Staying alive in some video games is hard. Staying alive while playing on the hardest difficulty is harder. But what if there were a game with no option to tone down the difficulty, and — making matters worse — you don’t have any extra lives or save points? When you die, you restart the game from the beginning.
It goes without saying that such a game would probably be hated and net low sales figures. Why is that? Is it a lack of patience, or perhaps a lack of determination? Maybe its low tenacity?
All of the above point to the act of quitting a game out of impatience, frustration and — most importantly — anger: rage-quitting. We’ve all done it at some point with “that game that’s impossible,” or “that game where I almost made it, but not quite,” and perhaps most commonly “that game that I keep dying over and over at the same place.” Yup, rage-quitting.
But despite the challenge, some people still love them for their difficulty. And so, difficulty takes center stage as the secondary driving force behind extending a game’s lifespan, while the gameplay and mechanics remains at the top of that ranking. The satisfaction that comes from the grind of sloughing through such games seems to be enough to keep people coming back for more, at least for a while. Ultimately, however, it comes down to the fun of the game.
Playing something that’s far too easy in every playthrough is just plain boring, no matter how awesome the gameplay may be. So to toughen such a game up, why not add a little “no save points and no continue points” joy to the mix. Heck, let’s add a timer that forces players to have to clear a level or area in a certain time limit with enemies who are more heavily and strategically armed than you. Does that sound a bit too Time Crisis for you? Well, it should, because those are the games from which I drew inspiration in creating these scenarios.
Back to rage-quitting one more time, what can tick someone off so much that they want to leave the game and never pick it up again? Offensive materials, maybe some misdirection and confusion on where to go or what to do, or perhaps major in-game glitches and enemies who are far too strong for their own good. I still own a copy of Resident Evil: Nemesis that freezes in the exact same place despite all the work-arounds I try. Kind of like a cell phone you drop in water, no matter how long you cover it with uncooked rice or how many times you change the battery, it’s still busted.
All of these things make a game much tougher and probably cause their fair share of rage-quitting. But besides the rage-quits, they also make such games much more enjoyable and fulfilling upon completion.
I will pick on the Kingdom Hearts franchise for the remainder of this editorial simply because I love the series and rage-quitted a good number of times back in the prime of the two major titles of the series on the PS2, and even recently, with Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix.
Ever since I bought the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix last year, I have yet to clear a single one of the three titles bundled in the compilation. Why have I never finished any? Because of rage-quitting on Kingdom Hearts 1 (KH1) on Proud difficulty (the highest you can go), that’s why.
I’ve hated my choice to play Proud on the first run-through, but I don’t regret the fact that it’s also forced me to have to be better prepared and trained. When I played on Normal difficulty on the PS2 version, I started to rely on using Cure and buying lots of potions rather than balancing restorative items/magic with constant leveling-up. As I progressed through the PS2 version, I stubbornly stuck with playing with only the default Kingdom Key out of a desire to stick with the true form of the Keyblade. Carrying over these decisions to the HD 1.5 Remix compilation made completing KH1 on Proud mode even more difficult.
Kingdom Hearts 2 included a feature where ***SPOILER ALERT*** King Mickey swoops in and becomes the playable character when Sora loses all of his health. As King Mickey, you can either continue fighting the boss or enemies that you as Sora lost your heart against until time or your health runs out, or gather the power of Light with King Mickey’s Keyblade until fully charged up. Either way, Sora is revived after King Mickey leaves, regenerated with an amount of health proportional to how much Light energy King Mickey charged up. Not gonna lie, I absolutely LOVED this feature, especially since I died so much even on Normal difficulty, again owing in part to not leveling up enough and equipping only the Kingdom Key form of the Keyblade.
Both Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 had a ridiculously strong Ultima Key form of the Keyblade, but I never did get into synthesizing items and equipment enough to unlock it. That probably would’ve helped. A lot. But I never earned it. But I digress.
What’s the point I’m trying to get at here? Playing on the highest difficulty possible in a game might make getting through it fast seem maddeningly impossible, but it also forces us gamers to play at our best.
For this reason, even with the rage-quitting that might take place, playing on the highest difficulty level enhances and augments the “fun” of the gameplay and features of a game, making finishing it again and again that much more satisfying.