Challenges are any and all initiatives that a gamer takes to make an experience with video games more challenging. This can be done by adding restrictions to the way a game is played to trying to beat a game in the fastest time possible. Restrictions added by players are referred to as Artificial Rules. You can combine multiple rules to create a challenge for any game. Challenges are usually named after the rules they follow. For example, let's imagine someone wants to beat a game without saving, you can call that rule "No Saves". Now let's add to that and add a rule that doesn't let the player use special attacks. The resulting challenge could be named "No Saves No Specials". Other challenges combine so many rules that they begin using completely different names.
Why would anyone want to make a game harder on themselves?
Some gamers have fun with games that are very challenging or those which reward effort and have significant skill curves. Unfortunately, many games, while well produced, are launched without much challenge to them. By creating challenges, gamers can add the element of difficulty or accomplishment to games without much work.
Challenges are made up of one or more rules. Any rule not already present in a game's mechanics that is added on by the player is called an Artificial Rule. Artificial Rules can range from something simple, like not using a skill available to the player, to never using save functions, and more. Some rules apply mostly to specific genres of games, for example, a No Items Rule would apply to RPG's or other games with itemization. Other rules, such as Speed Run, can apply to all genres of games.
A speedrun is a play-through or recording of a whole video game or a selected part of it completed in the fastest time possible. Imposing other rules on top of a speedrun can affect its fastest time.
Many games have save features that enable a player to save his or her progress and resume playing later from the point in the game where a save was created. A "No Saves" rule disallows using any save feature whatsoever, and forces a player to restart his or her progress from the very beginning should they see a Game Over screen. Needless to say, this is one of the more punishing rules, but can offer rewards for people who believe they have mastered a particular game.
No Hit / No Miss
Usually employed alone in action games such as Mega Man, or a shooting game, this rule involves never getting hit, ever. Getting hit with a No Hit / No Miss rule in play means resetting the entire challenge from the beginning.
This rule applies to any game where the player can die, also known as losing a life. The idea of the challenge is to complete the game without dying once. For example in the game Super Mario Brothers for the Nintendo Entertainment system, the player would have to complete the entire game without losing a life. To make it even more challenging, the player could not use the warp zones located in various levels in the game to increase the number of levels they would have to complete from 8, to 32.
No "reviving" or "resurrecting" a fallen ally. Applied to any game where a character can die or become "knocked out".
Starting Items Only
Applied to any game where the player character(s) start with a pre-defined set of items. This starting set of items must be used from the start of the game until completion. Changing or upgrading items is not allowed.
Found Items Only
This rule applies to any game where the player can buy items, and or equipment in a shop. When playing with the rules of this challenge, the player is not allowed to buy anything from shops, and must only use what they find while playing the game. For example, in the game Diablo the player has access to a few shops in town, such as the Blacksmith Griswold. From the very beginning of the game, the player would be forbidden to buy any items from the shops. The only way the player can possibly attain new items and equipment is by the shops. The only way the player can possibly attain new items and equipment is by exploring the Cathedral, and what it leads into. This is also known as "living off the land".
No items may be used. This rule applies to any genre of games where items, objects, or equipment may be used.
No Powerups / Pickups
Usually applied to action games, this rule means no picking up any powerups or special pickups.
No Unique Game System
This rule can take various names and depends on a specific system from a specific game being banned. For example, in Final Fantasy 7, the player is able to use a Materia System to make his characters stronger. By banning specific systems, a new rule is made unique to that game, which results in more challenging gameplay. Banning the Materia System from Final Fantasy 7 would result in a rule called "No Materia".
This rule applies to any game where the player is able to control more than one character. The rule limits the player to never using more than one character, usually the main character required for story line purposes. The rule can be overlooked for sections of the game where the player is forced to have more than one character present. Otherwise, the player is never allowed to use more than the specified solo character.