Once upon a time, games used to be hard. Like really, really fucking hard. You had to spend hours grinding and leveling up, looking for the right items or npcs and learn the technique needed to progress.
By comparison, the majority of games these days are relatively easy to play and get into. Not much skill is required to play a game of Angry Birds for example. Given our limited leisure time, busy lifestyles and acknowledged limitations, developers have designed games to be more user-friendly and provide a quick and casual way to have fun. However, in this large market of games, there are those that retread the style of the early games and are hard for the sake of fun. Ask any number of veteran gamers for a frustrating and difficult game and you should be hearing the name Dark Souls crop up several times.
Dark Souls has earned itself a reputation due to the nature of the gameplay. It’s a game where you can’t just button mash, where you’ll die multiple times, not just because you don’t know how to best the enemy but also because killing them depends on you dying multiple times. But dying is not forgiving and death, comes with the loss of a few items from you inventory. Dark Souls is a game where you really need to learn the right combos and strategies and have incredible patience to make it through.
Several other games aside from dark souls share this complex playstyle. Even a cute looking indie game like story meat boy requires pressing the keyboard at precisely the right moment (easier said than done). Does this difficulty spike diminish the game’s appeal? Far from it. Executing the right commands, finally getting through an obstacle and advancing to the next stage; together they provide more satisfaction and fun than Mario Kart could ever hope to ascribe to. It’s kind of like some BDSM relationship where feeling the pain is all part of the pleasure. Instead of a safe word, you bash your keyboard and pull out your hair in frustration. So what’s the real issue? Why isn’t everyone enjoying the awesomeness of dark souls? It’s because the kind of playstyle and techniques needed to really enjoy these hard games just isn’t compatible with most people, or even casual gamers.
I’d love to invest over a hundred hours into a game, earn the best weapons and build the muscle memory to execute the right combos. But frankly, I have other shit I need to do. Looking after myself, attempting to go to lectures as well as catching up on animé or the latest marvel movies. Sometimes people want to relax and have fun, as opposed to be punished for their incompetence, lack of cat-like reflexes as well as painstakingly earning achievements.
As hard and as tiresome as these games may be, some people are still able to pay them. and once you really get to experience their depth and precision, you realise that they are damn awesome. The reason why so many people love these games is because they get better each time they play them, so they’ll progress further and further. Yeah, you die a lot. But you’ll know WHY you died, and you learn from that. And you’ll improve. Maybe one day, when I have more time on my hands, I can see for myself what makes Dark Souls so captivating for others. Until then I’ll bang my head over problem sheets while daydreaming of the days when I can bang my head over the final boss fight.