Quick, I want you to name the hardest games released in recent memory. What comes to mind? If you’re like me the first titles that pop into your head would be games like Demon’s Souls, Devil May Cry 3, Ninja Gaiden and maybe even the recent downloadable title Spelunky. Now there’s one thing that I believe all these games have in common, difficulty as a selling point. These titles specifically cater to the hardcore gamer audience, boasting their punishing difficulty and requiring the player to make very precise and calculated inputs. The question I want to pose, lovely reader, is does this kind of difficulty act as a selling point for you? Or does it turn you off the game? Personally I’m on the fence when it comes to this question, but I’ll start off with what I think does make difficulty an incentive for buying a game.
In this day and age of gaming, I feel it is in fact very hard to come across a truly challenging game. Too many times gamers are mollycoddled and given too many lives, no punishment for dying and regenerative health. It’s games like the aforementioned Demon’s Souls that then come along and remind gamers that difficulty can in fact be rewarding. Few things compare to the satisfaction of making it through and entire level in Demon’s Souls, a satisfaction that can only be created through the game being so tough. Another selling point for difficult games is the replay value and longevity created by said difficulty. A tactic often employed by developers during the 8-bit era to make their games longer, the challenge was ramped up significantly. This can make a seemingly short game like Spelunky suddenly last for much longer. The challenge gives the game a very addictive nature, as you try to see if you can get just that little bit further. Also you’re going to die over and over again, artificially increasing the length of the game, which means that you’re probably going to get your money’s worth in terms of length.
However, the idea of difficulty being rewarding and addictive can be a double-edged sword. Demon’s Souls difficulty is rewarding and addictive because of the game’s near perfect design, and the fantastic world in which it is set. I can’t count the number of times I have died in that game, just to pick up the controller and try again because I so desperately wanted to see what was round the next corner. Whether it was a chance of obtaining a new weapon or seeing a new boss, I was so engrossed in the game that I simply couldn’t give it up. This hasn’t been the case for many difficult games though, where my frustration simply outweighed my desire to carry on. An example of this being Devil May Cry 3, a fantastic game, no doubt, but one that I could not finish due to pure frustration. I simply couldn’t find a reason for carrying on after dying for the hundredth time. I was able to deal with my high death counter in Spelunky because the game was charming, colorful and just a blast to play.
I enjoy difficult games, but for me they need something more than to just be tough as nails. Something needs to be there to engage the player, and to give them a reason to continue playing. I believe that while difficulty can be a selling point, it should not be the only selling point. Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.