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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Digital Love & Hate

So, I was explaining to a friend how much I had been playing Super Mario 64. I was having a good time, but I was getting angry about the difficulty level. I was complaining about some infuriating level and how I wanted to throw the controller, and what was his response?

“That’s classic gaming!”

Now, I have been accused of being a video game wimp, to be fair. It has been said that if I cannot master something within the first two minutes, I quit. That’s not entirely true. Sometimes I last up to four minutes before my complete and utter capitulation. I don’t know why. I think it’s because I’m part French.

But part of this is because of what I expect from my particular hobby. I play video games to relax, not to throw controllers. Also, my gaming time is now more limited than in times past, meaning that I don’t have time to waste on an experience that may anger me. I can’t play a game for its Tremendous Upside Potential alone. A game needs to grab me, shake me, and not let go. When there is a frustrating puzzle, or a laboriously difficult/tedious part or some other imperfection, I stop dead in my tracks.

For this reason, I greatly appreciate games that are pure combat, the kind that run on skill alone, or the kind that just keep bring relentlessly interesting. For instance, Katamari Damacy had a hold of me for quite a while, just because you never quite knew what you were going to run over next, or where it would take you. On top of that, you had to learn how to move your katamari in order to win. Was it difficult? Good God, no. Was it fun? Oh, God, yes.

See, that’s the thing. You’ll hear people equating “hardcore” with “will play excruciatingly hard games.” Can you be a hardcore gamer without playing frustrating games? Or does the very nature of “hardcore” mean that you do not shy away from these experiences?

In order to sidestep the question, thereby cheating you out an actually interesting topic, I would posit that being “hardcore” is not desirable at all. When you think of a hardcore gamer, you think of someone with a Cheeto-stained Mario 3 shirt who is still debating whether Terra did enough to stop Kefka’s destruction of the Espers and declaring that it is pronounced “monna,” not “manna.”

(As a side point, why do RPG players generally end up considered geekier than other types? You don’t see these people getting their panties in a bunch over Team Fortress Classic.)

So, if liking easier games is a crime against the gods of hardcore, so be it. I would rather have fun than be a hardcore gamer. As long as an experience is good, does it matter how difficult it is? Sure a victory may be hard-earned, but aside from people on a message board or your pet hamster Gandalf (you even made a HAT for it), who really cares? It’s kind of like purchasing horses for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion: Who really cares? Who is going to care that you have a horse? In the same manner, who cares that you beat Zelda without dying ONCE and I can’t beat the fourth dungeon? Did I have just as much fun?

No, I didn’t. I hate Zelda. It’s too hard.