Sometimes I just want a challenge but not one where I’m trying to best others in a live multiplayer setting. Sometimes I just want to take on the game designer’s creations, beat a friend’s high score or even my own.
I sympathize with developers. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to create convincing artificial intelligence. Bungie’s efforts with the Halo series sit high on my list for walking that tight line between developing something challenging and some something cheap. If I’m bested by the computer, I want to feel like I was outwitted or outmaneuvered, I don’t want to feel like I was taken down because of their robotic precision or their omnipresence.
But it’s not just man made artificial intelligence that I wish to take on, I also want to tackle the puzzles and riddles created by designers. These kinds of challenges have their own set of issues though.
When you’ve played games for as long as I have, many of these man made puzzles do not pose a challenge anymore. I understand the language of games now. I know what to look for and can pick out that out of place ledge or spot a crucial switch from a mile away. How do game designers account for my level of familiarity while keeping things simple enough for new comers? Where is that middle ground that strikes the perfect balance of not being too obtuse or too simple?
To me, the great puzzles are those that demand the players to think and feel out the puzzles through interaction. It’s not about knowing where to look, it’s about knowing how to get to my destination with all the tools at my disposal. I love the Portal games for their success in this regard. They challenge intellect and not my knowledge of games.
Sometimes there isn’t much to decrypt or decipher. Sometimes it’s just all about executing to obtain the highest score on the leaderboard. It’s not as prevalent as it once was but there are times where an old fashion high score chase is enough reason for me to sink hours into a game. (I’m looking at you both, Pac-Man Championship DX and Tetris)
It doesn’t matter if it’s against an A.I, a designer, friends or myself, I feel a healthy does of video game challenges helps keep me on my toes. You can call it brain training, practicing hand-eye coordination or whatever, but I feel it’s more stimulating than all the other entertainment mediums and that’s why I keep at it.
I’ve been spending more and more time The Witcher 2. Many of the mechanics of the first game have been refined and made more accessible but I still feel the combat fails to meet its ambitions. Added layers of complexity are easily dispelled by the simplest of exploits. It seems like the only way to take me down is to confine me in a small area with a large number of opponents. And the only reason I succumb to death in that instance is because it’s difficult to target multiple enemies.
Still, I find plenty of enjoyment exploring this dark fantasy world with its racism and colorful Olde English swears. “Whoreson” needs to make it back in the modern day vernacular.