Friday, 18 December 2009

Why Do Some Games Scare the Hell Out of Me?

I’ve been playing games for almost as long as I can remember. I can distinctly visualise hassling my older cousin to have a go on Super Mario Land on his Gameboy when I was around 4 years old. I remember playing Super Mario Bros. 3, Punchout, Marble Madness and more on a friend’s NES every week for a number of years and a different cousin and I spent tens of hours playing Contra 3. I think it’s safe to say that I became well-versed in games at a reasonable level of difficulty and challenge.

These days I can safely say that I’m completely shit at a lot of games, almost entire genres. I find that games are throwing too many uncontrollable variables and obstacles my way and I’ve lost a lot of love for a lot of games because of this. Take for example Battlefield 1943; it’s a great game and I know that full well but it took me a good hour to get a single kill (and I think I fluked that) because I was apparently too shit at the game to survive for more than 30 seconds at a time. This was made even more frustrating that I had no fucking idea why I was dying so frequently even when I was utilising environmental cover, supporting team members and just staying out of sight. No matter what I did I kept dying without knowing why and I came to the conclusion that I was just very, very shit at the game.

On the other end of the scale is Serious Sam, an FPS of a different kind. I know what’s coming my way, I know I’m not going to die instantly (in most instances anyway) and all I really have to worry about is which direction my comically oversized weapon is pointing. In short, I feel in control of the situation that I’m in and I like it and any of my failings are due to my own fuck-uppery, unlike being killed by a single shot from westhamdave16x because I have no bloody clue what’s going on. Maybe it’s just a difference in leniency to how many hits I can take before I bite the dust, but I just don’t find such a large degree of uncertainty in games fun in comparison to games where there’s a low level of uncertainty in my environment.

Those examples would be extremes for me but I feel that I’m in a similar position with other genres too. Beat ’em ups are a great example. I’ve always been half decent at Soul Calibur and games which largely utilise a “Direction + button = different attack” system much like the Super Smash Bros. games. Street Fighter games too utilise this to a certain extent, but any inexperienced player would stay away from the likes of Zangief and his array of moves that involve full circles (or even two) on the stick to succeed. I find that Tekken and to a lesser extent Fighter’s Destiny on the N64 take this concept to the next level and create button combinations for certain moves that require you to press Up, Down, Up, Forward, Back, Heavy Punch, Up, Back, Light Kick, Wank, Down, Rotate controller 360 degrees, Forward and Heavy Kick which even then are only successful at 5pm on a Tuesday during the winter, this is of course after acquiring an encyclopedic knowledge of move lists. It appears that simplicity in success is something that I find attractive in a game (not in the way you’re thinking).

I won’t go into other genres, but it comes as no surprise to me that the Wii has become such a success story. If I, a seasoned gamer, am so reluctant to play the likes of Modern Warfare or any other game with a similar level of complexity then I dread to think what Mrs Biggins is thinking when she comes across these games. Anyone could conclude that I like simple games with simple interfaces, simple objectives and few extraneous factors that affect my progress. You could say that I was just a gigantic moron when it comes to certain games and you could well be right but the truth is that I like to succeed in the games that I play and I can personally only really succeed when I have a certain degree of control. When that level of control is gone then my personal success rate drops and I become shit at the game. I don’t like being shit at something because like most people I don’t like failure and that is why you could say I’m scared of some games.

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