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No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction

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McCoy: Well, that's the second time man's been thrown out of Paradise.
Kirk: No, no, Bones, this time we walked out on our own. Maybe we weren't meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through, struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can't stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums.
Star Trek: The Original Series, "This Side of Paradise"

A common theme in fiction is the concept that getting the result you want is more satisfying when you actually earn it through your own actions, rather than having it simply handed to you in some way.

The scenarios that result in this revelation can take a number of forms, though there's three that are most common:

  1. The character is in a position to force someone else to give them what they want, either through magical or mundane coercion or because the other character is their subordinate.
  2. The character finds themselves in an environment where it's literally impossible to fail for some reason.
  3. The character's rival or enemy is in a position of complete helplessness, and thus the character can effortlessly best their opponent in some way.

But whatever the scenario, the character has the same revelation: It's just not satisfying to win unless the opposing force or obstacle has the chance to reject them, hurt them, or fight back. Alternatively, the character may go through the action anyway, only to realize afterwards how unsatisfying it was.


Supertrope to

Sister trope to Mind over Manners. When someone playing a Video Game thinks this, it becomes It's Easy, So It Sucks! and may lead to Self-Imposed Challenge.

The person who feels the way is often someone who loves a challenge. Compare I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, Worthy Opponent, and Mook Chivalry, which can be motivations for this trope, or Lonely at the Top, No Guy Wants to Be Chased, and Victory Is Boring, which can be caused by this trope. Contrast Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!, And Now You Must Marry Me, Psychic-Assisted Suicide, and Kick Them While They Are Down, where in similar situations, the lack of opposition is favorable for the character. The Combat Pragmatist is very unlikely to have this mindset, and if anything, would prefer to avoid as much challenge as possible.


Also contrast More Than Mind Control, where you can have your cake and eat it too, by both controlling someone and getting their genuine submission.

Converse to Misery Builds Character, which is about how problems can (sometimes) be good for you rather than a complete lack of problems being bad.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, Kenpachi Zaraki considers his time wasted if his opponent can't put him in genuine danger. To this end, he deliberately handicaps himself by wearing bells on his hair so he can't surprise anyone, wearing a power-suppressing eyepatch, and swinging his sword around one-handed. Even with all this, he's still among the most powerful people in the Gotei 13.
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes, this is one of the primary reasons why Reinhard von Lohengramm wanted to battle with Yang Wen-li whenever the opportunity arose. Having climbed to the highest military rank by his early twenties (and later crowned himself emperor), all that is left for Reinhard is wanting a good challenge from the one of the most brilliant tactical geniuses in the whole galaxy. The Battle of Vermilion is a prominent example: he is so disappointed that his victory was handed to him from outside the battlefield that he could not bring himself to thank Hildegard von Mariendorf, who engineered his victory, even though her plan had saved him from the brink of defeat and possible death.
  • In One Piece, Luffy would much rather quit being a pirate than have the location of the titular treasure handed to him on a silver platter, because the reason why he became a pirate was to go an amazing adventure — and there's no adventure in having everything handed to you.
  • In One-Punch Man, this is Saitama's main problem. He's strong enough to beat anyone with just one punch, but that just means that facing off against giant monsters is about exciting as going shopping.
    • Boros, the Dominator of the Universe also faced this, rampaging across planets simply to find someone who could prove a match to his incredible strength. He does, and it doesn't end well for him.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Thor eventually becomes Almighty Thor, and uses his new abilities to completely curb-stomp everybody in his path. He says fighting opponents who can't win is boring, and asks if anybody can give him a real challenge. Touma Kamijou obliges by weathering a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from him, then tricking him into stepping in the path of a passing train.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • One of Goku's defining traits is that he will always fight fair if he can, and will often hold back his full potential in order to make things more interesting if the stakes aren't too high. Given that by the end of the Z series and on into Super he is literally in the top 5 most powerful fighters in the universe, 99.9% of people in said universe wouldn't be able to touch him otherwise. Shown in his afterlife training when the Western Kai challenges him to show off his moves with ten tons of weight attached to each limb:
      King Kai: Goku, just transform into a Super Saiyan!
      Goku: Well yeah, but won't that make it too easy?
    • The Saiyan race as a whole are Challenge Seekers who enjoy fighting strong people and testing their limits and skills against them. At the same time, however, they prefer to fight people who can give them a reasonable challenge before they get bored and decide to curb-stomp them; when faced with a superior opponent, they tend to completely lose their cool. Goku is unique in this because he wants to face opponents who actually have a chance of defeating him.
    • Unlike his Bad Future counterpart, who relishes in mass-murder and destruction, the present-day Android 17 enjoys himself much more when he's got an even fight on his hands as opposed to a Curb-Stomp Battle, even leaving his defeated opponents alive so they can come back stronger and fight him again in the latter case. He also only follows his programmed directive to seek and destroy Goku for the sake of something entertaining to do, which he makes clear by deliberately sacrificing efficiency for fun in this hunt.
    • After becoming perfect, Cell quickly becomes bored after stomping Vegeta into the ground, and Trunks' Ultra Super Saiyan form proves to be too slow to give him a good challenge. So, he decides to create the Cell Games so Goku and his friends can become stronger to challenge him and test his perfect power. Never once does Cell consider that there's the possibility that any of the Z-Fighters could become strong enough to defeat him (having Vegeta's DNA might have something to do with it), only expecting them to be able to give him a good fight. This eventually leads Cell to push Gohan to his breaking point so he can unleash his hidden power after Goku declares Gohan to be the strongest fighter in the Cell Games. He gets his wish, all right, and promptly get his ass kicked, resulting in an incredible Villainous Breakdown.
    • Much like Cell, Super Buu sees himself as the strongest in the universe and wants to test his ability against strong opponents. Anyone who can't provide him with a challenge is immediately killed. At the same time, he only wants to fight people he knows he can beat. When fighting against an opponent who completely outclasses him like Ultimate Gohan or Vegito, he has a breakdown.
    • In Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Frieza's minions suggest he use the Dragon Balls to wish for a body that cannot ever take damage, but he declines, saying it would make his battles too boring.
  • In Ah! My Goddess during the Queen Sayoko arc, Sayoko enters a demonic contract so she can finally defeat Belldandy. After compelling Belldandy to become her magically-bound slave Sayoko soon cancels the contract. As she explains to Mara, a victory relying on demonic magic meant nothing compared to personally crushing her rival.
  • Endeavor in My Hero Academia feels this way after All Might retires and he gains the number one hero rank. Believing that he didn't really earn it since it was just given to him.
    • This is also why Bakugo demands that Todoroki use both his fire and ice powers during the sports festival tournament. (Normally he only uses ice, due to a grudge against his fire-powered father.) It ends up ruining the festival for Bakugo; instead of feeling proud that he impressed the whole nation with his skills, he walks away feeling insulted that (in his own mind) Todoroki didn't think he was worth using his full power on. Making matters worse, Todoroki did use both elements in the previous round's match with Midoriya, Bakugo's biggest rival, and likely would have lost if he hadn't; Bakugo can't stand that his rival got to take on a bigger challenge from the same opponent, and feels cheated out of any indirect competition with Midoriya.
  • Tenchi Universe has intergalactic bounty hunter, Nagi, who has been relentlessly chasing down Ryoko. Near the end of the series when the cast were about to head out to fight Kagato, Ryoko and Nagi encounter each other in the ship's hall. Ryoko had already been severely injured in the previous fight with Kagato and tells Nagi that if she wants to settle things between them, then they should fight now. Nagi simply taps Ryoko in her wound, causing her to scream out in pain. The bounty hunter walks off, saying that fighting Ryoko while in such an injured state would leave a bad taste in her mouth.
  • In Kakegurui, this is pretty much the central theme. Protagonist Yumeko Jabami is wholly obsessed with gambling; not winning or losing, not the prospect of winning lots of money, but the risk of potentially losing or winning everything, and having no absolute certainty of either. She despises those who even slightly interfere with perfectly balanced odds, though she considers cheating to just be another element that makes games of chance exciting.

