man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

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I hit my thirties a couple of years ago, which has led to the stark realisation that I’ve been playing video games for nearly 30 years.

Long before your Fortnite battle royales, your micro-aggressions-transactions conning you out of every single penny you have, and the need to install a game despite owning the disc – I was playing video games.

How times have changed?

The system- The Megadrive (We’re not American, so we’re not calling it the Sega Genesis). It was Christmas 1993… probably. Our console came packed with a 3-in-1 cartridge of Italia 90, Super Hang-On, and Columns.

Remember Columns?

Like Tetris but with- columns. It sounds better than it is.

We also received a copy of Disney’s Aladdin. Gorgeous graphics for the time, but for a tiny human of about 5 years old, impossibly hard. My mother says she never saw me more cross and angry than on the first level of Aladdin.

Things get easier.

And thank god for that!

Save systems, automatic saves, multiple lives, regenerative health, multiple levels of difficulty. Games have become easier and more accessible. Aside from the horrific nature of Dead Rising’s save system (If you forget to save then get merked by Zombies… tough luck, buddy!) it’s much easier to actually complete a game. And when you work for a living and use video games as a way of relaxing, that is totally welcome.

The other day, I started playing Wo Long: Fall Dynasty.

Christ alive!

After going through games that have had the right level of difficulty to be entertaining without being a chore, I walked straight into the lion’s den so to speak. All of a sudden, I was being destroyed by mere peons. In comparison to Koei Tecmo’s sister series Dynasty Warriors – where you can rack up thousands of KO’s – I was having a hard time beating the small fry.

Then, Zhang Bao.

I died 37 times fighting Zhang Bao. He’s the first boss in the game. The first boss! He should be the guy you fight to introduce gaming mechanics and then gets dispatched easily. He shouldn’t be a gatekeeper to the whole game! When I finally beat him, by figuring out to just block the entire time and hope you can parry, things slightly got better. Until I fought his brother a few levels later and couldn’t for the life of me defend myself. Turns out my armour was too heavy so it wouldn’t defend.

These goddamn games!

I’d love to tell you that this is a rags-to-riches story about how a simple fool gained experience and learned to play a really hard game. But essentially, it’s been about three weeks of me screaming bloody murder and dying repeatedly. There were times I thought “I’m just going to buy this Harvest Moon game. I don’t have to deal with any of this nonsense” but because of what I can only presume is some form of OCD, I had to complete this game. Once it finally happened, I put it down and thought god, that has to be one of the hardest games in the masocore genre.

What is Masocore?

Masochist and hardcore.

Put them together, and it’s a term that was born out of a “love” for those old Nintendo games that would kill you a thousand times before you could finish a level. An offshoot of this, which Wo Long falls under, is the Souslike genre.

FromSoftware created several games baring the moniker of Souls in some way or form and decided that every player must die completely and mercilessly in a way that hasn’t been seen since Crash Bandicoot crashed onto the scene.

Why do this to yourself?

Honestly, I’m thankful I did it!

I managed to complete a game that is hellbent on killing you. But ultimately, I’m no longer a hardcore gamer. I play for fun, not for money (unless you want to pay me to write articles like this). To play this game, and to finish it, makes me feel like an old pro boxer coming out of retirement- for one more run and somehow getting the heavyweight title. I ain’t defending the crown after this, but I proved that I could do it.

But please, whatever game I play next, make sure there’s an easy setting.

Published by AJ Toothill

Creative Writing and Music student with the Open University. Fond of writing in a comedic tone known as 'Absolute lunacy'.

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