I am an old videogamer. I owned and played the hell out of the first Pong home console, a single box with a dial on either side for your controllers, which was marketed as a date night activity.
That last bit may have been a little hopeful.
Today’s games are insanely fantastic by comparison. The stories, the graphics, the gameplay itself, all are things we never would have envisioned back when the height of videogaming was finding a bar that would let you pay a quarter to gobble virtual cherries and run away from ghosts.
That’s right. You used to have to find a bar to play PacMan.
Over time my videogame habit started drying out. I’m not sure if I got slower, or just more impatient with games that demanded I play a level a hundred and seventeen times to get past a zillion enemies while I yanked out my hair and yelled at the dog for absolutely no reason. (It’s definitely the second one.) Finally, I got tired of paying good cash for—at best—half a game experience that always ended in frustration.
Baldur’s Gate skeleton room, I’m looking at you.
One happy evolution that seems geared for me is the advent of extra-easy, or story, modes. The idea is that if you want gameplay without eye-bleeding frustration or wasted money, you can play in a way that allows you to experience everything the game has to offer except for burning anger toward its developers.
As soon as story mode popped out, so did its detractors. After having read a depressing number of Reddit threads on the subject, I observed that the primary thrust of the anti-story sentiment seems to be an annoyance (often expressed as murderous rage) with people who did not play the game the same way these purists did, and who might be mistaken for having done so.
Now, I could talk about the kind of person who derives their self-worth from beating Dark Souls on nightmare mode or whatever it’s called—or I could ponder exactly who it is that might that could go around judging others based on such criteria, and might sully that judgment with an errant easy mode victory.
And why anyone would care.
But that would be mean. So I won’t even mention it.
I will say that the point of my playing a game is for me to have fun, not to stroke the ego of someone who has more time than I do by losing. That would be stupid of me, and I am not stupid.
Well, I am, but I’m still not doing that.
I will also point out that the goal of game developers is not to leave my money on the floor, which is where it’s been for them for decades. Story mode, which no one has to play, makes companies more cash on folks just like me. And that means it’s here to stay.
Lots of folks have varying reasons for playing videogames. Mine is to enjoy myself and feel like a badass without actually doing much of anything. I don’t go out of my way to look for frustration any more than I drive my car with my eyes closed just to make it harder. I won’t consider a game anymore unless it sports an easy/story/narrative mode.
But I do play videogames on date night. Because my wife is awesome.
Kevin Pettway is the author of the Misplaced Mercenary series, published by Cursed Dragon Ship Publishing. The first book, in case you skipped the articles to come down here and read the bio (what kind of monster are you?), is titled A Good Running Away, and comes out on January 7th. You should definitely buy it. You would like it.
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