So yesterday, I lost my whole day to watching Angry Joe review games. I just wanted to get his take on Kingdoms of Amalur, but that review was so good, I had to keep watching. I don’t even know how many reviews I saw, but I do know that at least twice, I risked breaking a rib from laughing. Lots of gamers try to be funny, but end up being cruelly insulting or just lame for trying to be punny with pop culture references. Joe can be funny without being insulting, and in something like 25 episodes, he only goes for a gay joke once. And then his evil bizarro twin called his moustache gay. In a gamer world full of people who can’t stop using gay as an insult, Joe’s show is like a breath of fresh air…or, he is if you can get over his cussing. Obviously, that shit doesn’t bother me any, cause fuck is like my favorite word in the whole English language. (Something that will be shown in the rest of this post.)
And Joe is as passionate about games as I am. So when he hates something, man, he’s fucking pissed the same way I would be. When he loves something, he can’t stop gushing about what went right this time. Just like me, except he’s got that cool moustache going for him. If I had the same moustache, it would just look wrong. (But if I wasn’t married, I would so ask him for a moustache ride. Cause Joe ain’t no slouch in the looks department.)
I agreed with almost everything Joe said about games. Every time he talked about no character development or lousy writing or acting, I was nodding my head so hard I almost gave myself whiplash. But one place we do not see eye to eye on is difficulty settings, and I need to write a rant on why this issue is my number one pet peeve with some gamer guys out there.
Okay, so like a new game comes out, and it’s brutally difficult to play. No, like, even if there is an easy setting, it’s not really easy. Game makers could make challenges in the game realistic, but instead they spam the screen with enemies and bullets in this ridiculous copy-pasta assault. There’s rarely much variety of the enemies, and there’s no AI to speak of. There’s not even the semblance of an enemy strategy. The enemies all rush you like waves of suicide bombers, trying to dog pile you and kick you out as soon as possible. There’s no time allowed to take in the level designs, the pretty graphics, or the soundtrack. There’s just one long crushing line of clones cock-blocking me from enjoying my time in the game. It makes me wonder why game makers spend so much time lovingly crafting their graphics, and then their enemies make it impossible to notice anything going on in the world.
When this kind of game comes out, there’s criticism from a HUGE section of the market being pushed out of the games. Then there’s the response from other gamers that goes, “Why must every game be easy? Not every game has to be for the casual fans.”
FUCK YOU! Fuck you first for calling me a casual fan, like I’m some newbie mom who just got into gaming last year and I’m confused about all those buttons on my controller or some shit like that. I’ve been playing games since motherfucking PONG, like way before some of you assholes were even born. But that’s the fucking problem I’m having with these games. I’m aging, and my hands don’t work the same anymore. So that button combo for your favorite hardcore fighting game that you think is SOOOO easy FUCKING HURTS ME.
Second, it’s not that hard to make difficulty levels that slow down enemy movement and reaction, or that reduce the number of enemies spawned for each level sequence. In fact, if I ignore how lousy the enemy AI was, Uncharted: Golden Abyss has this system almost sorted out perfectly, even giving a Very Easy mode to go along with their top of the line Crushing mode. (BTW, I played Very Easy after beating Hard, just to see what the difference was. The only mode I can’t beat is Crushing, because it crushes my hands.)
When game makers can’t be bothered to think of difficulty settings, it shows a laziness of thought on their part, and an unwillingness to let people like me play their games. I’ll give a good example. I bought Alice: Madness Returns because I loved the first game. I’d played it dozen of times on all difficulty settings, and I loved the story. And this new game has INCREDIBLE graphics, great voice acting, and some seriously creepy cut-scenes.
BUT, despite all this prettiful, I’m stuck at 28% of the game completed with no desire to play the rest. Why? Because even on easy, there’s a fucking monster mini-boss that kills me every. Single. Time. I’ve looked up a strategy guide, watched YouTube videos to see how other people kill it, and sat through the same sequence for a few hours, and I still can’t fucking kill it. And what makes it worse is, being a mini-boss, I know I’ll have to face this monster over and over in the later levels. Well, fuck you, Alice developers, but you kicked me out of the fucking game ON EASY MODE.
