Saturday, 23 February 2013

1up Blog #42: Why so Challenging (11/08/2008)

Some hardcore gamers squeal when they hear the word challenge. Personally, I think it is a mixed bag; it’s really only can only a good thing if it’s done the right way. Though not too long ago I believed challenge was an essential part to most of my favourite games. I see that it can improve a game, but it pretty much always is not what makes the true heart of a game. I listened to a GFW podcast concerning the Vita-Chambers in Bioshock (which basically have the game resuming with the same enemy health after you die, you’re only teleported to an earlier spot). A gamer wrote this long statement saying how pointless a game is without traditional challenge, wondering why people would only play games for ‘fun’. This, unsurprisingly, was met with laughter, and it’s not unwarranted. How can we let challenge get in the way of the most important idea which is just having a fun, relaxing time?
 
Insert relevant Bioshock quote here
 
        Okay, so there are some really great things about challenge in games. I think every fan of Ninja Gaiden will agree that while the gameplay on its own is fantastic, it cannot truly be appreciated without that layer of challenge. It was something that would get me to learn the combat more and more whenever I would fumble with a weapon. I can not wait to beat Ninja Gaiden II on a higher difficulty because of this. However, the gameplay in itself is the game’s strong suit. Really, some of my favourite gameplay moments from any game in the series don’t come from beating a boss after the 34th try, most of from in fact are do to ‘unchallenge’, such as killing a group of enemies without getting a scratch on Ryu. I think the feeling is a whole lot better when you feel like the perfect bad-ass ninja, rather some leather-clad man getting his ass handed to him by a random enemy (this seems to be the case with Mirror’s Edge, which is probably why I’m so excited for it).
 
       While an easy game such as Wind Waker didn’t have much of that challenge, and as such I never got that mastery feeling either, its puzzles could be damn hard for those who still wanted that. Sure challenge in the combat would have helped, but Wind Waker is still better than 95% of the stuff out there anyway because of that same design and feel that really has kept the series going for almost ten years. The easy levels in Mega Man 9 are still really fun as well, and it could even be argued that the harder levels are the game’s weakpoint, notably Wily’s dungeon: spanning four increasingly difficult stages. Without even an option to save the game midway, these stages more likely test how long a game system can run before it explodes rather than keeping the charm of the other stages. And hey, with the little time a lot of us can put into games, I think most people want to make actual progress when they are to sit down for two or three hours. Let’s go back to Bioshock; Would any of us had enjoyed it if we had to go back 15 minutes every time we got killed by a swarm of enemies, losing all of our loot in the process? Bioshock was more of a game focused on progress with constant tonic upgrades and a dynamic story; you are really just along for an engrossing multi-layered ride. What you get from it is up to you.
 
One more final dungeon in Mega Man, one less controller
 
       One aspect that came at the into that GFW discussion was that whoever wrote that argument didn’t even play Bioshock, he was just responding to what the Vita-Chambers made the game sound like. His argument may sound great on paper, but was really just incoherent without any insight into the actual matter; If he had actually played any great game recently (not specifically Bioshock either), I’m sure he would have to revaluate his opinion on fun.
 
The discussion from this post is from GFW episode 9/15/07 for those who want to hear the actual thing (along with a hilarious ‘Is Master Chief a Virgin?’ discussion).

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