Andrew Hopkins is a second-year political science major and writes “Bread and Roses” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Gaming is a great way to explore new worlds, taking a trip to another world, another universe that allows the user to put themselves in a new environment that they would not otherwise be able to experience. Video games can teach us lessons through their stories, their characters and their game mechanics that teach us how the world around us and the people in it operate.
But they’re also becoming as difficult and time-consuming as possible
From as early as I can remember, I was playing video games, my first one being the very first “Star Wars: Battlefront,” which I played with my dad as a little kid. I have continued this hobby throughout my entire life, and it has connected me with some of my closest friends who live in other states and countries, playing some of our favorite games together. They have created memorable moments I still remember to this day, and I continue to make new memories every time I get online to play with friends.
Updates to graphics and processing power that allows game worlds to be bigger and more detailed have increased people’s enjoyment of games with the ESA, the trade association of the video game industry stating that “more people are playing video games than ever before,” even allowing for gamers to play with others across the world, sometimes up to 60 players at a time to create some truly exciting and fun experiences set across a variety of settings.
Over winter break, I sat down and completed the newest Lego Star Wars game, “The Skywalker Saga.” The game is expansive, covering locations and missions from all nine films and beyond, with characters from the movies and shows as well as over a thousand extra puzzles and challenges players can do to earn upgrades and complete the game. At a glance, there seems to be nothing to complain about. It’s an up-to-date Lego video game about one of my favorite film series of all time that has lots of content and is fun to play with a lot of humor.
However, as I worked my way through the different areas of the game, trying to collect every single secret to complete the game, it became dull and boring. Many of the same puzzles and challenges were repeated throughout the game and set in different locations. By the time I had finished the game, I checked how long I had spent playing the game, and I was shocked to see that I had spent just shy of five days trying to fully explore the galaxy.
What had it all been for? Just to see the number on the pause screen slowly tick up until it reached the triple digits?
This reflects a trend I have seen in increasing frequency in video games, with them being difficult and time-consuming. It almost serves as bragging rights if a studio can make their game super difficult. Looking at data from video games released over the years, the time it takes to finish video games has significantly increased, with Elder Scrolls 3, Fallout and Resident Evil, games released in 2002, taking less than 20 hours to beat. Jump to 2022, Elden Ring is released and the average time to beat the game is listed at around 55 hours, according to HowLongToBeat.com.
Software’s “Dark Souls” games are a good example of this trend, including the most recent installment, “Elden Ring.” The game looks beautiful, and they are easily the most realistic graphics I have seen in a game.
My problem with this game and so many others like it is that it takes such a long time to progress, requiring the player to grind and kill enemies for hours, so they can level up and make their abilities better. When they go to fight powerful enemies known as bosses that serve as gatekeepers located around the world, many of these bosses are designed to have attack patterns and certain moves used in battle that require them to die time and time again until they learn the multiple attack patterns of the bosses, only to forget them after the boss has been defeated.
According to Rock Paper Shotgun, a popular video game website, “Elden Ring” has 238 bosses, a majority of which have their own move sets, characteristics and special attributes that the player learns, so they can beat the bosses. In comparison, one of “Elden Rings” competitors in 2022, “God of War Ragnarok” has 66 bosses according to another popular video game website, The Loadout. The game isn’t blind to this fact, as it places you in control of a Tarnished, a creature able to respawn every time it is killed, as is explained in the lore. Even more so, the first true boss of the game is what I like to call a “weeder.” It is meant to filter out the players who are willing to put in the hours of work to level up, find better gear and learn how the game wants you to play, versus those who are unwilling to learn to do these tasks.
My first time playing the game, it took me around 80 attempts before I finally was able to kill the boss and progress onto the other 11 bosses of this game.
What happened to the video games that used to be centered around the idea of just having fun? Growing up, the games I played were not made to be hard just for the sake of being hard, even if sections of them were meant to be difficult. Video games were simple and fun, not full of menial tasks meant to increase the playtime and provide “content” to the player. Satisfaction and enjoyment from video games should not come at the cost of dozens of hours and smashed controllers but from just exploring the game world and having fun through meaningful progression.
Gamers have become too comfortable with the grind in videos, and game studios have been increasingly filling their games with repetitive tasks to keep the player busy and distract them from the true lack of content within the game. Progression should be a thing that happens simply through playing the game, not something that happens after the player has poured hours upon hours into killing the same few enemies continuously.
A good example of the kinds of games we should be expecting and demanding from video game studios is “Halo 3.” This game had an arena style multiplayer, meaning that players would spawn in with the same or randomized weapons to use, but they could find power ups or better weapons lying around the map. The game did not require hours of grinding to unlock certain guns or perks that make you better.
As a whole, we need to demand better quality products from these studios, those that are actually enjoyable, as the current state of video games is almost dehumanizing. The fact that video game developers have continued with this theory of development is borderline offensive as it regulates this style of storytelling, art and puzzles to doing repetitive tasks for hours.
By buying and supporting these games, it shows developers this kind of treatment is not only ok but encouraged, especially with Elden Ring winning Game of the Year for 2022 at the Game Awards. It shows that we are ok with this standard of game development, that we do not value our time playing these games designed to be time-consuming and incredibly difficult just for the sake of being so.
Contact Andy Hopkins with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.