Most times video games are seen as a leisure activity. Video games can be restarted with very low stakes. Racing a sports car around a real track is dangerous, but crashing in Gran Turismo is merely annoying. Games are escapism and are relaxing. Waking up early on a cold Sunday to play some games over breakfast is my favorite time of the week.
However, sometimes a game can be so frustrating and rage inducing that any thoughts of leisure, relaxation, and escapism evaporates in a haze of swearing, yelling, and a general degenerating disposition. Video game rage is a real thing. I remember experiencing it firsthand as a spoiled 10-year old while playing Castlevania III. After falling prey to flying Medusa heads and crows innumerable times, I yelled "Fuck you" at Dracula's Curse and yanked the cartridge out of my top-loading bootleg Famicom without pressing the eject button. I proceeded to punch (!) the cartridge in my tiny rage filled hands while repeatedly screaming "I hate you!" Needless to say, I was not allowed to play any games for the remainder of the week. After coming back to the game with a clearer mind, Dracula's Curse was conquered, and Castlevania III remains my favorite entry in the series.
While games rarely cause a full-on wrathful episode, they unfortunately happen and leave me extremely embarrassed. There was a Tekken 2 episode that resulted in my brother saying the words: "Are these teeth marks on the Playstation controller?". I honestly do love video games.
Why do I find these games at least once a generation? A full rage-filled episode happens only in solitude. Social norms and general anxiety prevent such ridiculous displays and profanity laced diatribes. Also, it normally happens with games that I really do love.
XCOM 2 came out two weeks ago. X-Com: UFO Defense has an eternal place in my heart for being the quintessential early 90s PC game not named Doom. The remake XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of the best games released in the last ten years. So, XCOM 2 is probably my most anticipated release in a long time.
Within 48 hours, I had rage quit the game twice and actually had to lie down to clear my head. At first, I tried to blame the game, but after breezing through Enemy Unknown, I was perplexed at the very real prospect that any of my tactical turn-based skill had finally dissipated. There was one really embarrassing time where I just yelled a long drawn out "fuck" at the ceiling. It was certainly a new one.
I like playing frustrating and difficult games because overcoming obstacles is a remarkable feeling. Understanding a game so completely in order to master it is something most hobbies lack. How do you know if you are a really good stamp collector, train builder, or geocacher? When one gets to the end of Super Mario 3, you know that your skill is at least measurable. There is a sense of quantifiable achievement, regardless of how ridiculous that might sound. Even playing a low stakes game like Cities: Skylines, you can see the growing population get more city problems and crises coming under control.
XCOM 2 presented another obstacle that I needed to climb and master. Wrath was telling me that it needed to be conquered. The finely-honed skill developed over a lifetime was not losing a battle to age and complacently.
After getting yet another squad killed, I restarted XCOM 2 on easy difficulty. What an amazing game.