Games are scary. And not just the horror ones. Games are scary almost by default, because it's not just the main character that gets sacrificed when one misjudged leap sends them hurtling bottomless pit-wards - it's us, the player. As a child I used to find moments of heart-stopping terror when avoiding flaming torches in Treasure Island Dizzy.
But games are even scarier to people who've never played them before. Those of us who played NES in childhood and grew up with a new controller every few years with increasingly numerous buttons have all got muscle memory spurting out of our thumbs and are immediately comfortable with standard control schemes. Consequently, we often overlook just how complicated gaming has become. That's why most total newbies picking up something as relatively straightforward as, say, Modern Warfare 2 resemble... what's that analogy I've used before? A cat trying to fly a kite?
That can get very frustrating, especially when you've paid full price for all of a game's content but aren't good enough to see past the first mission or so. It's a common complaint I hear from relatively new gamers. So games get stuck with a fairly major dilemma right off the bat - accessibility, risking veterans feeling patronized, or challenge, alienating new players? I don't have an answer to that one, but I do know that Demon's Souls definitely isn't what you'd use to get your girlfriend into the lifestyle.
I had to weather quite a spattering of fairly predictable shit in response to last week's review, generally along the lines of WAA WAA IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE HARD YOU SUCK AT GAMES EVERYONE STOP WATCHING THESE VIDEOS AND ACKNOWLEDGE MY OBVIOUS SUPERIORITY WAA. So let me just clarify that I get Demon's Souls.
Challenge is good. I like a challenge. And there's nothing about Demon's Souls' gameplay that is completely broken and unfair - with caution, and gradual understanding of the combat mechanics, you could get by. But in this day and age there is no, absolutely no fucking excuse for keeping your checkpoints half an hour of gameplay apart.
Even I Wanna Be The Guy had regular save points (unless you were playing at the very hardest difficulty, and why on earth would you do that to yourself except maybe for charity), and IWBTG was fun. It was fun because it was so hard. I'd successfully navigate a clump of trees avoiding fast-falling apples, then I'd have to jump over some floating platforms going over the same trees, whereupon I'd be killed by an apple suddenly falling upwards. And I actually laughed. It was unexpected and well comically-timed. Sudden, unexpected trouncings are in themselves more likely to provoke mirth than frustration. Mainly because I knew I'd only have to retry from the previous screen.
But the time I have for playing games for a review is limited. When I'm killed and have to start over from half an hour ago, that's about an hour of wasted time. That's what made me angry about Demon's Souls. Every single time I pushed a little bit further, some new, dirty trick would be pulled and I'd have to re-play through the same dirty tricks that led up to it. And I'd get angrier and more hasty each time, increasing the likelihood of being killed by one of the earlier traps I thought I'd mastered.