Our Amps Go To Eleven
I don’t have the time right now to give this a full treatment, and I don’t have a napkin to scribble this on… but I’m feeling a manifesto coming on. I’ve been writing and researching about TWEWY for the past few days, and one thing that struck me is how different the game plays based on how you stack your difficulty (there are two different sliders for this!). I also remember that when I was writing about Left 4 Dead I felt the need to make it clear that I was analyzing the game from the perspective of someone playing on Expert. I feel that, often, the only way to fully experience the level of balance and design that has gone into making a game is to play it through on the hardest difficulty you can manage. Charles Pratt recently reflected on what playing Gears of War 2 on Hardcore has made him realize: that the cover mechanic is superfluous (perhaps on every difficulty except Insane).
One of the problems with the hardcore/casual dichotomy is that it’s colonizing: that is to say, there are gamers who identified as hardcore way before we started making this distinction. Hardcore in the traditional sense refers explicitly to players who play games on the hardest difficulty, often quitting the game and starting a new playthrough if they die. L.B. Jeffries and I recently talked to a bartender in Savannah for about two hours on the subject of his hardcore playing of Diablo II. Now, I’m not saying everybody needs to play as a true hardcore gamer in order to appreciate the level of complexity in games, but I do think there should be a little more of a “put up or shut up” attitude in academic, personal, and journalistic reviews of games. The example Pratt sets is, well, exemplary: every traditional review of a game should list the difficulty that one played on (as well as the time it took and how long the average play session lasted).
Remember when Stephen Totilo got totally destroyed by Soulja Boi, to the point where he could barely beat the young rapper in games he hadn’t even played before? I see way too much of this at school, where I easily “out-gamer” a lot of my colleagues. Here’s the manifesto I’m declaring for all my fellow academic and Brainy gamers, it is rather short (I must admit): Play It On Hard.
P.S. Please tell me if somebody has already written on these topics (how difficulty sliders influence how one writes and thinks about a game, besides Juul’s recent paper that I need to get to reading soon). Also, anybody wanna try to take me in Halo 3?