Hey Harvey!

Posted on Oct 14th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under When to call it quits for sanity and enjoyment

image from wikipedia

I'm stuck on a boss in The Messenger.  This little bit of information is unlikely to sway any political elections, and on my own scale of importance from one to five it gets a solid "meh" and a shrug.

What this irreverent trivia represents, however, is a mite bit deeper.

Well, the subject this brings up is what I want to go into more deeply, but as for The Messenger I highly recommend it.  It plays how I always wanted the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy to play.  (Not that those don't own their place in classic gaming greatness, but I always felt the level/enemy design to be unfairly problematic.)  I had been making steady and consistent progress through The Messenger and was really digging it, until I hit a boss that has become a bit of a brick wall.  It is not unfair and YouTube verified that the fight is pretty short and I'm not missing anything.  I just can't seem to get the rhythm and pattern down well enough, and my reaction time just doesn't seem adequate.

My 13 year old son, watching along side me, asked for a try.  On his first attempt, and first time playing the game at all, he got about as far as I could into the boss fight.  Several more tries did not give success, but it did show that the skills I developed in the game up to that point (and arguably, all of the video game skills acquired in the preceding years) did not give me any edge in this moment.

I like the game and I'm not faulting it.  I'm also not giving up, yet.  These are the times that tried 8/16-bit gamer's souls.  But more and more, I am having to face a normal yet cruel reality; between time and skill, I have to pick my battles and decide if it is worth it.

I have a few gaming career highlights, from beating Gameboy Tetris on level 9 high 5 with one hand (hospital, IV in the other hand) to clearing the last boss and getting the true ending in Bloodborne.  Yet if the many hours I've spend playing games is averaged out to actual accomplishments I have pretty rubbish gaming skills overall.  Combined with the fact that I'm not particularly competitive against myself or others, add in my constant many weekly responsibilities, and the result that I sometimes just call it and move on from a game that is giving me trouble.  I'm up for challenge (generally) but I don't like realizing I'm no longer having fun or getting anything out of a game besides "I have to keep going."

There are plenty of reasons to stop playing a game.  Sometimes, like The Messenger, it is a matter of me just not being that good, and more attempts could build skill to the point of breaking through.  Other times, it is due to problems outside of my control.  The most recent example was Gears 5.  I was really, really digging the campaign; it's not flawless by a long shot, but I was definitely enjoying it close to as much as my series favorite Gears of War 3, if for different reasons.

Anywho I was close to the end of Gears 5, finding the majority of collectibles and upgrades and generally taking some time to get the most out of it.  Then I entered a room and couldn't continue; the game would not give the proper prompt to move beyond the area. I tried reloading, resetting, rebooting, all options I could think of.  Finally, I look online and there is a forum devoted to this specific bug, with many experiencing the same problem, and no solution available.  There have been several updates to the game since I got stuck, but they all seem to be devoted to multiplayer and other modes.  Every now and then I load up my campaign and find the same problem.

I'd love to finish the story if the bug is fixed, although much of the narrative anticipation has dissolved.  And while I could certainly start over and work my way back again, I usually only play for an hour or two a day during my bike workouts and that is a lot of lost ground to recover.  I'm just rather deflated over the whole experience and it has soured my enjoyment of a game I was really enjoying.  I decided to just call it for now, and perhaps enjoy it as a future multiplayer experience.  One more reason I tend to wait awhile when a new game comes out I want to play; perhaps by then any game-breaking issues will be resolved.

I'm at a point right now where my gaming time is quite limited, and when I come to these type of walls I need to be thoughtful in my approach.  The Messenger one is easy; each attempt only takes minutes and I'm still enjoying the game.  Gears 5 would literally take a week or more to regain my progress, and I'm just not feeling that.

Giving up on a game is the player's choice, but I think there are three factors that would greatly help to retain player interest and all three are addressable by developers.  These are broken games, a lack of accessibility options, and a lack of 'chapter selection.' 

The first I think we can pretty much all agree on, to some degree.  We are too far into the patch-it-later mentality of modern games to go back now.  It is just sadly assumed that a new game will come out and a slew of patches will be released from day one onward.  That said, I have friends who own modern consoles but no high-speed internet and they have had to return new games, sometimes at a financial loss, because the game's single player content was broken without a patch.  Personally I think that goes beyond inconvenience and into consumer protection territory, but that's a whole other topic.

The second, accessibility options, has seen tremendous positive attention in the last few years.  System-wide accessibility options in both Sony and Microsoft consoles are literally a game-changer for those (like myself) who need southpaw options and button remapping in order to not get severe nausea.  Microsoft has also gone all-out with a new accessibility controller.  Also more developers are including subtitles, color-blind modes, and other thoughtful options.  Surprisingly the biggest lapse in this area is from Nintendo which is incredibly unfortunate.  From Skyrim to Hell Warders to Call of Cthulhu, I keep getting excited for portable versions of games I can't play because of a lack of system-wide southpaw options.  C'mon, Ninty, let me love your system even more!

