Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Challenge Accepted

If I could engrave one piece of gaming advice into my controller that I would have to adhere to every single time I start a new game it would be this: if I am rambling through at a fairly even pace, but find myself in a bit of a prickly situation, I should NOT stop playing. Can’t beat a boss fight? Maybe I need to replay some areas to gain more health/mana/skills. Can’t complete a mechanic easily? I should slow down, breathe deep, and focus simply on the correct button combinations without even looking at the screen. Can’t figure out where to go next? Look up a walkthrough to get some assistance. Never stop. Because if I do, it will be an entire month (probably more like months) before I go back, as a mental block as high as the creeping molecules flitting about the upper reaches of the atmosphere will fall into place, convincing me that I have reached an impassable point and filling me with a sort of exasperated dread when I even consider starting it up again.

My name is Jessica. And I avoid challenges.

Sometimes, when I sit back (a piece of wheat tucked between my teeth, a foot lazily draped over the side of a hammock) and consider my favorite games, I realize that none of them are what you would call ‘difficult’. I am notorious for choosing the easiest levels: casual, human, very easiest easy, so I can spin around inside pretty environments and traipse about main storylines and side quests without needing to do much more than bitch slap a few enemies into submission for getting in my way. I am very easily defeated by circumstance and frequent failure. Which is admittedly silly and not constructive at all, continually keeping me from enjoying those intense touchdown moments after completing a particularly wicked encounter. I love finishing games; seeing credits roll is one of my favorite things. Therefore, my 2013 goal is to get better at pushing through these mental barriers. I will only stop during positive points in the game, such as the end of a level, or an innocuous save point in low drama instead of during moments of hardship. But to overcome, I must go back and wrestle with a few demons in order to prevail.  

Challenge One: Skyrim DLC
After completing the game last winter, I downloaded the extended chapter, Dawnguard, the day it came out last summer. I played as a vampire…until avoiding the daylight became too cumbersome, so I restarted as a human. I didn’t want to have to deal with the whole ‘need to feed’ and ‘avoid the sunshine’ bits-too much work. And then I stopped playing during a rather endless afterlife scene because it was ridiculously boring (re: I died more than once without saving). More months passed. I started it up again, finished the area, took the next quest, died in a cave and…done. I had no energy to even start it up again. If I would have survived the cave I might still be playing. But all I can remember now is dying. In a cave. And it was dumb. And I don’t want to die in a cave again. The only conclusion is to never play it again, obviously.

New Objective:
Don’t die in a cave. Finish Dawnguard. Start Hearthfire. Finish Hearthfire. Start Dragonborn. Finish Dragonborn. Beat fists against chest and roar, berserker style.

Challenge Two: Assassin’s Creed 3
“What?” you say. “A mere paragraph about Assassin’s Creed 3 in this blog? I shan’t believe it.”

Are you kidding? I’m still trying to invent words for how I feel about Assassin’s Creed 3. Let’s just say this: I was so disappointed in AC3 that not only did I not stop less than halfway through, but I think it stunted my video game life in some permanent way. I feel very fucking let down by AC3; but ultimately I quit because I kept dying. I’d be all stealthy-stealth, quieting loading my stealthy gun (?) and get clobbered by some jaunty-hatted guard with moves like a spider on a rooftop, instantly de-synching. In between the unrelenting, always killing, never stopping British presence in Boston and constantly being mauled by wolves or elk (??), I could not even fathom playing further. I never had play-stopping difficulty issues in the previous games, but then again, I didn't actively wish my main character (my love, my life, my Ezio) would somehow kill himself and get it over with already. Christ, Connor is a downer. I kept imagining all the ways I could perish (in a boat, on a boat, by a boat, listening to Ben Franklin talk about sexing up old ladies like it’s supposed to be funny but instead is creepy and achingly boring), and I chose not to continue. I didn't want to be challenged by it, I just wanted to kill the shit I was supposed to kill and move on to better, more interesting things. Like…chasing pieces of paper. *sigh*

New Objective:
With Assassin’s Creed 4: Where Has All the Rum Gone? [sic] announced for a fall release date, I realize that finishing three is my only option if I want to stay a superfan. Whereas I don’t want the series to die in a flaming ball of money grubbing corporate monkeys, I can appreciate the effort to please fans with new chapters every year…sort of. But Ubisoft really needs to pull the franchise out of 18th Century America. It’s NO GOOD THERE. I’m trying to find a little pool of desire within myself to finish it; not for comatose Connor, but for Desmond, but that place is tucked behind a huge wall of library books and perpetual laziness. The right combination of caffeine and nostalgia will need to get me through this one. I make a vow that by…June…I will be finished with AC3.     

Challenge Three: The Cave
Hooray! Double Fine! I love this game, it’s funny and charming. But now the puzzle is hard and I don’t really know how to…um…huh. Oh, I get it. But I still can’t really maneuver it. Um…huh.

New Objective: Wait, this is a puzzle game. Never going to happen. *sings Dust in the Wind*

Challenge Zero: DmC: Devil May Cry
I've always been really good at loving Devil May Cry, conceptually, but never managed to actually play it in a successful way. Too hard. And not in a ‘this is fun but now I can’t beat this boss and I don’t wanna’ whiny sort of way, but in a real ‘I am not a good enough video game player to achieve success while playing this particular title’ way. However, Ninja Theory’s DmC is fan-fucking-tastic. I breezed through the first ten chapters with ease, loving every sassy, sexy, rock n’ roll moment with Dante and Vergil. Ridiculous fun. Not challenging in the slightest. Then I hit an enemy around Mission 16 called the DreamRunner, and my fluid little slide through Limbo skittered to a blood-soaked end in a series of encounters that I could not quite kick through. My normal jumble of combat combos couldn't save me. I was defeated. The game sat, collecting dust for an entire month while my stupid brain screamed at me that it was impossible, never going to happen, why bother continuing? After soaking in a my little pity pool for a week or so I finally took to Twitter to get some advice from some pros, which helped immensely…but I still didn't head back in until another three weeks floated by. But then I did it. I went back. I took the advice. I creamed some Dreams. And I finished the game.

I hope Ninja Theory designs all future titles in the series. Their blend of story and scenery, combined with characters that feel like they could actually exist in our reality (not overly burdened by fantastical, supernormal environments and demands) through supernatural-colored lenses, is incredibly compelling. Even the hardcore industrial soundtrack was fitting, giving fight sequences and big boss encounters a sort of heart-racing quality, tempered by an intense, throbbing beat. A blend of surreal scenes within a nightclub were crazy, full of sound and neon and madness. I loved Enslaved, and now love DmC. I’m keeping Ninja Theory on my love list.

Achievement: Unlocked; New Objective: None; Taunt Level: In Your Face

By finishing DmC, I have taken step one. This list of challenges is merely the tip of a backlog list (which includes many D-related titles such as Darksiders II, Dragon’s Dogma and Dishonored) that will take ages to complete. But hey, with Bioshock: Infinite holding up the status in my 2013 book as “only game worth playing in 2013,” I think I may have some time.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You can do it! I have faith.