call of duty had a knife that would give a one-hit kill every time. Fortnite, the common one-hit kill is a shotgun headshot at point blank. And in fortnite, you can jump 7 feet high, so you end up in “jumping bean” combat, where you and another guy are jumping around like idiots, shooting and missing each other until someone gets a head shot.

    Going prone in real life makes you hard to hit and in brush it makes you hard to see. In game, terrain is smooth astroturf so you cant crawl up on someone. The games ive played dont even let you go prone, you can at most kneel.

    Most games dont have the idea of exhaustion. You can run a mile on the fortnite map, swim across a lake with all your gear, and then when you hit the shore you fight at 100% speed and accuracy. High ground in game gives you little real world advantage. In real world, higher terrain means weapon range is longer, running uphill is exhausting making it a better defensive position, etc. In game, you run uphill as fast as you run downhill and you have no concept of exhaustion.

    Put this all together and what it means is that a single skilled gamer can wipe out a squad of four mediocre players who are working together. The one player simply has to close range and engage in close quarter combat where eye-mouse-keyboard coordination is what determines the winner, not what the actual tactical situation would favor.

    A really good four man team working together in fortnite would be at some advantage. But mostly because one attacker might spread out the damage to different team members, where all four can fire at a single target.

    But you cant set up a m60 on a tripod and establish a no mans land. Something with a hire rate of fire in game will always take a few hits to kill one person. So if someone has a saw in game, you just run at them and jump around and you could take them out hand to hand.

    The whole design of game combat is one-hit close quarter combat, hand to hand. Getting shot at range is almost never a one hit kill so you can duck and heal. Which makes a line of fire less important. Working together is less important.

    If you came to the end of some woods and saw an open field in front of you, in real enemy territory you might go a long way around to avoid it. In a game you just run through it and youll probably be ok.

    Not to mention a lot of games, people are just randomly thrown together and you never know if you can count on your teammate to help you or not. Working together in game can be a help but its not like moving in an actual formation makes any difference in game.

    I think what it all really comes down to is an old quote: “War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror”

    No one wants to play a game that is hours of agonizing boredom. No one wants a game where they walk around for hours just to get sniped in a field by a guy they never even saw. Thats what war might be in real life, but no one would play that. So they nerf all the weapons, they make it so you get shot and can heal back to 100% in seconds rather than waiting in the back of a humvee till you can get evaced. They make a standard m16 require 3 hits to kill someone. They dont model exhaustion into the character so they can run for days and never slow down.

    All sorts of changes for the sake of “playability”. Which turns it into a rambo style cartoon movie version of war.

    So… yeah… most shooter games are silly cartoon hollywood movie notions of combat, and most real world tactics actually get you in trouble in a game.

  55. I am team easy mode. I want stories and cool stuff to look at and not to be frustrated and stressed by what is supposed to be entertainment. The Dishonored series is my all time favorite specifically because there’s always a choice to avoid combat–I want to be creative and solve problems and only fight if it seems like a good time.

  56. Horizon Zero Dawn has TWO levels of easy:. Story Mode, and Easy Mode, before ramping up. Definitely worth a try if you enjoy sci-fi type plots, and huge robot animals!

    No foul enjoying an easier difficulty. It’s a game, not a job!

  57. I game a lot. Daily, in fact. But it’s a hobby, & I do it for relaxation, and I’m generally not looking for a challenge. Even games where I have a LOT of experience (Hello, Civ V & Skyrim), I’ll play on the “Easy” difficulty because it’s more fun for me that way, and that’s the whole point of playing games. I’ll use cheat codes sometimes – been playing Evil Genius lately, for example, and there’s a cheat code to get cash. Sure, I could easily do it the legit way, but it’s a hassle, so meh. I’ve also been sticking to mostly older games rather than trying anything new; that’ll change if Elder Scrolls 6 ever comes out, but otherwise I’m content.

    I guess my point is do what makes it fun for you, whether that’s playing on easy mode, using cheats, adding mods, etc., and ignore anyone who says that means you’re playing wrong.

  58. @Matt C – oh my gosh, Bayou Billy. Wow did that bring back memories. I never did beat that one; heck, I never even got past the first stage. As I recall, I would pop it in the NES, play for 20-30 minutes or so, get tired of dying, and put Tetris/Mario/etc. back in instead.

