The Death of Challenge in Warcraft
Back in the days of my youth, my brother and I used to play a game called Contra on the NES. Contra was a 2 person side-scrolling shooter, which pitted two mercenaries against a horde of aliens that had come to earth for some nefarious purpose.
There were something like 8 levels, with end bosses, that you had to progress through to beat the game. Unlike many of today’s games where your toons have health pools and defensive abilities, Contra was very unforgiving of player mistakes. If Mad Dog or Scorpion (the nicknames for the two playable characters) got hit by a single bullet, bomb or laser, they died. In addition to that, players only got 3 lives in the entire game: after 3 deaths, you started back at the beginning of level 1.
So what makes Contra stand out for me and my brother, as one of the greatest games of all time amidst the myriad other games that we have played? Probably the fact that the two of us beat the game together, start to finish, in two player mode, without either of us losing a single life.
Two players, eight levels, and not one death in probably 30+ minutes of continuous gameplay.
For us, it was the challenge that made the game special, and the fact that we were able to overcome that challenge through hard work and dedication.
But many people don’t share our deep appreciation for Contra. Most of those people played the game with the help of the various cheat codes that gave you ten times the number of lives and/or unlimited weapons, etc.
Even with the help of the cheat codes, Contra was still a challenging game. Having 30 lives instead of just 3 made it far far easier to actually beat the game though.
And the disparity in the degree of challenge faced, and possibly overcome, by the player is the reason some people think Contra is a good game, and some think it is one of the best.
So it is with a heavy heart that I have watched Blizzard slowly and methodically take much of the challenge out of WoW over the course of the last expansion. And based on the information being released in regards to the next expansion (Cataclysm), the de-challengification of WoW is going to continue.
The recent announcements regarding shared 10/25 man raid IDs and the availability of PVP armor and weapons in Cata have really quenched my enthusiasm for the game to the point where WoW no longer feels like a game that transcends its cohorts.
Now it just seems like a fun game to play, and that makes me sad.
I am not ready to quit just yet, but the direction that Blizz is going with the game is going to make it a lot easier for me to eventually walk away from the game.
(For those Contra enthusiasts out there, I played Scorpion and typically went with the machine gun, while my brother played Mad Dog and took the spread gun, although the laser rifle was frequently used by one of us on the waterfall level and against the gun turrets on level 5. Neither of us liked the fireball gun, and accidentally getting the fireball gun would immediately ignite a bitchfest as to how much that weapon truly sucked. Shout out to our nonfamilial Contra teammates: Alex Shelestak and Nathan Asby, who also spent many many hours playing with us. Good times.)