Why I keep playing games on Hard / Insane / Nightmare difficulty

By | Tuesday 12.02.2019

I wanted to write something about this but I got stuck on the idea myself. This started right in the morning as I woke up and started getting ready to go to work. Sometimes I randomly space out and think about different things I wanted to do but forgot, or didn’t have time to, or just didn’t feel like doing them for various reasons.

A random video I watched a few days ago popped into my mind, called “A Critique of The Mind Game” – someone’s personal critique for the 2017 game Prey. Among other things, he mentioned that, because the game’s name coincides with another game from 2006, it is misunderstood and it didn’t get as much praise as it should, while it resembles the Bioshock games quite well, and those games are very highly rated. Then I remembered I never finished Bioshock Infinite.

I believe I’ve started a new game about five times, and never even got to finish half of it, let alone the whole game. The last time I’ve started a new game, I obviously selected the hardest difficulty, as I also did for the Redux version of Bioshock (which I didn’t get to finish yet). So… why am I doing this?

The answer to that consists in a few reasons, amongh which the most important to me is… bragging rights: I play games on a high difficulty because I want to get the achievements related to playing the game that way, so I have proof and get to brag about it. That’s part of the satisfaction you get after finishing a video game that way. If you do play it hardcore but don’t have proof to back up your claim, then the satisfaction you get from it is just… bitter sweet. Also, the fact that, whenever reasonably possible, I play a video game directly on the hardest difficulty possible, comes from the fact that I really doing things more than once. I don’t want to play a video game more than once, unless it really has something to give for that fact, like multiple endings or a completely different story. So, I play it once and when I’m done with it, I’m done with it.

With few exceptions, making it insanely hard from the very beginning, while making the game extremely frustrating, it also makes it quite fun, and it gives you the feeling that you’re playing it as it was actually meant to be played. I’m actually serious, there were times when I got bored with games quickly, because they were easy.

I said there are a few exceptions. Well, Resident Evil would be one of them.

I play video games directly on the hardest difficulty when that difficulty is completely reasonable. But, like the case of Resident Evil 7 (and probably Resident Evil 2 2018 as well), that difficulty is either locked or completely unfair and unreasonable. It may be quite an achievement to finish them directly on Madhouse / Insane / Nightmare / whatever, but because of the difference in game play, extreme frustration and lack of enjoyment, it completely eliminates the feeling of accomplishment following it.

That’s what I had to say about the Resident Evil games. I do like them, they’re very good, but they’re quite frustrating and can be really unfair at times, and there’s only a finite amount of bullshit I can take. When the game only starts being annoying and the fun factor doesn’t exist anymore, it’s not worth it, and I’ll probably cheat too, just to makes things even and fair again. Of course, playing it isn’t worth it anymore at that point.

Speaking of cheating…

A lot of times while I’m playing video games I get highly annoyed, angry, filled with rage at times, but… I’m not angry at the game. I am angry at the programmers who designed the game, and I often curse them, not the game, because making the game difficult is one thing, but making the game clearly cheat is a totally different matter. That is the case with many games in which if you’re doing too well, a random powerful enemy will be spawned somewhere close to you (or preferably immediately behind you so you can’t do anything to avoid it), dice will not even try being random anymore, every single bullet which enemies shoot at you will hit you no matter the angle, and so on (not to mention the fact that enemies always have infinite ammo, no matter what), and enemies which you have spend all your ammo on will respawn.

I’m all in for the challenge, but only if it’s fair. If the game is purposely built to annoy you, then why spend money on it at all? Oh, by the way, I’m not referring to Resident Evil anymore. I’m actually referring to a few other games I’ve played which give in game opponents unfair abilities, boosts or different stats that can not be obtained by the player in any way.

That kind of in game behaviour sometimes just makes you either completely hate the game, or rapidly become bored of it. I know a player can learn to exploit the way the game engine is built – like the limited area in which AI characters can roam, but let’s be serious, these things wouldn’t even have to happen if it wasn’t for what I’ve mentioned earlier.