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By Dillon O’Toole

Despite the fact that I have been playing video games for around three quarters of my life, I am not very good at them. Sure, I may not be terrible, but when you have put as much time into video games as I have, it’s a little embarrassing that I still can’t properly play a platformer without dying at the first jump way too many times.  A perfect example of my incompetence would be my efforts in a game called Contrast by Compulsion Games.  It’s a short game (it only took me about 4 hours to fully beat) that features some platforming and puzzles.  It’s also not a difficult game, yet I spent about 6 minutes trying to get over that damn jump (the game also resets you right in front of the jump so it’s not like I had to do a lot to get back to the jump).  When I eventually managed to get past that jump, the relief and satisfaction I felt was off the charts (mostly because I was getting pretty embarrassed at how long it was taking me).  I then was able to enjoy the rest of the game, which I would recommend trying if you have Xbox Game Pass since it’s on there.  If you don’t, the game is only ten dollars and probably gets even cheaper with sales, so I would still recommend it.

To circle back to when I mentioned games causing a physical response, the satisfaction of beating a challenge is one of the best feelings a game can give to you.  It’s especially great when it is for something that has been blocking your progression through the game.  Getting past something that has been repeatedly stopping you from advancing can sometimes feel like hitting your head against a brick wall. You keep attempting to break through, causing untold damage to your brain only to find little, if any, progress, but eventually, you pull a Kool-Aid man and bust on through with an aura of invincibility.  That is, until you come across the next brick wall in your way.  For some games, there may not be another brick wall for some time or at all.  For others, the next brick wall may be immediately behind the first, crushing that sense of invincibility as sure as being a physics major lowers your standard for what a good test grade is.  

Speaking of brick walls behind brick walls, behind yet another brick wall, FromSoftware just released Elden Ring, yet another game within the Soulsborne series of games known for its punishing difficulty.  And boy, is it difficult.  I started this article off by referring to myself as not the best gamer, but even I was not prepared for the punishment the boss Margit was prepared to give to me.  Now, I’m not super far into the game yet, but of my roughly six hours played about two and half of those have consisted of me trying to get past this bastard of a boss.  So far the brick wall hasn’t shown many cracks, but I intend to keep throwing myself at it until I eventually “git gud” or until my controller breaks from repeated button pressing.  

It’s mainly due to the fact that I haven’t been able to play much that I began to think about why I find FromSoftware games so enthralling.  It’s not because I’m good and find them easy.  I do find the world building in these games to be quite interesting, but if the story was what mattered to me I could just as easily watch YouTube videos to get my fix.  I eventually settled on the fact that I enjoy them because of their difficulty.  While it may frustrate me to no end while I’m stuck on a boss, that feeling of relief and satisfaction I mentioned earlier keeps me coming back for more, no matter how much the game decides it wants to hurt me.  This realization was why I brought up the brick wall analogy (which I stole from Zero Punctuation). The point of the games is to learn how to approach attacking a boss (or any enemy), which, in turn, will eventually lead to you succeeding in your fight.  Despite the common belief that the games are hard just for the sake of being difficult, they are only hard because they force you to learn the patterns displayed by the enemies in the game.  In fact, I think anyone could get through a Soulsborne game without the need for a difficulty setting.  I am a perfect example of someone who has gotten better by just investing time into the series of games.  When I first started playing these games, I could barely get past the tutorial bosses on my own, but now I can actually get through many areas of the various games without bashing my head against the metaphorical brick wall too many times.  And, if you don’t feel like investing the time just to experience the games, just do what I did and play with friends.  Not only does it make fighting bosses easier (since the boss isn’t purely focused on you), you also get to socialize with friends (sounds crazy right).  And, if you lack these so-called “friends”, there are plenty of AIs who can assist you (i.e. distract the boss while you heal) and also plenty of random people on the internet who love to play these games (even the older ones).  Just watch out for those red players, they aren’t your friends.

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