Last, that chapter-select idea.  Look, I know it doesn't work for every game.  And actually many games already feature such an option.  Gears 5 even kind of has one, though I tried and the last chapter break was a good several hours back and reset all of my collectible/upgrade hunting.  But where it can be applicable for the game-type I find this idea as much of an accessibility option as a convenience.  Comedian Dara 'O Briain has a bit (very NSFW if you look it up) where he complains that video games are the only form of media entertainment that lock you out of the experience if you lack skill.  For example, books, movies, and music don't stop you and expect you to pass a test or perform to a certain level in order to see the entire content.  Especially for full-priced games, if a player pays for the experience it seems the developer best serves the player by giving options to engage with as much of the experience as possible.  There has been an improvement here recently with a sort of "story mode" option for some games, including a few of my favorites like Soma and Prey.  Again, not something every game should have but for the ones that do the option is greatly appreciated.

Some games aren't built for that from game design perspective (like, say, the Dark Souls series.)  I'm not at all advocating video games need to adhere to a certain universal standard of difficulty options for those who lack the skill and patience.  Some games are tough, others easy, and it is up to the developers to determine the best for their game.  More options are generally good, I would think, but I'm not going to criticize an artist for artistic decisions.   Often the balance of challenge is part of the artistic design inherent to the medium and we now live in an era where there are more options than ever.

I don't think The Messenger should have a story mode, or even a way to help me with this boss fight.  Maybe next time will be that magical victory and I'll have that sense of accomplishment that only comes from overcoming a tough obstacle.  Maybe I'll jut get frustrated and start up another game from the thousands-long backlog.  Maybe the Coalition will fix the Gears 5 bug and I will finally finish it.  Maybe I can finally finish Generation Zero and admit it wasn't really that great, even after getting significantly patched.  Maybe I really enjoyed No Man's Sky the most before all of the patching.  Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline.

I do admit with thankfulness we are blessed to be in an era with more options than ever, even if I need to start training my 13 year old to help his old man get past the tough parts. 

(Man, it stings to say that.)


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Out of curiosity which boss are you stuck on? I remember one in particular feeling like it was quite a burden to beat, but it was so worth it to see the game to its end.
@EZ Racer: I was wondering this as well! I got stuck on a couple of them, but after watching YouTube videos, and toughing it out a bit, I managed to best them all.

As for the main topic, I get exactly what you're saying. I backed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and got the Switch version, but haven't touched it yet, because I'm still waiting for the patch that's supposed to fix the myriad issues with performance. Once that releases, I'll probably fire it up, but it's annoying that I have to wait months after release, and worse yet, be beholden to online servers, to get a playable version of the game on my preferred platform. There was a recent Jimquisition video, that gives a ray of hope. He talks about some AAA games that put most publishers to shame, by being as complete as possible, without resorting to loot boxes, and other DLC trickery, to sell the game, or over monetize the property. I don't think that means we'll stop seeing buggy games at release, but it does make me think that at least some developers are listening, when we complain about incomplete products at launch.
The Demon General.
It's pretty silly, I get him to blinky state pretty much every time, just can't seem to get enough damage before messing up.  He's not exactly Moon Presence from Bloodborne, so I'm annoyed more with myself for having so much trouble.
Saying on the Pro controller helps a little, almost all my time with the game has been in portable mode.
Ah, yes. That was a frustrating fight. You really have to be constantly moving during that fight. At least, that's what I found. There's some pattern to his movement, but he can change it up, depending on where you go on screen. For me, it was very much a battle of attrition. Keep at it, and you'll get him.
I figured you were referencing the Demon General. That was the boss I struggled with the most as well.

I get and agree with everything you said, but I can't help thinking of my recent experience with Ninja Gaiden 3 (NES). It's hard, many have argued too unforgiving, but at the same time it forces you to become a master, and it's one of the most gratifying games to dominate. I can honestly say the experience of beating it would have been cheapened without the unforgiving difficulty. So I guess the issue becomes "Is it worth it to master?" In the case of some games, the answer is yes, and in others the answer is no.
Agreed! And thanks for the encouragement.  I think I was just slamming through the game and need a small break.  I'm hoping for that phenomenon, you know the one, where you just can't beat a tough part in a game, you stop for a few days, you come back later and next time you win flawlessly?  I'm going for that. Wink
I want to let you know yhat when you do pick up another game, I wish that you don't have the same problem.

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