Video Games Are Supposed To Be Fun…Right?

Video games have always been considered escapist entertainment. You select the game of your choice, fire up the console, and you’re on your way to exploring that mysterious island or fighting against the undead in a zombie apocalypse. The beauty of having so many games to choose from is you can jump from world to world and become a new character each time. Games can be played either solo or with a friend or family member. The point is video games are fun. Or are they?

You may be happy now to travel from galaxy to galaxy, Mario, but you didn't warn us about how agonizing it would be to get the stars and save Peach!
You may be happy now to travel from galaxy to galaxy, Mario, but you didn’t warn us about how agonizing it would be to get the stars and save Peach!

Last week I got together with a good friend of mine who came over my place to progress further into Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. I started off playing the game by myself the first time I got it, but when my friend was able to come over fairly often in the past, she joined me in traveling the galaxy to explore new worlds and collect the stars, while trying to save Princess Peach from Bowser…again. If anyone has played Super Mario Galaxy, it’s a cute game with interesting worlds to discover every time you gather enough stars to unlock a new world.

In the beginning, certain worlds are easier to play through than others. When it was just me playing this game, it was a total cakewalk to do the first few worlds on my own. As I got further into the game, well, things started to get much harder. I have mentioned in past posts how I’m terrible at platform games. The Mario games have always been a challenge for me. Luckily, my friend is much better at them than I am and has the advantage of playing video games since she was a kid. Together, we created a tag team system.

The way our process works is I start off as Player 1 controlling Mario and getting through most of the world we’re playing in and she takes on the task of being Player 2 where she would collect the starbits and try to stop most obstructions in my path. Whenever I got to a part where it requires me to do a wall jump or to hop from one complicated looking platform to another, we would switch controllers so she would breeze through the parts I’m terrible at. Once the hard part was over, I took over the rest of the way and I was usually in charge of defeating most of the bosses for each world.

Our system works and we did pretty well on the easy to medium difficulty worlds. It was only when we started getting to the more challenging worlds did things get, shall I say, a little stressful? What started off as a nice, leisurely game of Mario turned into a stress inducing, fist shaking game experience. The parts my friend was good at, such as wall jumping or timing jumps at the right moment, wasn’t easy in the later levels. Somehow, Wiimote sensors acted glitchy and Mario did things we didn’t want him to do. A lot of, “NO MARIO!” or “DAMN IT, MARIO!” could be heard reverberated against the walls of my living room. Lives were wasted this way because of that blasted controller.

These instructions to control Spring Mario may sound simple, but don't be fooled. Seriously, who thought Spring Mario would be fun to play as?
These instructions to control Spring Mario may sound simple, but don’t be fooled. Seriously, who thought Spring Mario would be fun to play as?

Just when my friend found the best method to successfully get to a star or boss fight during those hard worlds, it was in those moments of clarity did executing them during the level caused her to fail several times over. She made plenty of silly mistakes, even without the occasional motion sensor glitch. We knew it had more to do with the pressure of trying to succeed in getting to the end of the level without losing a life. Both of us were freaking out a little as we watched Mario try to move as quickly as possible before platforms disappeared or controlling terrible transformations, like the stupid Spring Mario. Spring Mario is the worse transformation ever and whoever thought of it should be punched in the face. After trying maybe for the tenth time or at least after we wasted all of Mario’s lives, we came to the conclusion that we were tired, stressed, and we needed to throw in the towel.

It’s funny how a simple game of Mario easily escalated into a hair tearing, miserable experience for both me and my friend. When I went to take out the disc from my Wii, both of us felt emotionally and physically drained. Can a game actually do that? I mean, games are supposed to be fun, right? RIGHT?! We agreed a game of Super Mario Galaxy is only tolerable in small doses. I think if we tried to play this game for more than two hours, the single thread our sanity was hanging on would most definitely snap.

That star has our blood, sweat, and tears on it. How do you feel about that, Mario?! Bet you feel guilty, huh?
That star has our blood, sweat, and tears on it. How do you feel about that, Mario?! Bet you feel guilty, huh?

There are just some games that can be played calmly, which won’t feel like a draining experience as you play it, and then are those games where, in the instance of Super Mario Galaxy, Mario’s death cries of, “OOHWAAAAAA!!!!” as he falls into the black hole of nothingness will haunt your nightmares.

Have there been any games you’ve played where it starts off fun at first, only to turn into a highly stressful gaming session?