  59. Hey Athena, I totally agree. I love videogames but am not good enough at most of them to get nearly as far as I’d like.

    BTW, I’m within one year of your Dad’s age and my daughter is within one year of your age. I’ve had her reading bits and pieces of your Dad’s blog since she was small. It’s kind of like a parallel life.

  60. I’m still chuckling at a fellow nerd who said: When I am on my deathbed and I’m asked what gave meaning to my life, I will lie and NOT say, “Playing video games.”

    My other chuckle is a nerd, who knew my anime and media tastes, looking at me with astonishment: “What, you DON’T play video games?”

  61. @Eric R: Yes, exactly! I asked for recs for builder games and had “Judgment: Apocalypse Survival Simulation” recommended. Which … didn’t really meet my stated criteria, but does have some fun builder content. But as I recall, if you don’t like the “normal” mode — and I find it to ramp too difficult too quickly — there’s only one easy mode, and it’s too easy. I’d really like to tweak certain elements of the easiness!

    That being said … I do kind of want to see the endgame, and I didn’t want to snooze my way to it in easy mode, but why not? It’s 2020. I don’t really need to deny myself just for the sake of some misplaced pride.

  62. The last video game I actually finished was Batman: Arkham City. I have an ever-growing collection of PC games thanks to Humble Bundle that I will probably never beat and I don’t know how I feel about that.

  63. I can’t see any shame whatsoever in cheating, lowering the difficulty level, reading a walkthrough, or even modding a single player game. You paid your money, you deserve to enjoy the game you paid for.

    I’ve never really been into FPS games (though I did enjoy the Bioshock series and the first of the new Wolfenstein games, if they count) but I am a big fan of third person perspective games like the Elder Scrolls series, Dragon Age, Assassin’s Creed, and so on. At 48 I haven’t really noticed any deterioration in my ability to play such games but they are not really twitch skills; learning to “get gud” in Assassin’s Creed is more about tactics than timing, even, and I’ve beaten Dragon Age Origins in Hard Core, keeping all of my companions out of combat (entirely where possible, leaving them in the back where not) but I can assure you I would never successfully beat more than a few levels of something like Galaga any more – and I would also cheerfully confess to using walkthroughs or hints for the best builds.

    But honestly my favourite game for the past few years has been Minecraft.

  64. Dang! that games is expensive. since my grandson is into Nintendo Switch, i’m still trying to figure out the whole…game? i got into whole Pokemon thing to understand what it was about. and then of course i chased everyone else out and never really did get into that whole battle thing. now Nintendo Switch?

  65. How many people used cheat codes to get through Moby Dick in English class? As my father used to say about those cramming guides: “get yourself a pony”. I think that was the slang term for cheat code back in the 20s. The other 20s.

    I gave up on video games after Space War on the PDP-1X in the early 70s, so I’ve never played one on a raster display. I just had too many other interesting things to do, like writing graphics drivers for recalcitrant experimental graphics hardware. The boss fights with those were horrific, and there was no easy setting.

    I think this push back against video games is like the push back against having to finish every book one starts. Supposedly, the big reveal at age 50 is that one can put down a book and never finish it. One has only so many years on this earth, so there is no point in wasting them on lame fiction or tedious video games. Some people figure this out before age 50.

    One of my favorite takes on aging out of video games was over at The Oatmeal: https://theoatmeal.com/comics/online_gaming

  66. Another old gamer here. As far as I am concerned a game designers freaking job is to make an enjoyable game. Difficulty and a selection of difficulty levels is a big part of that. The game needs to be hard enough to be a thrill when you beat a boss but not so hard that you give up. Simple as that. You hook them on easy mode. If you’ve done your job as a designer any gamer should be able to have fun in easy mode and beat the game. If you are a true artist players will replay the game at the next difficulty up while they eagerly anticipate the release of the next version of the game. RPGs are a little different. It isn’t just about your skill as a player, it is also about the level of your character. In RPGs I like to wander around and see what I can find in the way of side quests. This works on two levels, first you gain experience points to level up and you extend the life of the game. I also like the thrill of running for my life when I run into a high level bad guy. Always being able to kill anything you come across takes much of the thrill out of the game. God mode cheat almost ruined Doom for me. FYI In Fallout 4 the difficulty is location based. The farther south you travel the harder things get. Patrol east and west in the northern part of the map working the random generated stuff. Build up your levels and perks. Then go back and do the main quest that kicked your butt. I haven’t played Red Dead 2 but I wonder if a similar tactic would work.
    Commentary time, don’t try and mix console style with PC. I played and hated Doom Eternal. I want my FPS to be about my skill. I do not want cinematic kill BS if it means the game takes control of my character. Glory kill? Thpppt. If I want to use the chainsaw I want the fire button to rev that sucker up as I charge the demon with the goal of demon shredding goodness. Also screw pay to play. The cool stuff should be earned by time spent playing and as a reward for beating the bad guys.

