When Does Difficulty Become Frustration?
Difficulty in games is something that has been weighing on my mind quite a bit lately, as it usually does around the time of a Souls release. Every time a new Souls game comes out I ask myself the same question, “is this the game where I finally get it?” Dark Souls is a franchise that has always tempted me into purchasing it but is has never been able to entertain me in a satisfying way. It is something that truly annoys me because I can see so many people enjoying this series, so many players reveling in the challenge. But for me it is nothing short of an exercise in self-control, the self-control to not throw the controller.
I have had fans tell me that I just don’t get it but the sad part is I do get it. I can easily see the appeal in the wonderfully designed worlds that rewards skill and perseverance. There is no doubt in my mind that these are nothing short of exceptional games. I often watch Souls players with awe at how such a seemingly simple (at least initially) combat system can be used in an almost hypnotic way. The dodge, parry, and strike of a good Souls player is a thing of beauty and by looking at the sheer amount of people watching Dark Souls 3 on twitch at the moment I am pretty sure I am not the only one to think that.
I have had some Souls fans tell me that I just don’t like hard games. Well, I am confident that that is also not the case. I played through the Witcher 2 on hard and thrived on the challenge, I spent hours and hours conquering some of the most torturous tracks in the Trial’s series and I have made those alien invaders from X-com 1 & 2 squeal for their mummy. I love the challenge these games present and beating these games are some of the greatest moments I have ever experienced while gaming. The old saying “Nothing good is ever easy” rings true in these cases making them truly memorable games from my back catalogue. But with Dark Souls, I could just never get over that initial hurdle, the wall that new players bash themselves against until it finally crumbles. For me, it has always been too much and it has sent me screaming off in another direction.
Another common cry from Souls fans is that I haven’t given it a good enough go. Well, I don’t know how long I am supposed to give a game before I know it isn’t for me but I have played about 13 hours of Dark Souls according to Steam. I also bought Lords of the Fallen and Bloodborne thinking a different game might be the way to ease me into Souls. That tactic didn’t work and while I found myself enjoying Bloodborne more than the other titles there still wasn’t enough there for me to keep coming back and putting myself through torture in the hope of a grand payoff at some unidentified point in the future. If I could see the point where I was suddenly able to play these games with confidence then I am sure it would encourage me to continue. With the other games, I mentioned there was always that virtual carrot dangling in front of me, showing my improvement and showing that I could eventually surmount the challenge and reign supreme. I just can’t see that in the world that From Software has created.
I guess the biggest thing stopping me from playing more of these games is that I don’t like who I become. I hate the feeling of not succeeding and years and years of gaming has taught me that dying is a bad thing and is something to be avoided. I just can’t seem to change that feeling. If I died, I failed. It is as simple as that. That sort of thinking is virtual suicide in the Souls series which treats dying as a stepping stone to improvement. I find myself angry, frustrated and annoyed and frankly I feel enough of these emotions in day-to-day life to have to put myself through them in what is supposed to be a relaxing and entertaining activity. I can feel the anger coursing through my veins as I die for the hundredth time. If this was a Star Wars movie I would be so far down the path of the Dark Side that The Emperor would look like an Ewok in comparison.
What it comes down to is I guess I have to make peace with the fact that I am never going to enjoy these wonderfully designed games. It makes me a little morose to know I am missing out on what many people consider the premier gaming franchise of our generation but it is something that just has to be. I am at the point now where I am done trying to like a game that isn’t for me. It is like forcing myself to eat Brussel Sprouts because I know they are good for my health, the payoff isn’t worth the pain. If this means I have to wear scorn from my gaming friends then so be it. Dark Souls (and its associated brethren) has left difficult behind and journeyed too far into frustration for this writer and I guess unfortunately that is the way it will always be.