By plainplease 7 Comments
As a gamer, you don’t always get the chance to play the games you want to play (chex muh blog on the games of 2011 I missed); there are just too many games that come out for an average duder to afford the time and money to devote to all the good games out there. But even when circumstances make it so you can’t play all the games you want, there are always those games that stay on your radar. You watch the shelves and sales, waiting for the right time and the right price to delve into your backlog. We’ve all been there before.
I recently loaded up my reserve tank with some games to stem the tide of the post-holiday drought of good releases. With Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Mass Effect 3 on the horizon, I needed a few cheap, fun experiences to get me through the cold, days of the annual winter of videogames’ discontent. Luckily, I was able to dive pretty deep into the current gen’s stable of quality titles to find some critically acclaimed games at a bargain price. For about $20, I picked up Resident Evil 5 and Red Dead Redemption. I felt pretty good about my purchases, and was excited to jump into them.
The first game I slid into the PS3 was Resident Evil 5. I’m a long time Resident Evil fan. Marking one of the few times I’ve ever done this since the PSX generation of consoles, I finished the original Resident Evil without powering down the console throughout the entire play through. I also look back on Resident Evil 4 as one of my favorite games from the previous generation of consoles. But I’ve grown a bit weary of Capcom beating the franchise into the ground with countless remakes, handheld iterations and crappy spin-offs. So when I missed Resident Evil 5 when it rolled out as a new release, it was an intentional choice based on a nagging, unfortunate skepticism. To me, this was a game that could wait for its inevitable appearance in the bargain bin.
So finally I had my chance. The game was in. The room was dark. I was ready for the creepy sense of horror mixed with unintelligible Japanese weirdness to transport me back into the crazy zombie infested world of Umbrella’s own corporate greed come back to bite it and the rest of the world in the ass, neck, guts and brains. Here we go, I thought.
That thought was quickly replaced with, I wonder what’s on TV, when I was greeted with the requisite software update and install waiting times.
About an hour or so later: Okay. Installs and updates done. Let’s do this. Again, no. Not quite ready to start yet. Before I can jump into that third person, zombie blasting action, there is an important decision to make – one that has only recently started to trouble me to no end: selecting a difficulty level.
I’ve played games for ages now, and I’ve recently really started to delve into dissecting the experience of gaming and writing about my thoughts. In doing so, I’ve become more aware of the tone of the gaming community (thank you Giant Bomb) and the general consensus of journalists, critics and reviewers in the industry. While I had always previously been content with playing games on Normal difficulty, I’ve recently discovered that not only do many gamers consider the only authentic experience offered by games to be the maximum difficulty, but many reviewers are now saying that the appropriate setting is often Hard (am I mistaken that the Gears of War 3 dev even said Hard is the right setting for people who played Gears of War 2?).
So there I was. Gaming time to kill. A game I was excited to play booted up. Just one simple choice to make and I’d be in a game, passing time in one of favorite ways. But, for some reason, I couldn’t make the choice. And I’m the kind of person the loves choice in games.
Usually, though, choice in games is basically an inconsequential, impulsive action which only ever adds up to some slight tweak in the way the game presents itself to me (open world, sandboxes like Skyrim excluded). The choice of difficulty level was going to influence every encounter – important and insignificant alike – for the entire game. I’m not opposed to a good challenge in a game, just as I don’t turn my nose up at one that allows me to let my guard down for some simple fun. But I don’t want unnecessary difficulty in a game that should be easy, and I don’t want to be handheld by a game that should require a bit of skill, patience and forethought.
I don’t know that I can fully explain why, but deciding whether to play Resident Evil 5 on Normal or Hard backed my psyche into a corner. Was Normal going to be too easy, with ammo drops and save points at my disposal while ghouls dropped with slightly ill-placed headshots? Was Hard going to be too punishing and unforgiving? What, exactly, would the differences be, and at what point would my choice rear its ugly head and cause me to regret my decision?
I danced around the choice for more than an embarrassing hour, my self-esteem and confidence (not as a gamer, but as a man able to make a simple choice) continued to circle the drain. By the end of it all, my investment in the game had been flushed away along with any remaining patience I had for it. When I finally made the choice – or rather pressed the button without ever coming to an intellectual decision – I hardly felt it was possible for me to enjoy the game any longer. I made it about 30 minutes into the game, never actually playing or enjoying it – just searching for every flaw in gameplay, storytelling and accessibility that I could find. In a fit of rage and shame, I threw my hands up at the game, boxed it back up, and sold it back to the store for a slight loss.
Now, I can’t decide if it was the best or worst $2 (the difference in what I paid compared to what I got back from selling it) I spent on a game. There will be other games in my backlog to get through, so I’m okay missing Resident Evil 5. My only real regret is in ever bowing down to the frivolity of trophies or achievements, because if my experience with Resident Evil 5 hasn’t earned me the right to some kind of reward, then my resolve to not care about achievements is only more steadfastly hardened.