  67. When I was really little and playing my NES obsessively and had a whole lot of free time to devote to gaming, I liked hard games because they extended the experience and really gave me something to sink my teeth into. I would usually pick the highest difficulty setting or near the highest, given the choice.

    Now that I’ve gotten older and have less time to spend playing games, I’m far more likely to play on “normal mode.” Part of that is difficulty levels in games are often crap, and do nothing other than give enemies more hit points and make them do more damage, which is a bad and lazy way to do difficulty settings IMO (that’s a longer conversation). But I’m also just not as masochistic as I used to be… and I think my reflexes are probably slower now, as well. There have been times where I’ve gone back and tried to play old NES games that I remember doing well at as a kid, and just getting my ass kicked, and wondering how the hell I had been so good at it before.

    I also don’t play much competitive multiplayer (with a few notable exceptions, like Overwatch), because I mostly just get destroyed. I used to like fighting games like Tekken back when there was no online play and I could just play local co-op with my friends. Now I try to play online in a fighting game and almost everyone I play against seems waaay better than I am.

    All that said, I typically haven’t had a big problem with difficulty in single-player games, even “hard” ones that don’t provide a choice of difficulty settings. I can’t really think of any game that I’ve quit simply because I found it frustratingly difficult.

    And that includes the Dark Souls games and related titles, which are some of my favorites. Frankly, I think the difficulty of those games got overblown as a marketing thing… an appeal to the insufferable 1337 gamer crowd. It’s more that it tutorializes through player deaths rather than, you know, a traditional tutorial. To steal a paragraph from an old article about Demon’s Souls that has long since been taken down:

    “Tutorials are, by and large, rigidly conceived and frequently absurd, having to necessarily oblige the thickest, least-skillful and most-stoned audience members. Some tutorials are so slobberingly accommodating you practically want to leave money for them on the dresser once they have had their way with you. Or think of a game like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. During its puzzle sequences (and, really, these are ‘puzzles’ along the lines of keeping straight the crucial differences between a square and triangle), if you cannot figure something out due to your recent stroke, the game drops a broad hint. You are then given a moment to act on it. If you do not, the game pretty much tells you exactly what you are supposed to do. While playing Uncharted 2, I sometimes had the distant thought of how much I missed the days of being trusted to figure out stuff on my own.”

    In short, I think of the Dark Souls series as games that respect the player enough to trust them “to figure out stuff on their own.” Maybe that’s a wrong-headed way to look at it, and they’re just too hard for some people. I dunno.

    But because I really do admire those games, I want to leave a few links about them and their difficulty in case anyone’s interested.

    1. This excerpt from Keza MacDonald’s book about Dark Souls is worth a read (it’s the chapter specifically addressing the difficulty): https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-12-07-tough-love-on-dark-souls-difficulty

    2. I enjoyed this bit from an IGN podcast in which one of the guys describes quitting Bloodborne, because it was just too hard, and then eventually getting back into it to the extent that it became his game of the year. The comparison to the Nickelodean show Legends of the Hidden Temple is particularly hilarious and apt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIFc0npoms8

    3. I generally do not watch LP’s (“Let’s Plays”), but this one of a middle-aged woman named Kay playing through Dark Souls is fantastic. She’s not very good at the game to start, but she’s great at learning and figuring things out, and by the end she’s pretty great at it. It’s still, in my mind, the only play-through of the game really worth watching. So if you find those games too hard yourself, but are maybe still interested in what other people see in them, or want to be inspired by someone who started out bad at the game and got much better, maybe give it a try. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaTUtYVcSww&list=PLFPEDTXyQKoNbqs8NEkKbObhIGrVmRhxT

  68. Gaming issues like you (Athena) bring up are why I stick with the GOG go-to awesome games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape:Torment if I want to Hack and slash… and thinking is required. You don’t have to kill EVERY DAMN THING ON THE SCREEN TO WIN.

