difficult games

Skill, abstraction, and the complications of mainstreaming

Rob Zacny at

Gamasutra puts the shotgun-marriage of action games and RPGs underneath the microscope, and tracks how gameplay changes as games adjust the ratio of action elements to RPG elements. Author Josh Bycer also demonstrates some of the issues that arise as games approach the balance point between the genres, like Mass Effect 3 promises to do.

Defining "skill abstraction" as "the degree to which player skill (or input) has an effect on gameplay", Bycer then goes on to argue that action games and RPGs traditionally existed on opposite ends of the spectrum. For the sake of this argument, non-abstracted games (think Asteroids) are at -100, and hardcore RPGs are at 100. Most games in either genre tend to hover between 75 and 50, but as publishers and developer seek wider audiences, they increasingly approach 0.

"As we move to 0 percent on the chart, the lines between the genres begin to blur. Games like The Witcher 2 or the ultimate direction of the Mass Effect trilogy are examples of this. At this point, the traditional description of the genre is not enough to describe these games."

Super Meat Boy Review

Tyler Wilde at

Imagine a bouncing cube of raw meat sliding into the teeth of a whirling saw blade. Spludge! Now picture thousands more—as many as there are letters on this page—all going splat and splot as they disintegrate into an ocean of juicy beef-stuff. Gross. But your mental slaughterhouse still has nothing on my Super Meat Boydeath tally. I flung the game’s lovable, protein-based hero to his demise over 3,000times just to beat the main levels of this relentlessly difficult 2D platformer. Include the search for collectables, the retro-themed Warp Zones, and the unlockable “Dark World” levels, and the number of exploded meat-bodies I’m responsible for is genocidal—but it’s the fun kind of genocide.