Is there such a thing as too challenging?

What most of my Mirror’s Edge experience looks like.

Recently, a roommate recommended that I play EA’s 2008 action-adventure game, Mirror’s Edge. I agreed, and walked blindly into what would become the most frustrating few days of my life.

I am bad at first person games, I admit that. The first one I played was Oblivion for the 360 two years ago, and for some reason I still cannot grasp turning the camera properly. Mirror’s Edge was (is, I haven’t finished the game) a huge challenge for me not only because of this, but because of the parkour, intense gameplay. I like to take my time on things, and I’m not super quick on my animated feet. However, this brings me to a question:

When does a game cease to be fun, a welcome challenge, just the right amount of tough? Is it after trying to perform the same maneuver about forty times to no avail? Or being relentlessly shot at while trying to get through a door that needs time to open? My perfect game in this regard is probably Super Mario Land for the Gameboy: just tough enough that it is challenging, but not so hard that it becomes overly frustrating. Yeah, I might get a little testy while playing it, but it is fun! A challenge can be very welcoming – games shouldn’t be too easy. The perfect game needs a little bit of frustration and heart-pounding moments that make the eventual victory even sweeter.

When a game isn’t fun anymore, why bother trying? Why am I still trying to beat Mirror’s Edge, despite the fact that it’s taking me twice as long as I should, I still cannot fully grasp the controls (I know, there are only a few buttons. This makes it even worse.). I’m not really invested in it at all, and it makes me want to spike a controller. I don’t think I’m even enjoying myself anymore a lot of the time. But I can’t stop playing.

If completing a game to 100% or even the thought of completing the main storyline gives me a feeling of relief more than accomplishment, I think that’s a sign.. Relief and accomplishment usually go hand in hand with beating a game, especially if it is a difficult one. But I don’t want my games to feel like chores that I’m trying to finish as quickly as possible.

We hear the trope of the angry gamer; the spiked controller always comes to my mind first. Okay, if I am going to be spiking a controller, a game has to be insanely good to keep me coming back to it. If gaming, something I do to relax and enjoy myself, is constantly causing me frustration, what is the point? I can understand some anger here and there – I’ve definitely gotten really irked over boss battles and whatnot – but if Mirror’s Edge is constantly making me want to rip out my hair, maybe I should stop.

So here is where I reach out to my fellow gamers: When is a game too frustrating for you, and where do you draw the line? Have you ever stopped playing a game because it was pissing you off too much, and do you feel bad about it? This is really a first for me – I don’t think any game has frustrated me this much before. Maybe with some outside insight I can finally put down this game and not feel like I am letting it defeat me.

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3 responses to “Is there such a thing as too challenging?

  1. I think League Of Legends is making at least half of the world really really pissed off. Still, we can’t stop playing it. It’s the most unrewarding game ever. If you get just One teammate who suck when you yourself did everything right, and the rest of your fellows, your 40 minutes of dull farming was just totally wasted.
    Took me a long time though before i realized how grumpy i had become since i started playing LoL.
    That’s not got much to do with how challenging it is though, but my point is – if a game is unrewarding when you’ve done hard work – there’s where i draw a line.

  2. Well I imported Demons Souls from Japan for the ps3 not knowing anything about how it played and I spent 5hrs trying to clear the 1st area. I tought it would break me but I enjoyed the fresh gameplay and atmosphere so much I kept at it. Climbing to number 1 on the North American boards when it released was good fun. I guess its never to challenging if theres enough that is fresh and new to keep you interested. Mirrors edge was hard so dont feel alone on that haha

  3. There is a difference in a Challenge, and your level of ability (also known as ‘you suck’). if you ask someone with a brand new license to get behind a racecar he’s probably going to crash and/or come in last of the pack. OP admits not having a clear grasp of control in a basic first person game, It’s of no surprise that you are not enjoying yourself with an advanced first person experience. The challenge factor here is that you are clearly out of your league. It is not a factor of the developers making a game that is too hard or ‘challenging’. There needs to be this clear distinction.

    If the game is too much of a challenge what should you do? start again from the beginning and work on your basic skills. Try to improve your time and technique. The game Mirror’s Edge is actually designed with that in mind. Stop pressuring yourself to complete the story as if it were a rule, and try enjoying yourself.

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