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Difficulty or Inability – Are Games Too Easy?

I’ve been playing The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild recently, it’s such a beautiful, charming, well put together game and I absolutely adore it but one thing about it has been bothering me lately, namely the games difficulty. I can’t explain to you how defeated I feel, I should be well-trained and have my skills perfectly honed based on my many years of gaming. I’m admitting a weakness in my gaming ability despite having been a gamer for the majority of my life.

Worse still, it’s a Zelda game that I’m having problems with and this game series has always been a huge part of my life. Yet, here I am, ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I’m struggling with Breath of the Wild. Zelda games have always had an element of challenge to them, there’s certainly no denying that. I only need to utter the phrase “water temple” and many of you will understand the pangs of pain and frustration that come loaded with it.

Still, I find myself wondering why I’m having an issue with this game specifically because it’s the first game in recent memory that I’m having difficulty with. Could it be that other modern games up until this point have been too easy? Have I lost my ability due to these games themselves?

If I stop to think about my recent gaming experiences, it seems plausible that games have become easier because I do find myself coasting through a game these days with minimal effort. I’m not so egotistical that I associate my ability to coast through a game entirely with skill (believe me, I’m good but I’m not that good).

So it’s not so unbelievable that this relative ease with which I am able to play may have been the product of incessant hand holding from contemporary games where we are led like cattle from checkpoint to checkpoint, stopping only to attack ineffective enemies here and there.

Games today offer us gameplay that continually nudges us along in a particular direction in order to complete objectives. There are few modern games where I’ve become lost or forgotten what I was doing. This is because we are bombarded with our objective through use of repetitive, exposition-heavy dialogue, obviously placed items and other familiar tropes. Even the controls are practically identical, we’re pre-programmed to know how to aim and shoot. Everything has been offered up to us so that we can approach a new game with ease, familiarity and comfort.

Breath of The Wild by comparison has no real tutorials, you are thrown into the world of Hyrule just as Link is. Though in fairness, Link has lost his memory and must retrace his steps by searching for places and people to trigger his memories, only then can he fight to save Zelda and all of Hyrule…hang on, have I just described myself?

I know this game, it is familiar yet different. I have nostalgia for the series and know inherently what I must do but…I have forgotten how to play because the majority of games today come with online walkthroughs, tutorials and entirely unskippable levels dedicated to teaching us what buttons to press when and how to ride a bike, tie your shoe lace and chew your food properly.

I have been too spoilt by the games of late, they have been far too kind to me. They’ve protected me from failure, bubble-wrapped my ego and handed me everything on a plate. I’ve become so accustomed to their protective layers, without them I’m lost.

They’ve made me too confident, given me a false sense of security so that I think I can take on multiple monsters at once yet, in Breath Of The Wild I need to utilise careful planning and equip myself properly in order to take on multiple enemies. It’s not just about being able to handle gameplay mechanics or understand the controls.

I don’t want to be one of those people who blame the tools around them for their failings, so perhaps I’m being too unfair to contemporary games. Maybe it isn’t them, maybe I have to face the fact that it’s me with the problem, I’m rusty and out of practice. I suck. There I said it.

Perhaps Breath of The Wild is exactly what I need right now. I need to remember how to think before I act, carefully plan out my actions and keep myself equipped for all situations. Charging in with over-confidence and a gung-ho attitude will not work.

To use Dragon Ball Super as an example (sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of this recently), I am currently the Gohan of gaming. I was once a formidable fighter who could rise to any challenge and take on any opponent (or game) without difficulty but for the last few years or so I’ve settled down into adulthood, I’ve stopped training my muscles and have dialed down the intensity (playing less games, less frequently), choosing to focus instead on my study of the craft (writing about games).

Then, out of nowhere I’m faced with the possible end of the world (because gaming is my world) and I am ill-equipped, unable to defeat my foe and punished by my own complacency through failure. So now I must re-train and seek help from my original trainer, the one who taught me my craft in the first place, Piccolo (or The Legend Of Zelda series).

It turns out that I’m not alone in my struggle and other gamers have had similar experiences. However, the game is supposed to be challenging and was created to incorporate difficulty into the gaming experience. Hidemaro Fujibayashi (game director of Breath Of The Wild) has even explained that it is very much intentional.

In an interview for The Verge he explains,

“There’s actually kind of a fun to be had from falling and dying. You learn to be careful and to be cautious…that gave a lot of players the emotional preparedness to take on the rest of the world”.

Uh, thanks? I guess I’ll persevere and suffer through my failures. There’s certainly no way I’m giving up on a Zelda game, it’s far too important to me.

Breath Of The Wild is definitely a challenge but I think ultimately that makes it all the more rewarding. For me, this is something which has been missing from games for a long time. The game can be unforgiving, weapons and shields break often, cooking is an actual necessity to survive and you can even be struck down by lightning and die in one fell swoop but I’m learning that you just have get back up and continue on because that’s life.

And after all, it wouldn’t be a Zelda game if it wasn’t trying to impart some important wisdom or life lesson to me.

 

Do you think games are much easier than they were or am I just a terrible gamer? How did you find Breath Of The Wild? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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