In hell there is no ‘easy way’: Are video games too difficult? | Babelia

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  In hell there is no ‘easy way’: Are video games too difficult?

On the night of April 7, the British Academy awarded the BAFTA for best video game of the year to returnal. It is a third-person shooter that follows the adventures of Celine, an astronaut who finds herself trapped on an incredibly hostile planet. Her situation is complicated: every creature in that infernal place tries to kill her. And she, usually, she gets it. The fact is that, when she dies, Celine realizes that her prison is not only physical but also temporary: she is trapped in a loop and when she is killed she wakes up again at the starting point (a little in the manner of Bill Murray The Groundhog Day). In addition to the twisted setting and the gradually macabre plot, returnal is characterized by something else: it is by far one of the most difficult games in recent years.



Last Tuesday, the director of returnalHarry Kruger, justified in the program PS I Love You XOXO the enormous difficulty of the game because, for him, it did not obey an arbitrary decision or to artificially lengthen its duration, but rather that difficulty directly reproduces the experience of the protagonist. “Feel what it’s like to die over and over again and how insufferable this experience is,” explained Krueger, for whom the player experiences with the game exactly what Celine should be feeling: “A descent into madness that is happening precisely because of the challenges to the ones you’re facing.”



Justifications aside, the difficulty is a hot debate. As it has gone from sporadic consumption to continuous consumption of games, with millions of users around the world refining their way of playing and demanding new challenges, in recent years a handful of works have appeared that focused part of their experience on an exaggerated difficulty. Since the success of Demon’s Souls (2009), by Hidetaka Miyazaki, a whole series of games has exploited the marriage between frustration and gratification that high difficulty generates, beginning with the successive games by the creator of the souls: Bloodborne (2015) and sekiro (2019); the best impersonator of the saga, Nioh (2017); the style shooting game cartoon retro Cuphead (2017) or the wonderful pixel art platforms Light blue (2018).



Image of the game 'Returnal' (2021).Image of the game ‘Returnal’ (2021).



During this time the debate has become polarized on the internet (in forums, on social networks, on YouTube). On the one hand, there were those who defended that these games they should have an easy mode, because the players they had the right to spend with relative comfort a game for which they had paid. Against these, a more fundamentalist position was raised, which defended that if a video game is difficult (even if it is insanely difficult), it is by the will of its creator and that this will must be respected in order to preserve its authorial vision of the game. Many of these players took as a flag the difficult (sometimes even maddening) experience of the souls by Miyazaki. Freidora Sin Aceite Cecofry Primer Uso



The last exponent, of course, is Elden Ring, launched on the market February 25. Miyazaki’s latest game, despite being somewhat more accessible than its predecessors, is still very difficult: continually dying is a fundamental part of the experience. But stop the presses! With Elden Ring something different has happened. Being as it is a much more extensive, comprehensive and ambitious game than its predecessors, at its launch there were things that were not calculated perfectly. Weapons that turned out too powerful, enemies with too many consecutive attacks, armor that slowed too to the player. We are talking about tiny times, only a few fractions of a second, but that in the general computation hindered (when they did not spoil) the experience. Namely. For the first few weeks the game’s difficulty was no longer so much a conscious thing as (sometimes) a miscalculation.



That “during the first weeks” is because it is no longer like that: successive digital patches have been correcting the game’s defects. These patches (the last one was applied this Tuesday) are, in addition to an improvement of the experience, the implicit recognition that, beyond the will of the author and the artist’s design, in collective works there are sometimes things that They go wrong. In other words, not everything that happened in the game was measured to the millimeter and obeyed the enlightened will of its director. No problem. It is good to recognize it and rectify it.



Harry Krueger, the director of returnal, ended his speech by saying that, definitively, when it comes to difficulty, “it will always be an interesting challenge to find that optimum point”. And he did not rule out the inclusion of an easy mode: “I think we can always do more and we can always add more help to play in different ways and with different control methods.” But perhaps the key to everything lies in another of Krueger’s juicy phrases: “If the adventure were simple, the players would feel less committed to the story, because it would pose less of a challenge.” You may be right. It is possible that, in games as in life (what is a game but a representation of life), we all appreciate, deep down, that things are made a little difficult for us.



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