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13 thoughts on “Video Games Are Supposed To Be Fun…Right?

  1. I believe the landscape of gaming has changed dramatically. Some games are supposed to be genuinely fun, some a hardcore thrill ride and others an unforgettable experience; and I believe there are clear differences between the products and audiences.

    For me the Mario games have been the ones that have been truly fun and innocent, the ones that remind me of being a kid, and the Super Mario Galaxy titles are some of platform gaming’s greatest achievements. Before I was finished reading your post, and before you mentioned it, I was thinking the only negative I have for those games are the Wii inputs themselves, then you brought it up. I believe its a negative of the hardware and not necessarily the game itself, although obviously the developers should have seen it and found a way.

    But like I said, as for the title of the article, I think Nintendo games are supposed to be genuinely fun and others, such as Epics Gears of War or Activision’s Call of Duty series are supposed to be more of a thrill and not necessarily guarantee, what I consider anyway, a fun experience.

    Others like Telltale Games Walking Dead offer a morbid and captivating punch to the gut experience; not really fun but definitely engaging. For fun I go to Nintendo for games such as Pikmin, Animal Crossing, and Mario, innocent titles. My other games I go to for more emotional or darker experiences.

    1. You’re right on all accounts. The type of experience you get from a game differs from game to game. Some are good family fun and others is more for the story or characters than anything else.

      Don’t get me wrong, I do find Super Mario Galaxy fun, but I think part of what makes the game more stressful than fun as you keep playing the game is the faulty controls. Or in my case, being bad at timing jumps properly.

      My friend and I did play New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii after we couldn’t take anymore of Mario Galaxy. We found that much more fun and less stressful, even though we did die quite a number of times in each level we played.

  2. I have given up on so many games over the years because there was a real danger I was going to embed the controller in the TV. When games are (in my opinion) impossible (my little pony….lol) it really does make for a frustrating experience. I loved playing with friends, especially games like Tomb Raider, there is no doubt 4 eyes are better than 2 lol

    1. It’s definitely a combination of feeling too stressed while playing a game and also having this huge desire to rage quit as a result of constant frustration. Luckily, there’s only a few games that causes this reaction from me.

  3. Oh yes! I recently went through a phase of two games that I got overwhelmingly fustrated with and promptly played a game that was super easy (Pokemon Mystery Dungeon). I couldn’t get the rhythm down in Patapon on one level to progress and in Final Fantasy Tactics…that’s a long story.

    1. Sometimes it’s definitely good to switch between games that give you a harder time with ones that are very much an easy and pleasant experience. It’s good for keeping one’s sanity too!

    1. It varies for me really. First person shooters I’m not great in, but I’m still willing to play them if the game is good. Even better when those games have a multiplayer mode.

  4. The worst game in this regards has been Mario Party. You spend an entire evening playing against your friends, and you got most stars, but then the last 10 turns sets in, and you can loose everything in those turns. It’s a matter of luck.

    Another game that is taking this direction is World of Warcraft. Especially the loot system in LFR. It’s all about RNG, making you feel powerless and frustrated when the RNG beast just doesn’t love you.

    1. I actually don’t mind Mario Party. I always found that game to be fun with friends, but it does bring out my more competitive side for sure. Mario Kart is the same in that regard too.

      I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but judging by how you’re describing it, I’ll bet it’s a stressful situation to be in.

  5. Last game to really frustrated me was Sonic Rush and that was pretty much for the same reasons. I kept dying and dying on the final boss because I couldn’t get my timing right even though I knew what I was suppose to do. But I’m like you, my weak point is definitely reactive-based gameplay since I played so much strategy-based games for most of my heavy gaming years.

    Still, with that said, I think there is definitely a place for games that offer something outside just fun. I did enjoy Sonic Rush even when it stressed me out. I think the feeling after finally accomplishing something you had trouble with is pretty great and the reason why I do enjoy games that kick my butt. There are also games that deal with creating atmosphere (most horror games) are opposed to being fun/challenging. I think it’s great that games can deliver so many different things. I personally feel games are about delivering an experience to you. The experience of fun or of being scared, or overcoming something. 🙂

    1. It’s definitely a great feeling when you’re able to go back and beat that boss that gave you so much trouble in the first place. I think that has only happened to me a few times. Not too often. Still, it’s certainly something to celebrate when you’re able to get over that first hurdle! 🙂

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