    And then there’s Civilization. Good gods below, I love those games.

  69. Honestly, I agree with you on this. I am a casual gamer at best, and find a lot of games to be too difficult for me. In addition, the community around gaming is pretty toxic if you are not good enough. I generally say I am not into video games, because it is easier than trying to justify to people that just because I like to play casually and for the story it does not make me less of a gamer.

  70. I’ve been a gamer since I was old enough to plug a tape recorder in and type LOAD””.

    I still find I can play lots of different types of games on their harder difficulty levels, but for the majority of games I find I’m increasingly dissatisfied with the way difficulty is conceived and communicated. Just having one overall selection at the start which controls the “difficulty” is vague and doesn’t necessarily address what people actually find hard about the game because it usually ties together a lot of things that have different impacts, and a player who might be able to, eg, enjoy an FPS on the higher lethality of a harder difficulty if the enemies weren’t also faster to respond and more accurate is instead unable to do so because those things are inextricably tied to a single menu setting.

    I think it would be much better if more games used a Celeste style assist mode where the player can configure, on the fly, various parts of the system so they can alter the specific thing they are having trouble with and can do so when they find those things.

  71. One underappreciated bit about Dark souls is that for most of the game, if things are too hard, you can just grind yourself up some levels or weapon upgrades to give yourself a boost. But, of course, this doesn’t apply quite as much if you’re having trouble getting past the second boss, because at that point it’s hard getting the materials you need for weapon upgrades.

    I also really enjoy watching people play Dark Souls blind on Twitch, and notice a lot of people get into trouble because they’ve decided there’s some right way they’re supposed to play the game, and don’t explore the full range of options the game presents to them.

  72. The Sims 4 doesn’t have this issue. That’s what I love about it. 😉

    Just don’t leave your Sim unattended while they cook for the first time and you’re good.

  73. I rarely go for FPS games. My current addictions are Naval Action, which can be played both as a battle game, against other players or against NPCs, with or without teammates, or as pure trading and amassing of wealth. Naturally, I’m primarily a trader. The other is a puzzle game, Jewels of Rome, which is easy at first, but can become very PTW unless you resign yourself to frequently having to take a while to solve higher level puzzles.

    I also played paintball for a while. We had all manner of players on our team, from very casual to recruits from a Marine base nearby who could trash almost anyone with their fire discipline. We had a couple of funny encounters. First was where we were asked to provide cannon fodder for a training exercise by a local Army unit. The aforementioned fire discipline destroyed our team in a matter of minutes, with almost no Army casualties. Then we were asked to play against a group of survivalists, the type who were convinced that their l33t armchair warrior skillz would carry the day. Sadly, they turned out to be as resistant to our paintball team as we were to the Army, and were worse sports about it.

  74. Completely agree some games today are too difficult even at the lower settings. Some of that is my issue as age has made my reaction time slower. I played through Wolfenstein and Doom on their higher difficulty mode. Now I tend toward strategy games that don’t require twitch reaction times. Your point on Skyrim is apt. Let the player decide to engage.

  75. francopascal: thanks. That helps a lot; it matches how my kid and his pals play. Which also explains why I used to get waxed so often; I tried to play like I would have IRL, and you make a good point about how most FPS aren’t set up to reward that.

    I have a running joke with my kid about when his character gets pulled for staff duty runner, or how long he’s been in the motor hole PMCSing his Warthog. Because, yes, a “real-life” shooter would involve endless boring hours of tower guard…

    I will add that if you expand “games” to tabletop and board wargames there’s some value in those boring bits. There’s a Nineties board game that takes the ‘91 Gulf War as subject (it’s a solitaire game because, seriously, who the hell wants to play the Iraqis..?) that reeeeally forces you to think about logistics. Your Coalition units depend on their LOGPACS, and have limited endurance, and you’re in trouble very quickly if you forget or overlook that. A move that looks tactically sweet turns out to be a cockup because it puts your unit out of supply, or runs it into fatigue. Fiendishly hard to do as well as the real command team did, which is the point, and drives home the lesson…

  76. Interesting topic, given your dad’s comments about being a straight white male is playing life on the “easy” setting.

