It's not you it's me: or same game different you


#1

Not the best the title I know but stick with me a moment.

Last night I thought I would give the Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate demo a play, see how comfortable it felt to play the game in the Switch’s handheld mode, and also get a sense as to how rusty I am after hundreds of hours in MH4U on the 3DS. Things were going pretty well at the start; I wasn’t too terrible, the controls weren’t too awkward, and the Great Maccao was basically suffering the same fate as countless Great Jaggi. And then it came to the point where I had damaged the monster enough that it began to limp and retreat (a staple of the series if you are not familiar) and I was hit with the realization that I was basically brutalizing some poor creature. I should say I am by no means a saintly person and I consume animal products, but at that moment I was kind of overwhelmed by the weird cruelty of the series–that, just as the name promises, the whole point of the game is to hunt monsters and while some of them are “monsters” a lot are simply goofy animals that you kill scores of to customize gear. It was a surprising moment for me and, while I will continue to swear that I love the Monster Hunter series, I think I am done with playing it for a little while.

Similarly, I have developed a real aversion to shooting games after basically a life time of playing them. A while back I thought I would check out Wolfenstein given all the praise for the series and couldn’t make it past the opening mission; I was, for lack of a better word, disturbed by the reality of the violence and the massive scope of it (despite the fact that nazis totally deserve it) and watching a few cutscenes on YouTube left me feeling really disturbed for lack of a better word. I can handle the subject of war and some gun violence when it is abstracted or made cartoonish (e.g. Fortnite and the very anime approach of Valkyria Chronicles) but anything that relishes in the reality of its depiction of violence, no matter how “necessary” or “deserved,” really bothers me at this point.

I am sure quite a bit of this can be written off to, you know, aging and, if not maturing, at least different tastes. However, I have devoted time to writing this all down and now turning the subject to you because I have now found myself alienated from one of the core genres of video games, “realistic” FPSs, and a series that I am willing to claim a fondness for even though I am now upset by the fundamental premise of it. Have folks found their selves in similar circumstances in which the games seem to stay the same but you now feel disconnected?


#2

For what it’s worth, I thought the title worked well.

And yeah, as someone who played a ton of Tropico 3 back when it came out, I definitely know the feeling of “yi-yi-yiiiiiikes maybe I shouldn’t have been as into this series as I was, huh?”


#3

I had a really similar experience with MHW, though it only pushed me off of it for a couple days. It’s really one of the few times that I’d point directly to modern ‘da graphixxx’ as really impacting my emotional experience of a game like that, with how detailed the creatures are and how good the animations. Really had me wishing I could just play Monster Hunter: Harvest Moon edition for a bit.


#4

This happened to me with Pokemon. Not recently, mind you. Maybe around when X and Y came out. Some friends were really hype for it, so I picked up X and I just… wasn’t into it anymore.

I put so much time into Red and Sapphire as a kid and was really disappointed to find that the series had stopped clicking with me, but because I’m a nostalgic fool I tried again when Sun and Moon came out. Sun grabbed me a little more than X, mostly due to the setting, but I found myself bored by the core gameplay and was actually slightly put off by pitting my cute, cool pets against other people’s cute, cool pets for sport. And I know, whatever, but I really found myself wanting Pokemon Animal Crossing, where you just stay in Pallet Town and get to know everyone and have a lot of cool Pokemon to love and take care of. Or a Pokemon game where you run the daycare. I don’t know. Something that lets me interact with my adorable little Sylveon that isn’t making them fight other things.


#5

Do you mind elaborating why? Is it the weird perspective on socialism, or the stereotyping/racism? Or was it something else?


#6

Oh man, how could I forget that sinking feeling of when I realized Pokemon games didn’t click with me any more?! I was able to power through Y but Sun… real melancholy day when I learned I was beyond the main series.


#7

The MHW beta was my first experience with the series. I had the exact same feelings as you, especially when I was following the poor creature back to its lair to finish it off.

I derived very little pleasure from killing this thing that was essentially minding its own business. I’m just grateful that there were no baby ‘monsters’ back at the lair.

I never realised that I actually needed a narrative to kill random shit.


#8

The opposite happened to me with Resident Evil 4. I picked that game up used in 2005 after hearing about the world gush that it was the best game ever made and bounced off of it right after Luis dies. It seemed well made at the time but something about the game just wasn’t clicking with me and it was hard to pinpoint why. I think it was on the edge of being a little too difficult for me, or something, and about the time the game started punishing you for headshots it felt like too much for me to handle.

Some time around here, wholly unrelated, I’d realized I was kind of a wimp. In my early childhood, games like Dracula’s Curse and Gradius III had made me afraid of difficulty in games, because I would practically end up in tears over how hard those games were. So, as a kid, I learned to default games to Easy mode if at all possible. If a game didn’t have an Easy mode (or punished you for playing on easy, like Konami did), I was always fully equipped with a Game Genie for every platform I owned.