Hubby is like, “I don’t understand why you get so mad about this.” I’m sure a lot of gamers don’t get this either, so let me explain it this way: imagine that you go to a movie theater, but instead of paying…what is it? Like $9.50 to get in now? Whatever, instead of dropping a ten spot, you’re told to pony up 70 bucks to get into this film. You’re pissed enough about that, about blowing your whole monthly budget just for one diversion, but whatev, you shake it off and start watching. Maybe you even spring for the extra cost of a popcorn. (the limited edition game with some little goodie added to the box to justify a 100 buck price tag) But like right in the middle of the film, the usher walks up and starts beating the shit out of you, and he says, “If you can’t defeat me, you can’t watch the rest of the movie.” Man, that’s just so, so fucked up. And what I’m saying is, with some games, I’m not even allowed to make it to the middle of the story. I got kicked out of Alice so early that I didn’t even care to YouTube the rest. (Like I did with Bionic Commando, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and the Win Phone port of the 3DS Assassin’s Creed game.)
I’m constantly pissed off by the number of games that don’t even try to make a medium difficulty setting. I don’t need hand holding, really. I’m not confused by complicated button layouts. I just want to be able to play the game without having to take painkillers for my hand cramps, and oh yeah, I WANT TO FUCKING FINISH THE GAMES I PAID SEVENTY FUCKING EUROS FOR. And with some game makers, their response to criticism about difficulty isn’t to release a patch with a new difficulty setting. No, it’s to make a sequel that’s so fucking dumbed down, it’s insulting to the WHOLE MARKET. So it’s a joke to “casual” fans as much as it’s a slap to the face of so-called hardcore gamers.
Why is it so hard for game companies to admit that there’s more than just two types of gamers out in the market? No, instead they decide to make games that focus on just one part of the market, like they just don’t want bigger profits. And you know that can’t be right. These fuckers love money so much, they’d fucking DLC their mothers if they could sort out digital teleportation. So why do they hate my money, but love the money of the “hardcore” gamer?
I’ll give another example, this time a game I was really enjoying up to a certain point, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. In almost all other levels, the makers had a great game that ramped itself to my level of gaming. (Normal mode, FTW.) And yet, there’s the fucking chase scenes, which are fucking hard no matter what level you play it on. And it’s artificially hard because the game WON’T LET YOU CATCH UP UNTIL A KEY MOMENT AT THE END OF THE CHASE. If you miss that one shot FUCK YOU, DO IT AGAIN. So you have to keep playing the same fucking scene over, and over, and over, and over. After forty times or so, I’m just going to say fuck it and go watch the rest on YouTube. Why should I get myself worked up over one bad part of the game when I loved the rest so much?
But since I am ranting, I should say how fucking insulting it is to me as a woman to listen to Trip whine over and over about how fucking helpless she is. SHE HAS AN EMP PULSE THAT COULD STOP THE RHINO BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED RUNNING, AND SHE SHOULD HAVE FUCKING USED IT. But no, the game makers spit on the female character and turn her into a panicking baby, all so they can make this lousy fucking excuse to use Monkey’s cloud in a racing set piece. This is a chick who took down a whole fucking prison ship on her own at the start of the game. But the game makers needed to make her a dumb bitch for this one scene so that once again, Monkey can prove that men know how to get shit done right. Just…FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUCK YOU, YOU SEXIST FUCKING PIGS!
One more example, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja. I don’t feel as much rage for this one because I bought this used. And while the game companies are all “Arrgh, we didn’t make any money cause you bought it used,” my response is, “Fuck you, assholes. You didn’t fucking deserve my money.” Why? Well let’s got through this game, and how I got kicked out of it.