    I never finished Adventure, got my copy of HHGTTG shortly before replacing the machine that had a 5.25″ drive (IIRC, there was a purple zap and a puff of magic smoke involved in that replacement decision), played lots and lots of Nethack (often won, but the developers kept adding stuff to it.)
    I played a bit of DOOM, mainly to appreciate how much graphics they could get out of a 486 PC.

    If I were to play video games today, it’d probably be Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game, and maybe going back to play Portal.

  77. I’m not, have never been, and most likely will never be a gamer–although people I love and respect are, even those of my own advanced age–but I find myself wondering what kind of machinery y’all have to have to play these highly detailed fast-action ray-traced surrealistic adventures? As it happens, I’m a retired commercial pilot, and so have trained, annually if not every six months, on “real” flight simulators–the ones that have actual cockpits that move around on big hydraulic rams–and nowadays the visual systems on those (which are good enough that when a newly minted captain takes her first load of a few hundred paying passengers away from the gate, it’s quite possible that it’s the first time she’s flown the actual airplane) come directly from the gaming industry. Why spend millions developing visuals that might be installed on a few dozen simulators when game developers have already justified spending them on products that will sell to millions of 18-to-35-year-olds?

    Reason I ask is that amid all the enthusiasm for the recently-released 2020 version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Microsoft has projected that this product alone will result in sales of $2.6 billion–that’s with a Carl Sagan “B”–of upgraded home computer hardware over the next two years.

  78. I’m trying to write here and explain something that I probably don’t have the ability to describe clearly or concisely.
    Does anyone here listen to “The Besties” – now, I guess it’s on Stitcher? – a podcast by a bunch of middle-aged nerds like myself. The latest one, about Spelunky 2, is kind of amazing – and very much on this topic. If you would listen to that, you could just ignore me and I could stop writing here.

    In case you want *me* to explain it (ugh) I’ll do my best: If you play the Spelunky games, you will lose often, and suddenly. If you think of each try as a “how good am I at games?” test, you will hate it, and the game will punish you forever. But if you think of each attempt as a “what did I learn from *this* run?” – each try will show you something new, and the discovery almost never ends – and when that happens, it turns out you have way more fun and *also* get really far in the game.

    Did me writing that out help *anybody*? I’m gonna post this, just on the off chance it might.
    -E

  79. John Lawes, i remember playing call of duty and got a barett 50. I was very excited until i used it. Total nerf. They had a mission where you manned an mk19 in a helo. Total nerf. Belt fed grenade launcher may as well be shooting orange foam projectiles…

    Goddamn motars? Completely useless in cod. You could drop a round on someones head and they could walk it off. Fucking mortar in real life has a kill radius over a hundred feet and in game i could drop it literally on someones head, and they would walk it off.

    No one wants to play a game where you die randomly. Combat in real life is survival based on pure luck. Walk into an ambush with claymores and an L shaped kill zone and it will be pure luck if you survive.

    Enemy starts dialing mortars or artillery on you and its pure luck if you survive.

    Thats not a game anyone wants to play.

    The games that have war logistics, random survival, and combined arms operations are usually strategy games. Civilization (Civ 3) tries to do it. Its ok. You dont care if one ground pounder gets killed. Youre moving hundreds of units. Entire armies.

    Even then they have a… simplified… idea of combined arms. And shit gets tedious.

    Ever see the movie Jarhead? Hurry up and wait… for months… boredom … Getting shit details… literally burning shit… humping for miles… days… nothing happens… getting strafed by your own planes…. and when finally sent on a mission, sneak around for days and in tbe end…. bupkiss.

    But who would play that game?

    Fps games are a Rambo version of combat.

  80. Peter:”what kind of machinery y’all have to have to play these highly detailed fast-action ray-traced surrealistic adventures?”

    I bought a second hand gamer sytem that is 2 years old for a grand, not including tbe monitors. It does fortnite at 60 frames a second at the highest possible resolution.

    “Microsoft has projected that this product alone will result in sales of $2.6 billion–”

    You can download and play Fortnite for free. And in the first year they made a Billion dollars.

    Mind… blown…