Now in my 20’s, I had friends occasionally poke fun at the fact I defaulted to Easy mode, and it started making me feel guilty. There wasn’t really any good reason for me to default to Easy, except that I’d always defaulted to Easy. It was so bad in my early years that I’d even used a Game Genie on RPGs like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger to jump straight to level 99 in their first battles. I certainly didn’t need to use a Game Genie anymore, so why was I still defaulting to Easy mode?

So, I made a conscious effort to start bumping up the difficulty in games.

I remember the very first game I did this in: it was the PC port of Halo 1, which I’d owned but didn’t have a good enough PC to play until many years after release. When faced with the option of playing that game on Easy, I very specifically forced myself to chose Normal. It was a grueling experience, but eventually I came out the other end having said I finished Halo on Normal difficulty. Not much of an accomplishment for some, but a very proud moment for me.

I went back and I replayed Half-Life on Normal only to be shocked at what a vastly different experience it was. On easy mode, Half-Life may as well be a Michael Bay movie for how carelessly you can bounce around levels and blow enemies away. On Normal difficulty, stealth becomes a much larger priority, especially when dealing with the soldiers. Sneaking around, getting in to position, and making intelligent, tactical decisions in the heat of a firefight means everything.

I beat Doom and Doom II on “Hurt Me Plenty,” which is what qualifies as Normal Mode for those games. I even beat Bayonetta on Normal difficulty, which probably classifies as the first brand new game I’d ever done that on.

Now, it’s 2014. Mario Kart 8 has just come out, and I’m producing a video review for it. My process for video reviews back then was very cumbersome; footage I captured had to be transcoded out of a broken .ts format in to something that Sony Vegas would accept, which meant even as little as an hour or two of footage could take multiple days of conversion on my slow, old Windows XP machine. I had a lot of time to kill.

Nine years after the last time I tried to play it, I loaded Resident Evil 4 back up.

Going back to Resident Evil 4 was a lot like going back to Half-Life on Normal, but in the opposite direction: whereas Half-Life felt significantly harder and required a lot more focus and awareness, I’d been off of Easy Mode for nearly a decade at this point, and now it felt like I could see the matrix. Gameplay systems that were totally oblique to me originally now laid themselves bare. I felt smarter and stronger and I was totally aware of that fact. I was better at games now, and everything clicked in to place so smoothly and cleanly that I will never forget the feeling.

I fell in love with Resident Evil 4 that day.


#9

I had a similar thing happen to me with Enter the Gungeon, of all games. I put 20 hours into before falling off, and right around the time I tried going back Parkland happened. As soon as I started it up I had a “what am I doing” moment and quit. It’s not even anything the game does, per se, I just couldn’t turn off the part of my brain that processes these things critically.


#10

This hits home for me with my own version of this, when I played through Quake IV. It’s not the best FPS anyway - it draws a lot more from the burgeoning CoD linear setpiece school of FPS design than the earlier games in the loose series - but it had some particularly unpleasantly sadistic scenes which I was really upset by at the time (the bit that really upset me is a setpiece where you end up killing the Strogg “nutrient processing” creature - an apparently sentient being just doing the task it was designed for - by force feeding it until it ruptures. It’s messy, and needlessly cruel, and emblematic of all the worst aspects of macho game culture).
I have a much lower tolerance for FPSen since then, and I’ve tended to try to play the once I have played in stealth/non-lethal, even though I’m not that good at that.

(For similar reasons, I’ve never played a Monster Hunter game, and don’t particularly want to.)


#11

I relate to this in a big way. For me it’s Shadow of War. Parts of the game work so well, but only if I can cozy up to the fact that the Orcs are evil and deserve to be killed just for existing. At least in Shadow of Mordor (as I remember) you fought only armed warriors. But in Shadow of War, there are Orcs who are just like fixing walls and shit. And the game wants you to either kill them or “make them yours”

yuck.


#12

It’s a little of both. The whole tone Tropico takes on corruption and government disfunction is one of “ha ha ha look at these stupid silly brown folks and their backwards ways and customs” as if the majority of the strife in a lot of these places (Chile, Cuba, Haiti, etc) wasn’t the direct result of past and current colonialist interference. “Ha ha, they’re poor because their economy is in shambles!”
“Ha ha, there’s rampant corruption because their government keeps mysteriously getting destabilized!”
“Ha ha, they’re trying out socialist and communist forms of economic policies because they’ve been shafted by capitalism for the past 200+ years!”
“Ha ha, they’re resorting to strong-arm dictatorships because democracy and their democratic neighbors sure as fuck haven’t been of any help in times of need!”

I’m not an expert by any means on the histories of any of the countries being satirized in these games, but the fact that it’s all one big joke in the first place just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And that’s a bummer because mechanically they’ve been pretty solid city building/management games.