I’m introduced to Naruto through this village, and I’m supposed to do little tasks for other people to make them like me. I’m taught how to do a jutsu where Naruto morphs into a hot chick in a swimsuit, and I learn another where I make a twin to punch open doors. That’s stupid, but okie dokie, I can handle the task. So far, so good. The village tasks are a little repetitive, but they’re not boring, and the graphics are so, so pretty. So I don’t mind hunting down coins to help someone open a ramen shop or whatever. Then there’s suddenly these bandit fighters showing up, and all of the fights make me feel like I’m struggling to catch up to fighters of better rankings. But I struggle through and rub my throbbing knuckles while I watch the cut scenes that lead up to the next fight. And I beat the bandits, and feel like I accomplished something. Man, this game is great! I’m totally stoked to play this and learn more about Naruto, who I’ve never read about in his manga, and only saw like one episode out of context a few years back, and that was in Italian, before I knew any words at all. (I’m great at understanding Italian now. I just can’t speak it. Pathetic, I know, but there it is.)
But then I get hired to escort a client to his village, and the first fight is this dude who fucking summons a dragon that hits the whole fucking island we’re fighting on. Even if I dodge and he never gets a lock on me with his cross-hairs, I still take massive damage. And what have I got to compete with that? A fucking shadow jutsu that makes a few weak ass clones of myself. I’m not even partway through casting that when I’m hit over and over by a fucking sword twice as long as the fucking dude wielding it. (Overcompensating for penis sizes, guys? I think so.) And so, this is like less than one percent into the game before the game makers say, “Fuck you lady, and get the fuck out of our game. You don’t deserve the privilege of seeing the rest of our game.”
Now if I paid seventy euros to the game maker to be treated like this, I would be livid. Instead, I paid five euros at a gaming con. And that’s not so bad. I mean, I got pushed out, sure. But I didn’t have to break the bank and then get told that I’m not worthy of taking part in this experience.
Again, it’s not that hard to change the difficulty of a game by just changing a few parameters. You don’t have to rewrite the script or make a whole new level. You just have to slow down the enemy fighter a little so that I feel like I have time to pull off a combo. (Or just give me enough time to throw a punch or block.) It’s not that hard to reduce the number of on screen enemies in a side scrolling platform, or to reduce the spray of bullets made by a boss in space shoot ‘em ups. Lots of games do this without difficulty, so when a game maker doesn’t do it, it shouldn’t be celebrated as catering to a certain market. It’s just laziness and an unwillingness to recognize that some older gamers are starting to develop arthritis or repetitive motion syndrome after years of button mashing in these hard as fuck nightmares.
And this is why now I feel so much trepidation about picking up new games, because even if something is getting glowing reviews from the twenty-something game reviewers, there’s still a risk that I can spend 70 euros only to be kicked out in the opening act on “easy mode.”
And gamer guys, you need to develop some fucking empathy for other people in your hobby. You get all pissy whenever anyone suggests that your precious game have levels of difficulty that make the game more accessible. No one is suggesting that the game shouldn’t have a hardcore or nightmare mode to appease your blood lust, and I don’t want the game so easy that I could play one-handed. I just don’t want to be kicked out of a game I paid for, and I don’t want to hear you insulting me for getting older.
When I was your age, I was fucking dominating FPS games on harder modes. I loved the challenge, and I loved that feeling of accomplishment after cracking a tough level. But I’m nearing my forties, and my hands can’t handle that shit anymore. In fact, I can’t even do multiplayer online FPS now because my hands can’t take the strain of a single match, much less a full night of battles like I used to do. This is why single player matters to me, and it’s why games that ignore single player in favor of multiplayer modes stopped appealing to me.
One day, you too are going to grow old, and when it happens, you’ll start to notice how many games shove you violently out of their play space. You’ll also notice how the younger gamers sneer at you for not having “skills” anymore. And that shit will be just as infuriating to you as it is to me.
I am not a casual gamer. I am not confused by my gamepad, and with a game like Forza 4 or Uncharted: Golden Abyss, I can hang tough all the way up to the higher difficulty modes. So don’t confuse me with your mom playing Peggle, or with your little sister playing Top Model Makeover. And what’s more, stop fucking sneering at female gamers who don’t share the same interests as you. There’s room for all kinds of gamers in this market, and your attitude is some straight up chauvinistic bullshit.
