September GEAR column

More Frustrating Than Fun?

Sometimes I wonder if deep down all gamers are masochistic. Or at least, now and then, enjoy a little self punishment. Because, the more I think about it, if pastimes are meals, gaming is a main course served with a hefty side order of frustration.

We’re all familiar with rushed, bug-riddled titles that freeze or crash at crucial moments. Wrestling with badly conceived controls can also ruin a good gaming session. It’s a recipe for screams and a smashed keyboard. Meanwhile, long load times trigger tantrums or shaky withdrawal symptoms in gamers who like instant, delay-free entertainment.

PC gamers have the additional time wasting annoyance of customising settings if they wish to maximise a game’s performance on their systems. It’s a tedious process of continual testing, fiddling and re-testing. With graphically advanced titles like Oblivion, tweaking can demand the precision and steady hand of a brain surgeon.

Then there’s the issue of irritating game difficulty. Many developers extend a short game simply by upping its overall difficulty. Combined with the use of a save point system, it means gamers are forced to repeatedly replay the same stage. Ad nauseam.

Call of Cthulhu, which chronicles one man’s descent into madness, sent players crazy for all the wrong reasons. The boss battles of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones also provoked bad tempers. My room was transformed into a quarantine zone avoided by anyone who couldn’t bear death glares whenever their presence broke my concentration.

The problem with gaming frustrations is that they don’t end when you put down your controller or turn off your PC. They’ve seeped into all aspects of gaming culture.

There’s the torture of waiting years for a beloved sequel that, over-hyped, or mutilated during a lengthy development process, falls short of expectations. Half-Life 2, anyone? Then there’s the more common occurrence of a must-play game having minimum requirements beyond your system specifications. Resentfully you fork out for expensive upgrades when you are otherwise content with your PC’s performance.

Even something apparently harmless like reading a gaming magazine can have you gnashing teeth. Forget error spotting. There’s the annoyance of flipping through an E3 supplement and discovering that a fantastic game, like God of War, is exclusive to a single gaming platform. Once again, it’s a case of fork out or miss out.

Why do we put up with gaming irritations then? Surely the frustrations outweigh the fun?

As you get older, you start losing gaming time to a full-time job and mundane daily activities like feeding the cat. Suddenly you can realistically afford the graphics card that lets you play everything on maximum detail, or buy a handful of games every month. But suddenly you find you don’t have time to game. You can no longer devout 6 hours straight to finishing a shooter in a single sitting, or searching for the bracers that complete your unique armour set.

That’s the final gaming frustration that trumps all annoyances. It ensures we treasure whatever enjoyment we receive from the pastime.

Comments

Ash said…
Nice post Noelle. You actually summed up alot of what I have been thinking about lately. Gaming, apart from Sims, is becomming a tiresome activity and one that I think I'm going to take a break from for a while. For me the biggest frustration is a game that is difficult. I don't enjoy replaying a scene twenty times because I haven't managed to just get it right.

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