No Pain, No Gain?

Early in life we learn that all great rewards are the ones you have to work the hardest for. Want to lose weight? Buy your first home? Have a successful marriage? Obtain a four year degree? You have to work for it. That is just a basic fact of life. This same thought process carries over into the world of gaming. The harder you work, the bigger the reward. Achievements, Trophies, and other forms of kudos really drive the feeling of success home as they translate this work into a visual representation of our successes.

Over the last few years, though, I have noticed within myself a shift in my focus. Each day we wake up, grind it out academically or professionally, take care of household needs, go to bed, and start it all over again the next day. If you are like me, you cherish the time you have, no matter how little, to engage in some form of recreation. We work hard for it right? Therefore, if anything seems as if it will waste our time or diminish our satisfaction, we don’t feel that it’s worth it. Objectives or combat scenarios that are challenging and difficult in games no longer interest me. Over the past few years, I do not feel the urge to gather up Achievements or Trophies at a competitive rate. Who notices? If anyone notices, what is the reward? What really matters is the enjoyment from the game overall, right?

I discovered this new side of me when I started the single player campaign in Halo 4. Both Halo 2 and Halo 3 really started to chafe towards end. I knew I wanted to play and finish Halo 4 but did not want the challenge, or frustration, that comes from the difficulty setting or the progression toward the end of the game. So I did something from the start that I had never done before. I chose the easiest difficulty setting and refused to give in to the feeling of guilt that usually comes along with those decisions. I realized that the difficulty was “just right” for what I wanted out of the game. Enemies were challenging but not to the point of frustration. It is like watching a good action movie. You know the hero will come out victorious but you still appreciate those “nail biting” moments that make you wonder. Although games are made in a way in which we, the player, will succeed regardless, I do not want to throw my controller 10 times from frustration before reaching my goal.

This new “casual” trend of mine has been used when playing a few other games. Granted there are a lot of games where the “Normal” or balanced difficulty is suitable for me. But for a lot of robust games that provide a healthy dose of gameplay as well as story, the “toned down” difficulty has helped me keep momentum throughout the experience. I enjoy the side quests and exploration. I don’t have to stop my progress to grind although there is nothing wrong with that if you appreciate that sort of character development. The player has to decide what works best for themselves. It is worth it to find a difficulty that provides you with the challenge you desire. There is no shame in choosing what option gives you the feeling of accomplishment while providing you with the gameplay tailored to your liking. That is why the options are there. Developers want us to be able to push reality aside and live in the world they have created for us. Going through my backlog of games caused me to begin playing Dragon Age Inquisition again. Starting to play the game for the first time after a long hiatus made me choose the “Casual” difficulty. So far it has been great. Enemies fall to my character gloriously and I feel like a true hero in this virtual world I am playing in. I deserve to play a game where I know I will win and win the way I want to.  I deserve all of this because in the real world I work hard and hard work is always rewarded.