The issue has come up now because of Star Fox Zero and Dark Souls III. The former includes the ultimate easy mode - basically, you're invincible - while the latter has its gears permanently stuck on ultra-hard.
Because gamers can always find something to get annoyed about, the debate has split the gaming community down the middle. In short: you're either a hardy or a softy.
As you may be aware, I really can't handle Dark Souls III. By Lupin I've tried, but I've just had to give up. Had I not purchased it out of the Digitiser2000 Patreon fund, it would've been an enormous waste of my own money. Fortunately, it was merely a waste of yours.
I've many mates who bleated on about the earlier instalments being their favourite games, and I felt entirely left out. I know the level of challenge I want from a game, and I knew I didn't want what they were describing.
I mean, given a choice between an escalator and a flight of stairs, I'll always take the former. But - hey - at least I'll walk up it, rather than stand on the right. That's where I'm at on the scale. Dark Souls is like taking the stairs while dragging a VW Beetle and simultaneously cramming for a PHD in Gizzard Studies.
Conversely, I don't want my games too easy. If I can breeze through a game without ever dying, then I feel like I'm being spoken down to.
Everything about Dark Souls is difficult, from the gameplay itself, to the obscure storyline and vagueness of the world. Nothing is handed to you on a plate. And that's precisely what its acolytes love, and I can't stand. It feels wilfully challenging, and that irritates me.
And I wonder if my feelings around this issue are simply more moderate reflections of the more extreme fringes of the debate.
Like the circus performer who fell onto his own stilt... I'm torn, see. Part of me doesn't care that I can't play or enjoy Dark Souls.
I mean, I don't much like racing games or flight simulators, but I wouldn't for a second expect those to include some sort of arcade mode.
I probably wouldn't care about any of this if Dark Souls looked and played like some avant-garde Polish animation, but because it bears more than a passing resemblance to the sort of game I usually enjoy... I feel like I'm missing out.
Worse than that, I feel outside of a clique.
And I wonder if that's what those demanding Dark Souls feature difficulty levels are also feeling: that they're being left out of the conversation. Nobody likes that. Back in the 90s, I always felt outside of the games journo clique. I mean, I still do, more or less.
Now, as then, I'm kind of on the fringes of it all. Standing out, but not really being part of it, because I seem incapable of writing anything without mentioning The Kraken. It's a sickness. Pretty much every gaming article or review I've ever written has mentioned The Kraken. I wish I knew why, but I'm compelled. The Kraken simply fascinates me, just as it does millions of other Krakenheads.
At school I was the same. Seemingly too idiosyncratic to be part of the popular clique; you know - the sorted kids, the ones whose hair just seemed to do what they wanted without them even trying. The kids who looked like they'd all been pressed out of the same mould. They'd want to talk about the latest chart hits, and I'd just want to talk about The Kraken.
I might be digressing a little too far, but it's the same sort of feeling regarding Dark Souls III; I wanted to be part of that gang, but I never fit in.
Physically, I was too tall, too odd looking. Forever rolling around in puddles pretending to be The Kraken, or staging comedy revue shows to raise money for an expedition to find The Kraken. I even encouraged my peers to call me by the nickname "Kraken Bob", but there were few takers.
See, that's the thing about The Kraken. Once it gets under your skin, there's no talking about anything else.
Anyone who has read the 13th Century Icelandic saga Örvar-Oddr - the first documented reference to the legendary sea monster (known in Icelandic as Hafgufa) - will tell you the same.
I talk about The Kraken singular, but of course, the narrator of the Norwegian scientific text Konungs skuggsjá, written circa 1250, believed there were two Kraken in existence.
He stated: "It seems to me as though there must be no more than two in the oceans, and I deem that each is unable to reproduce itself, for I believe that they are always the same ones."
Many believe that The Kraken is no more than a mislabelling of the giant squid - typical descriptions of it refer to tentacles with spiked suckers. However, earlier texts seem to describe a more crab-like creature.
Regardless, whether the origin of The Kraken myth is biological or geological - some suggest that undersea volcanic activity may have been attributed to he actions of the creature - there is little doubt that The Kraken is one of the more fascinating legends to have gripped our imaginations.
The Danish Bishop Erik Pontoppidan was an 18th Century cryptozoographer, who wrote a two volume work on the natural history of Norway. In it he put forward his own evidence for the existence of the elusive Kraken (as well as mermaids and sea serpents).
Some critics of cryptozoology have argued that prior to Pontoppidan's writing, alleged sightings of such creatures were relatively rare, and that he may have provided a cultural template which led to myths such as the Loch Ness Monster, and other beasts.
Certainly, Pontoppidan was name-checked in Herman Melville's Moby Dick - published in 1851 - while Alfred Tennyson's 1830 sonnet, The Kraken - could be attributed with spreading the myth far beyond Scandinavia:
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
From Moby Dick, to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, to Clash of the Titans, to Pirates of the Caribbean... regardless of the actual origins of The Kraken, there's no doubt that its legend will continue to fascinate the makers of popular culture for generations to come - whether you're a Krakenhead or not.
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