Oh, welcome back! My good friend Vivian James and I were about to play Undertale! Why is Vivian James here again you ask? Well, it's simple, really. I want to talk about difficulty, and as a True Hardcore Gamer Vivian has lots of experience with difficult games.
But Undertale is difficult in a way that a lot of True Hardcore Gamers seem to hate, and even resent. Some of this is because of the queer and female and queer female characters... some of this is because they just hate anything popular on Tumblr... but a lot of it is because these guys just for some reason can't get over how difficult this game is. Not mechanically, I mean. No, they can't get over how difficult it is affectively--how difficult it is on a visceral emotional level. And they really, really seem to hate how challenging it is when it comes to typical game content!
For this reason, a lot of gamers seem to have denounced the game entirely.
Vivian, as a hardcore gamer, what do you think of this attitude?
You don't think so?
And like the last two games we discussed, Undertale offers a particular kind of horror experience that's outside the realm of the typical horror game, a kind of horror that assaults the player directly. Tonight I want to talk about this element of Undertale, why it's important, and just what it means that so many of the people who consider themselves True Hardcore Gamers, the same people, perhaps, that would like to see themselves as Vivian James's comrades in arms, hate the way this game challenges them.
Fundamentally, because Undertale challenges the player to reconsider the way we play videogames, or even play certain types of videogames at all. The idea that there might be a wrong way to play videogames, or that videogames are worth critiquing at all, is monumentally offensive to this particular stripe of gamer. We can see this, too, in the ridiculous, overblown response from Tycho of Penny Arcade infamy:
A true hardcore gamer would be accepting of multiple levels of engagement with variable forms of difficulty. A true Vivian James, a true representative of everything games can be, would embrace rather than decry games that challenge the discourse of the medium and challenge the player on not just a mechanical but an emotional level. A true avatar of gaming culture in ALL its forms would understand that being a Hardcore Gamer is the same as being a scholar of any field: you have to be willing to experience all kinds of challenge, and to try to understand the engagement of others with different media objects.
COMING SOON: NEIGHQUIEM FOR A DREAM! A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ON MY LITTLE PONY