[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Rayman and Frustration

June 10th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Ubisoft Rayman Advertisement - Original first Rayman Game - 1995Rayman: Missing limbs since 1995

I bought Rayman for the Atari Jaguar shortly after it came out in 1995, hopeful it would bring some Mario-style platforming magic to Atari’s “64-bit” machine. While lushly illustrated with a deep color palette, I found the gameplay and the controls a little kludgy, and I had trouble advancing past one of the first few stages. I gave up and moved on to other games.

Shorty thereafter, I lent Rayman and my Jaguar to my brother and his roommate to play at college, and they beat it within a few days. Determination was just as important as skill when it came to completing video games in those days, and I had no motivation to torture myself with a frustrating game.

Which brings me to a tangential point: When I was a kid, if I couldn’t beat a video game, I thought it meant that I was a bad video game player. I thought it was my fault. But years later I realized that the games that frustrated me most were just poorly designed.

Not to say that all difficult games are bad games — in fact, I’d say there’s a big difference between “difficult” and “frustrating.” Merely difficult games are still fun even if you fail; they make you want to try again to complete a challenge. Frustrating ones feel unfair and make you want to smash your game console with a hammer.

One of my friends did that to his NES once. He also threw it off his second story apartment balcony. Ah; those were the days.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, p.129]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever visited physical violence against a video game console or controller?

9 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Rayman and Frustration”

  1. Multimedia Mike Says:

    Per the violence– it’s a bit fuzzy, but my most likely candidates (probably a thrown controller) were while fighting Mike Tyson in his eponymous NES title, as well as Ninja Gaiden’s level 6-2 on the same system.

  2. Dan Helton Says:

    “When I was a kid, if I couldn’t beat a video game, I thought it meant that I was a bad video game player. I thought it was my fault. But years later I realized that the games that frustrated me most were just poorly designed.”

    YES! Me too!

    It took me growing up, and dozens of profanity-laden episodes of “The Angry Video Game Nerd”, to realize the difference between difficult and horrible design.

  3. Multimedia Mike Says:

    It’s funny to start entertaining this notion that games of yore weren’t necessarily super-challenging, just poorly designed. I run with various communities of crotchety old gamers who remember “real” games from the good ol’ days that actually provided challenge. They grumble that kids these days have it too easy with games that hold their hands.

    I usually mock them openly when they start on these rants. 🙂 Real hardships they had to endure to become the hardened gamers they are today, gamers with true character!

  4. Alexander Says:

    First off, I totally see the disparity between modern games and oldschool games in terms of challenge. That’s usually why my NES, Atari, SNES, etc. barely got played by my college roommates over the past few years.

    As for damaging controlers/systems, I’ve thrown controllers on most every one I own at some point, save for the delicate ones. There are a few specific instances worth mention:

    I knocked around my Genesis after a frustrating level in Sonic & Knuckles one time, fearing I destroyed it (thankfully it’s fine).

    I smashed an off-brand Gamecube controller into the system last year while trying to defeat the Omega Pirate in Metroid: Prime for the 100th time. It shattered all over the room, but the system was fine. Ive been trying to beat that guy for over 10 years now, to no avail.

    I use to throw my Game Boy Advance around once in awhile, whenever a level in some game got too frustrating for me. Unfortunately I took it a step too far when I pushed my thumbs into a Gameboy Advance SP’s screen until it cracked. I refer to that as my most strong bout of Super Mario Bros. induced rage (I was 13). Destroyed the poor system, much to my dismay. Learned not to trifle with something so delicate.

  5. V Says:

    Games coddle players now, they used to be much, much harder in the 8 & 16 bit generations.

  6. Ration.ale Says:

    Disney’s Mickey Mania and Disney’s Magical Quest were, by far, the most difficult. Civilization was just plain frustrating and poorly adapted to the SNES.

    Destroyed a couple of controllers trying to get that little mouse to move the way I wanted him to.

  7. technotreegrass Says:

    I smacked around my NES a lot after blowing myself blue didn’t work to get the game working right. Unfortunately I ended up destroying this way by breaking one of the parts inside. R.I.P. Faithful Friend.

  8. Dan Helton Says:

    The designers of the original Famicom/NES controller must’ve known how frustrated kids would chuck it across the room after losing to a boss or failing to make a hard jump for the 4000th time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a broken original NES controller. You’d think it was made of kevlar and titanium.

  9. Jistuce Says:

    I’ve thrown one controller in rage, ever.
    It was an NES Advantage, in accordance with the ancient wisdom of “go big or go home.” Slammed it down on the bed hard enough to turn on the slow-mo switch when it bounced up again.
    I likely would’ve hurled it across the room if it wasn’t, well, an Advantage. Weighted steel baseplates are not appropriate for air travel, if you know what I mean.

    To be fair, when you get locked in a wall in Blaster Master while in area 7, with no way to recover or even to suicide, you’re allowed to lose your temper.

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