Difficult Games are More Fun
Remember arcades? Those magical places where gaming rigs stood shoulder to shoulder, filling up entire rooms? Patrons used to flock there to spend their collective quarters in the hopes of reaching the next level, beating the game, or besting their high score. Then there was me, a goofy ten year old who didn’t have much to spend in terms of money, but had a small fortune of time to waste.
I would swiftly make my way across the room and find the coolest, sweetest looking guy in the whole arcade, and watch him play for hours on end. Following him from machine to machine, I remained in awe as he bested level after level, and as his score reach astronomically high numbers. My reason for doing this: the games he played were difficult. So difficult that I figured I could never possess the skill to duplicate his efforts. Beating an easy game… no one cares. Beat a hard game… that’s what I want to see; that feels like an accomplishment.
It seems, however, that over the last decade, video games have decreased in difficulty. I constantly feel like I’m flying through every new game I purchase, and I have never felt that the reason was my exponentially developing skill; skilled though I am (yes ladies, you can touch me). My rationale for this is simple, I very rarely feel as though I have accomplished something when I beat a game.
That said, it looks like difficult games are making a comeback. The last few years have yielded such titles as Demon’s Souls, revamped Ninja Gaiden, and, I guess to a lesser extent, I Want to be the Guy (check out the youtube videos of that monster) Thank god.
This is not to say that easy games can’t be fun. They can rock, sure, but in a totally different way. Consider Resident Evil. RE initially made use of low ammo availability and truncated movement in order to develop a mood. RE4 gave you tons of ammo and allowed the player fluid, easy controls that made past RE installments feel like you are deaf, dumb and blind. Both games are fantastic, but RE wins in my mind, as it’s design choices lent itself to the horror genre.
With the advent of Fallout: New Vegas on the horizon, I am stoked that Obsidian Entertainment is including a hardcore mode, as it will create a more visceral, realistic playing experience that should completely eclipse what Fallout 3 had to offer.
Fallout 3, while forcing you to make some decisions on what items to carry due to weight, did not count the ammo in your possession towards your weight limit; this lead to situations where my Vault Dweller was carrying:
1,000 rounds of pistol ammo
1,000 rounds of rifle shells
500 round of mini-gun ammo
Tanks of lighter fluid for my flamethrower
A handful of small tactical nukes
Essentially, my character could carry as much as a heavily packed armed military vehicle, and that’s before you consider the items the game actually registered as having weight.
With all that junk on me, encounters are less challenging. Shit, encounters barely matter; I could not pay attention the entire fight, miss 90% of my shots, and still have enough ammunition to kill my enemy and all of his facebook friends.
Fallout: New Vegas isn’t having any of that shit. Ammo has weight, and will force me to really think through every fight I engage in. Stimpacks work over time, not immediately, forcing me to be careful while fighting. I will have to carefully consider the value of everything I pick up, and eat and drink on top of that in order to stay healthy. While these aspects of Hardcore mode will make the game much more difficult, (and therefore, not fun for many casual players) they will make me feel as though I am actually attempting to survive in a barren nuclear wasteland, like I have to sleep with one eye open, like I am actually vulnerable.
That’s what’s fun to me, cause when I beat the game, I will feel like I faced a challenge, like I have actually achieved something.
Just like that super cool dude in the arcade.