What is it about an impossible battle or insane boss fight that thrills us? It’s almost masochistic in a way. We fight, we lose. We get up, stretch, grab a Coke and try again. And die. Then we die some more. We start foaming at the mouth, raving and cursing at a computer program for being better than us.
But then something glorious and beautiful happens. We win. For one brief moment, nothing else matters. All our cares are forgotten. Fists pumping in the air, we roar “YES!” so loudly the neighborhood dogs start barking. We take a victory lap around the block while listening to dramatic music. We bask in our own adulation. Damn, it feels good to come out on top!
My Impossible Battle
I’ve played Baldur’s Gate many times. Only recently did I succeed in what is possibly the most difficult fight of the game. Before you can descend into the dungeon of Durlag’s Tower, you have to defeat four wards. This wouldn’t be so hard, except that one of these wards can kill your entire party in about ten blows. No matter what I tried to do, this asshole came along and killed everyone. It was the epitome of an impossible battle.
I tried everything. I imbibed a variety of powerful potions and cast defensive magical spells on my party. It didn’t help. I tried arranging my party in a variety of tactical locations, and then I tried strategic withdrawal. Again and again the bastard cut his way through my heroes. I finally came to the realization that the cleric had to die first. The challenge was in killing him before he was able to lay waste to my entire party.
Fortunately, I had one thing in abundance: potions. My fighters quaffed potions that doubled and tripled their damage dealt; everyone drank oil that doubled their attack speed. The onslaught proved too much for the cleric and he fell. The other wards were no match for a party of fighters with the strength of storm giants. I prevailed at last.
What is the appeal of insane boss fights and ridiculous, impossible battles? I’m no psychologist, but I believe it is the thrill of surmounting obstacles. People love the excitement of achievement and the satisfaction of overcoming a challenge. It’s why we compete in triathlons, scale Kilimanjaro and Everest and try to cook French food. Our achievements are more rewarding when it costs us something to achieve them. Whether it’s learning a difficult piano concerto or beating the entire Dark Souls trilogy, the challenge makes the experience.
Bring on the boss fights.