In the world of gaming, there exist two types of games: the casual, types of games made for those who only occasionally choose to enjoy gaming, and the hardcore, for those who are the real gamers who enjoy a real challenge. There has, in recent years, been a rise in the popularity of such challenging types of games. Us gamers enjoy to partake in games where it’s known that the difficulty will make you frustrated to no end, but why? Is this just a new trend of gaming, or has the challenging type of gaming style been along for much longer than that of recent times?
Well if you’re older than eighteen, or have no recollection to the 8 and 16 bit era of gaming, then you would know that this pull out your hair, and the smash your controller into the nearest object type of gaming frustration is nothing new. Back in the earlier days of gaming, many of the most popular gaming franchises were actually built, and much acclaimed to to their difficulty level and innovative gameplay. Franchises such as Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Megaman, and Castlevania just to name a few were some of the hardest games of the yesteryears of gaming. Although, these games were indeed known to be insanely difficult we as gamers enjoyed, and even now, still do enjoy to play them. The question is, if video games are meant to be fun, why do we enjoy to play the ones that seem to frustrate us the most, even after the fun fades?
Video games, as they are known, more commonly known as simply games, to those of us who enjoy to play them. Were created to be that of a unique and enjoyable experience, which they are. They were created as a ‘new-wave’ of the future, something to show off to your friends and family. In early days of such technology, it was about having the most advanced technical devices, and after that it was about your ability and skill to manipulate said device programs. Your ability to show you had the best skills in any game, to obtain the highest score, and show it off. From it’s creation, video gaming would seem to have been always about it’s competitiveness. It was about the boast, and the brag, the ability to prove that you were the best in a certain game of choosing. For the earliest gaming champions, that game was Pong. The simple game in-which two ‘players’ using device-peripherals controlled two virtual paddles on either screen, and bounced a ball against them in effort to score past the other player’s paddle. Like any other activity, such as sports, that bred competition. And from this it evolved, the graphics improved, and the nature of the competition grew from that of one versus one, to one player vs the gaming computer controlled A.I.
From this eventual evolutionary transition, a new genre of gaming was created, the platformer. With this new type of game players were greeted with games like Super Mario Brothers, Megaman, Ghost-and-Goblins, and so-forth. These along with the Role Playing Game genre, your Dragon Warriors, and Final Fantasys, became the general styling of most games during the 80’s. These were huge technical steps, taking into account the visuals from games of the previous era. This made them a big selling point for the new consoles. These games of mention, along with being fun, were also bringing some new aspects to the table: the interesting new mechanics of their gameplay, and their difficulty. It was the difficulty of these new games that made them compelling, and a thrill to play, and was a sort-of passing of the torch for the spirit of competitive gaming.
Aside from your general arcade style cabinet games, where the focus was generally on high scores, the console games although similar were different in some ways. The scores were important, but not all games focused on them. In some games it was just being able to beat the game, along with reaching all of the in-game secrets that made playing them competitive. The time it took a player until completion, being able to show off technical ability, such as only taking minimal damage and so-forth made up the competitive scene. The spirit of competition, and building a personal prowess of technical ability created the motivation required to play these generally, insanely difficult games. It was in being able to brag about being able to beat a certain game, against all opposition and ‘especially hard bosses’ that made these games popular. The difficulty was the selling point, and the props gained from being able to complete said games was the motivation to continue to playing, even after wanting to hurl your console out of the window due to frustration. This white knuckle urge to overcome the difficulties in these games birthed the spirit of the ‘hardcore gamer’. Why else would we enjoy to play games that frustrated us so much that we actually began to hate them, if not for the bragging rights, and the personal reward in doing so? To obliterate a computer controlled game after it was able to make your blood burn, and force obscenities from you mouth, the experience in finally seeing that boss had previously killed you 36 times come crashing down, and that feeling it gave you made it all worth it. The elation we all feel after beating something we believe to be so unfavorably scaled against us makes us feel like gods in the moment, we feel like we rule supreme, and it’s nothing short of exhilarating to a gamer.
This spirit of welcoming great challenge was passed on from our gaming parents to us, we were welcomed with our own set of challenging games, growing up in the 2D era of gaming, up until now. For most of us, we grew up with the slightly more advanced games of the Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis era, and in gaming we were welcomed with some of the same challenging types of games, albeit those games were simply more advanced graphically. We were born and bred in the spirit of challenge and competition, and still seek it’s rewards in gaming even now. Now in the times of the internet, with sites like Youtube, and Twitch, and the ability to record your own personal speed-runs of games, the spirit of competition can be seen on a worldwide scale like never before. The higher the difficulty of the game, the more bragging rights for the player. Such accomplishments even allowing the individual players to make names for themselves within the gaming community, making them celebrities in their own rights. The new era even welcomed games such as the Souls series, namely Demon Souls, and Dark Souls that of which are built around the very fact that you will ‘die’ numerous times while playing. With the birth of the Souls series came it’s very own culture following, which can be compared to games such as The Binding of Issac, which also has it’s very own intense difficulty, that has developed it’s own cult following as well.
With that very spirit of challenging games coming alive in current times much like it did in the early years of gaming, there are even more gaming developers who have taken note of it’s patterns, and have sought to make their own games that follow that level of challenge. These independent developers, who had most likely experienced the early era of gaming first hand, are now creating games that are somewhat identical to the styling of the games of yesteryear, both graphically, and gameplay wise. These games such as Shovel Knight, 1001 Spikes, and the Hotline Miami series, are just a couple of titles in the growing catalog in 2D gaming inspired games. This only goes to show that the true spirit of gaming, no matter how the world may evolve around us, will never truly die. That true spirit of competition, and creativeness will live on in the game developers who keep those values in their hearts, and seek to share them with new, and old gamers alike.
With all of this in mind, it can most likely be said that the real reason we as gamers enjoy to play such highly challenging games, those that drive us to the brink of insanity, can be most easily explained as the sense of community it brings. The sense of community of the other gamers around the world that also play those very same games we play, and the feeling of us all being involved in that very same struggle. The struggle is what makes it possible for us to relate with those other gamers around the world that we don’t even know, and it brings us together in a very unique way. Along with this said struggle, it’s that very thing that breeds our competitiveness, and the urge to be the best among our gaming brethren. That goal to be the top player can be the notion that motivates us the most. It’s also that sense, on the opposite side of the scale, that we as players don’t even have to be the very best, but just to feel relief in the fact that there are others who also feel our same pain is the best part. The fact that we are not all along in our gaming torments, that’s what makes it doable.
These examples are some of the factors that really make us gamers a tight community, and why we chose to play the games we play. It’s these very facts that ensure the true spirit of gaming will live on forever, and that it will continue to live on in our memories, and even continue to be the inspiration of future gaming titles. All of which are great things to all of us.
Long live the spirit of gaming!
Thumbnail Bloodbourne via playstation| Flikr