I've made some progress in the last five hours. I now have only one boss to defeat before I can unlock the final level. My star total is 39, which isn't too terrible, after my previous dry spell. I'm not confident about getting over that last hump, but then again, I wasn't confident about any part of the game leading up to this point, so maybe I'm overthinking things.
I suspect that there will come a time when I mellow to the game, taking its unforgiving difficulty as just another individual quirk, something to distinguish it from other, similar titles but which holds no particular emotional weight. Much like I feel when looking back at Darks Souls - "well, golly, that was tough, the people who play it must be pretty adventurous."
However, the time of reconciliation is not now. I need to be on edge when I tackle a difficult video game. I need an adrenaline-fueled alertness that forces me to pay attention every single second of the fight. I need my heart to pound when the boss has a sliver of health left and I'm surrounded by minions and only a perfectly-timed series of blocks and dodges will save me. I need to feel cheated out victory so I'll redouble my efforts when I inevitably fail.
Or maybe I'm confusing correlation with causality, and I'm just listing the things that happen when I win. I sometimes try to break my pattern and play the game mindfully and with a calm heart. I have a mantra I repeat to myself - "if you can do it twice in a row, you can do it four times in a row, if you can do it four times in a row, you can do it eight times in row, if you can do it eight times in a row, you can do it ias often as you need to." Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. This leads me to believe that life is a cruel game of chance and nothing we do makes the slightest bit of sense.
Or, you know, a reaction that is proportionate with playing a video game.
It was probably a mistake to try and do a single-player run on a game balanced for multiplayer. If only I had three friends with the time and commitment to play FORCED with me for hours on end, maybe I'd be in a more objective position right now. Still, objectivity is overrated. I'll probably wind up saying nice things about FORCED when I'm all done with it and ready to move on, but for now, I still need to hate it a little.