In Praise of Hard Games

Posted by Damian | Posted in | Posted on 6:29 AM

Back before the days of the Nintendo Wii and the term "casual" was actually a marketable buzzword, games used to be hard. Really hard. They were hard for a lot of reasons, but mainly because the harder the game the more people played. Games used to be hard because there really was no end, no denouement, no big cut-scene movie to tie up the loose ends of the story. Because there was no story. When I was a kid, the greatest joy in playing a game was in getting the high score a concept almost entirely gone from our current generation of gaming. 

Just beating a level, getting to a certain boss, was noteworthy and deserved praise and accolades from your peers. Where'd all that go? Is there no place for hard games anymore?
Play Demon's Souls on a FREE PS3 Slim!

Enter Demon's Souls, a new PS3 exclusive title that's become a sleeper hit amidst a Fall gaming line-up of blockbuster hits and sequels. Demon's Souls is hard. Really hard. And that's just the way we like it. Kotaku's Leigh Alexander wrote up an article praising difficult games, and why he feels Demon's Souls might be one of the hardest, and greatest, games of this generation.

I've been roasted by a dragon, used as a pincushion for ghoul spears, and hacked to death by an axe knight, repeatedly. I keep trying, and I die and die again. Are we having fun yet?
No, actually, I'm not. I've been playing Demon's Souls — a game even its developer admits isn't "a fun game." The action-adventure game casts you as a hero confronting where progress is hard-won, recovery supplies are limited and equipment can wear out. The twist is that when players die, they return as phantoms to navigate the same environments in a weakened state in the hopes of earning their bodies back — that's right, the game actually gets more challenging the more you fail.
And yet I love it...

[Demon's Souls producer Takeshi Kajii] explained that in creating Demon's Souls the team sought to return to the core of what's fun about games, and relied on three tenets: challenge, discovery and accomplishment. "People commonly say Demon's Souls is hard because of this, but we never made the difficulty needlessly high for the sake of being hard, nor did we intend for it to be a selling point," he said.

"This act of trial and error in a tense atmosphere is the heart of challenge and discovery, leading to the strong satisfaction of accomplishment," says Kajii. "I'd say Demon's Souls is not a ‘fun game,' but a ‘game to have fun with,'" says Kajii. "The goal is not to find a pre-defined answer — instead the answer is something created by the player on their own through their own play-styles."

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