Game makers, you can work just a little bit harder on your games to make them more accessible without dumbing them down for all players. Lots of games have done this without problems, and that’s equated to more sales because the game isn’t catering to a niche in the game market. If you can’t be bothered to do it, it shouldn’t be a mark of pride that your games are difficult. Because it’s nothing more than laziness on your part, and it’s denying you the profits that you claim to want so badly.
I want to close this out by talking about how many games I buy, so that maybe I can speak in a language everyone understands: cash. I got my Xbox in July, and since then, I’ve bought eleven new games at full retail, and seven games through second hand markets. I just bought the PS Vita, and already, I’ve bought five games. Two of those games were the upper price range, and one game, Unit 13, I can’t play because the game makers won’t allow me to choose English as a language. If I select English as my system language, the game play in French. So just to have half a chance at playing, I have to switch over to Italian, and then the static radio sound effects over the dialogue mean I can’t understand half the words in my relayed mission instructions. I have to play by guessing at what I have to do, and that’s bullshit caused by an arbitrary choice not to allow the Italian market’s English speakers to play the game. So that’s the entire population of US and UK ex-pats told by Sony, “Fuck you, you aren’t allowed to play this game.” (And this is why I can’t be a fangirl for Sony, because of arbitrary corporate bullshit like this.)
Usually, I bought second-hand because the game is old, and yet the game store still wants forty euros for a new copy, despite the game being three or four years old. There’s not even a multiplayer community left, so the only thing I can use the disc for is the single player. And yet, there’s almost no attempt to discount these games and try to sweeten the deal a bit. That’s because game corporations want to squeeze every last fucking dime from us gamers, and fuck us if we have other concerns like bills, dental visits, or a strange desire to eat food that isn’t ramen. Crazy, I know, but some of our money can’t go to games. But when I do decide to plunk down 70 euros, I want it to feel like money well spent, like I did after buying Portal 2; a game so awesome, I bought it twice; once for my PC, and then again for my Xbox.
Are you listening, game makers? I said I bought Portal 2 twice, at full retail, and I had no complaints about spending 140 euros for two copies of the game. Why? Because the game is so fun, I didn’t even think about the cost. I just knew I wanted to play the same game on my big ass TV in the living room. So Valve made their money off of me, and I didn’t feel cheated, like I did with Alice: Madness Returns. And what about those seven used games? Almost all of them kicked me out early on. (The exception was Mini-Ninjas for Xbox, which I just recently beat on normal mode. But I’d already bought that game on Steam, only to be kicked out for another annoying reason: the PC version was buggy as fuck and kept crashing. No, fucking Ubisoft never released a patch on Steam to correct those crashes, and yes, I loved the game on the Xbox because it let me play without constant crashes.) I wasted my money buying them at all, but I didn’t feel as pissed off about that because I didn’t pay so much. I made a smaller investment because I felt the titles were risky, and I was right to be wary. But, I don’t hate these game makers with a burning white hot passion. Yeah, it sucks that I got kicked out early. But I only spent 5-20 euros to “get in,” and I don’t feel as mad when the game makers kick me out.
So, can we please think about skill levels as something more than an afterthought? Please? And, can gamers with mad skills stop spitting on other players just because we also want to enjoy the story and graphics instead of the lightning fast game play? One of these days, you’re going to get old, and then you’ll be shut out of the hobby you love so much. But that won’t hurt nearly as much as the lack of empathy you get from the next generation of self-centered entitled little boys who think the whole fucking gaming universe should revolve around their needs.
There’s a much larger hobby around you, kids. So open your eyes and your ears, and stop acting like your money is more important than mine. Because frankly, your money is probably taken from your parents, and you don’t have to think about wasted investments. After you have to pay bills, buy groceries, AND THEN sort out how much is left over for your hobby, you’ll begin to understand why being kicked out of a new game is the worst kind of insult. And maybe then, you’ll also grasp why “casual gamer” is almost as loaded and divisive a term as “that’s gay.”