But I Hit the Easy Button!

The Paleogamer

OK, so it’s been a while since I posted. Well, it’s been a really busy month or so for me. I had a major project wrap up at work. Then my wife and I took our first vacation alone together in about four years (and the computer wasn’t invited). Then I had to do taxes. Then I had more project fun at work when we had a Microsoft analyst show up for about two weeks to help us resolve some major problems we were having and I was assigned to work with him. Then my mother had what may or may not have been a stroke (even her doctors aren’t quite sure what happened) but she fortunately seems to be fine now. And my dog managed to escape from the fence for a day or so (fortunately someone found her and she’s back now). Obviously I haven’t had too much time for gaming lately but I had a need to take some time to relax and unwind. So, this past weekend I fired up Far Cry, courtesy of a Steam sale.

Then, a few hours later, my wife comes in to see what I am yelling in frustration at.

The problem was that Far Cry was proving to be quite difficult for me. The game is quite unforgiving. Your opponents all seem to be able to see you almost anywhere on the map and all have deadly aim. (I was once crawling through some bushes in the jungle and got hit by a rocket from halfway across the island. Unfortunately this is a regular occurrence.) You never have enough rockets or sniper rounds yourself, and when you get in a firefight with five or six opponents you can’t take them down fast enough to keep from getting killed yourself.

And this was on “Easy”. I’d hate to see what the hard levels look like.

Yes, I know. You played through the game on “Realistic” and thought it was too easy. Good for you. I’m not you though; my reflexes quit being good enough to keep up in shooters about the time the original Half-Life came out.

Which leads me to ask the question “Why do different people play games?” Some people play for the challenge. Others play to test their skills against others. Me, I play to relax and for entertainment. I’m not looking for a challenge; I’m looking for fun.

In this case, I’m not wanting to play as a semi-competent software developer trying to figure out which end of the rocket launcher is the dangerous bit. I want to play as Jack Carver; ex-special forces and general badass. It’s hard to get that feeling when you’re getting shot from a guard tower halfway across the island while you’re trying to avoid being seen by the mutants in the trees ahead of you. After the third or fourth reload, it starts getting frustrating.

Now frustrating can be good, to a certain point. A little bit of frustration is good because it makes success that much better when you get past it. Portal had a lot of that and the final Strider battle in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 did as well (though it came perilously close to the edge). But when frustration goes on too long it has a negative effect; reducing enjoyment instead of enhancing it. I’ve actually reached a point in Far Cry where I’m not sure I can continue. I have tried to get past this one point for hours now and have reached the conclusion that the only way I will ever be able to continue is through pure luck, and I’m not sure if I want to keep playing that long.

((Just to be fair, it is possible to have the opposite problem too. I actually turned up the difficulty setting I was using in Bioshock because, really, at Easy that game is just ridiculous. You have to have some level of challenge.))

I guess my real frustration here is that this is a game that I would really like to see the end of and I may not be able to. I suppose the developers may have wanted to make the game difficult, but it seems to me that a creator of anything would prefer that the majority of creators would want as many people as possible to see what they have created. We are no longer in the era where games had to be deliberately as difficult as possible just to make sure the players kept putting more quarters into the machine. It should be possible to have enough difficulty levels in a game that the really good players can still be challenged while the rest of us can at least get through the game while pretending that we are a badass ourselves.

Even us Paleogamers.

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