Fact: websites like GameFAQs and game-specific Wikis are some of the biggest, most popular websites on the internet. Fact: a lot of gaming culture prides itself on the pursuit and overcoming of difficult challenges. Hmm.
Doesn't it seem like both of these shouldn't be true at once? Looking up how to beat a game, after all, could be considered the antithesis of challenge.
The question of challenge in the age of the walkthrough has been on my mind as I play Shin Megami Tensei IV. Like most of the games in the franchise, it's devilishly difficult. To give you an idea: I experienced at least half a dozen deaths in the tutorial dungeon alone. I think my memory has fudged the number a bit out of embarrassment, to be honest. One of the neat things about preordering the game, though, is that it came with its own guide that I can thumb through.
I've definitely been using it, although it's curious to watch myself justify when it's "okay" for me to do it and when it's not, and why. So far, because the game likes to sic a bunch of tough min-bosses at me, I've looked up a lot of enemy weaknesses. Sometimes, if I'm on the brink of death—low supplies, low health, lost in a dungeon—I might look at a map to see where the nearest exit is.
I'm not alone when it comes to looking up stuff about how a game works.
Admittedly, I've felt a little guilty about it. At first, anyway. Then I realized the game was pretty damned hard even with the extra help. It's difficult to feel guilty about getting a bit of help in a game where a normal enemy you encountered hours ago has just as much of a chance to mess you up as a boss.
Let's contrast that situation with one where I was adamant about not looking stuff up. Immediately, Animal Crossing: New Leaf comes to mind. Most of my friends looked up what conditions you needed to get upgrades, or how to "unlock" stuff, which is fine—for me, much of the joy of the game is the small surprises it can hit me with in its otherwise normal day-to-day game. I figure, knowing that I'll get a coffee shop a week from now isn't as exciting as just having it pop up as an option one day, right?
That fits with a larger ideology when playing Animal Crossing: I just like taking it slow. I try not to farm too many beetles at the island for money. I don't play every day. I don't spend too long playing it, either. Why rush when it's supposed to be a game I play year round? I don't want to get burned out on it, you know?