“Game Over.” It should be the most maddening phrase in the gamer lexicon. You just spent $60 on what was ostensibly a product designed to entertain you, only to find out you weren’t good enough. You didn’t make the cut.
And yet, that seething anger is paradoxically part of the reason we play games in the first place. Games – at least, most of the games we enjoy – have a higher barrier to entry than pretty much any form of entertainment in history, a barrier that many of us enjoy throwing ourselves at repeatedly until we finally overcome it. There’s something satisfying about knowing that a game expects more of you than just your time – you have to really learn from it if you want to see the end.
Of course, that inevitably leads to some controller-snapping moments. For every server-first boss kill in an MMOG, there are a couple dozen glorious wipes where you want nothing more than to ragequit and play some Peggle. But for many of us, that frustration is what makes it all worth it.
In this week’s issue, “Frustration Nation,” we look at a few of the ways games aggravate us – and why we love them for it. John Adkins interviews indie developer Mark Essen, aka messhof, about his punishing body of work in “mEssen With Your Head.” In “The Glory of the Last Stand,” Lee Petrie examines the appeal of the unwinnable scenario in videogames. Nova Barlow takes a look at VSS (Virtual Simulator Sickness) and explains how hardcore gamers power through their queasiness to play their favorite games in “Wired Differently.” In “Zen and the Art of Speedrunning,” Danielle Riendeau speaks with some of the most patient and dedicated gamers out there about competing for record completion times. And the Escapist staff chimes in on their most frustrating gaming moments in “The Escapist On: Frustrating Game Experiences.”