As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself sinking back into more familiar gaming experiences, opting for what essentially is my comfort food over being adventurous in a sense. I still like getting my hands on a new release and seeing what there is to offer, but more often than not I find myself bouncing off a game the second I hit the tiniest of obstacles. I often would attribute that to just not wanting to bash my head against a difficulty wall in games, but these days I think I’m just more impatient than anything.
When talking about difficulty in games, a lot of people point directly to the Dark Souls series. Those games are very much too difficult for me, but they also do this thing where they try to emotionally crush you and mentally exhaust you. My extremely limited experience with Dark Souls involves me starting out, killing maybe 2 or 3 skeleton men, getting to the boss, dying, then having to do that all again just to make a few more feet of progress. Now, my lack of skill definitely plays into that, but before the frustration of dying repeatedly can make me quit, the extreme tedium of running through the level again and fighting the same dudes gets me first.
There is something to be said about the joy that comes with memorizing the patterns and placements of enemies, and finally executing that perfect run that gets you to the next checkpoint. I get that. But for me, it’s less a feeling of triumph and more a feeling of relief. Then I’m confronted with the reality that this loop I’m describing, is the entire loop of these games, and that just isn’t enough for me.
It isn’t just games like Dark Souls that revel in their difficulties that repel me, it can be any game that doesn’t manage to hook me that can make me tap out early. It’s part of why I created the Gut Check feature on this site, because while I try every game I can, there are very few that actually keep me playing. And that isn’t because they’re too difficult, it’s because I don’t have the time or patience anymore to dedicate to a game that isn’t immediately wowing me.
There are people that will say that certain games get better after a few hours, but why would I waste my time struggling through something I’m not having fun with, in the hopes of eventually having fun. Games and I have turned a corner in recent years, where I want them to engage and entertain me with a minimal amount of effort or exertion on my part. It’s selfish, it’s lazy, and I don’t care. In my free time, when I want to just have fun, I don’t want to have to work for it.
It’s why tactics and in-depth RPGs and I, don’t get along well. There’s a lot of time to invest and in some cases, it feels like you’re learning a new language. For instance, I really wanted to try Disco Elysium last year, but seeing it in action reminded me just how much of an investment of time and mental energy that would be. Time and mental energy I just don’t have.
I like a mechanics deep and story rich game as much as anybody does, but I just feel as if my patience is waning with a lot of games. It leads to this internal conversation where I have to ask myself if I really have the energy to play this game about mental illness, or coping with loss, or just with a lot of reading, or do I just want to turn my brain off and play more NBA 2K20? And honestly, I usually just opt to turn my brain off and play hoops instead.