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Words: Matthew Fuller
When you think of difficult games, what comes to mind? The sudden urge to smash your controller into a million pieces? The uncontrollable rage when you can't kill a boss in Dark Souls or Bloodborne? Or maybe you just want to weep in utter despair? Well, I'm sure your first thought wasn't spicy food.
That's not the case for Derek Yu, creator of the notably challenging and award-winning indie game Spelunky, who in a recent design talk at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) compared the difficulty of games to the tongue-tingling, throat-burning sensation of eating some tasty wings. Yes, it's an odd comparison, but after hearing what he had to say, turns out it's quite a good analogy. (And no, despite the very subject-apt thumb up there, this has nothing to do with The Simpsons.)
Spelunky 2 released to a great reception in 2020, and arrives on Switch soon alongside the first game - check out its Nintendo trailer, below...
"It can be hard for people who don't like spicy food to understand why spicy food fans love it so much," he said, as reported by PC Gamer. "If you're just starting out on your spicy food journey, you can't taste the flavour, just the heat. And the pain." He then goes on to explain his rather creative comparison, saying: "Similarly, spiky games generate a lot of enthusiasm from their fans, but for people who aren't there yet, they can just seem hard."
"The difficulty is only one part of the equation," he continues. "It's the heat part of spicy food. I don't eat spicy food to feel pain. But the pain wakes me up, and it's the gateway to interesting flavours that you can't find anywhere else. The flavour is what makes spicy food good. And it gets easier and easier to withstand the heat, the more you experience it."
To simplify, he is saying how difficult games aren't always being difficult just to make you want to put your fist through the screen. If you're constantly eating Nando's hottest wings, eventually you'll (likely) go from burning your face to a cinder to licking up every drop of sauce like it was nothing. Yu suggests difficulty plays only one part in the overall package of a game, and with time and practise games Spelunky or the upcoming Elden Ring become easier to play - and might actually be more fun.
You know, once you get over that initial blinding rage when a simple zombie kills you eight times in a row. Not that I know how that feels...