    Comic Books 
  • This trope sums up the Joker's relationship with Batman. The Clown Prince of Crime absolutely refuses to merely kill the Caped Crusader, explaining that he needs to best Batman with an extraordinary crime before he goes. In one comic, Batman, who's already exhausted from battling another villain, stumbles onto one of the Joker's simpler schemes and collapses without much of a fight. The Joker briefly contemplates killing him, but eventually decides that it's too easy, and leaves the Dark Knight unconscious without harming the crimefighter.
  • The Riddler may hate losing, but he doesn't like winning without a fight either. In Batman: Zero Year, he's actually glad when Batman turns out to be alive as almost everyone else had given up trying to defeat him.
  • In Marvel Versus DC, Wonder Woman discovers Thor's missing hammer, misplaced by his fight with Captain Marvel. Grabbing it, she ends up with Thor's power on top of her own. When Storm of the X-Men arrives for her fight with Wonder Woman, the latter muses that she could easily win with her new power... the considers it boring and unfair and discards the hammer and the power for a slightly more fair fight.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Part of why Harry Potter dislikes Quidditch in Breath of the Inferno is because as a dragon animagus, he can sense gold, so even without his Super Senses he still always knows where the golden Snitch is. That and it's more fun to fly under his own power.
  • In Alpha and Omega, Shinji describes to Rebuild-Asuka that he gave up the power of God after he fixed the world because it was so boring. He could do anything he wanted with ease, which removed the point of doing anything at all.
    Shinji: Imagine a videogame where nothing can hurt or attack you and you can instantly kill every enemy without even pushing a button. Absolute power doesn't corrupt absolutely; it leaves you absolutely sick of it.
  • The skahs (warriors) of Baravada are defined by this trope in With Strings Attached. They would not dream of fighting civilians, for example, because they would be too easy to defeat.
    • And in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, we're reminded of this because all the tirin (civilians) have been taken to live elsewhere—taking with them their knowledge of Sage magic, which the four desperately need, but which the skahs wizards never studied much because it made things too easy.
  • In a moment of introspection in The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor, Naruto laments that his godhood means he hasn't felt the rush of a life and death struggle in centuries. Not only is he immortal, but any failures, setbacks, or even difficulties are due exclusively to him and Xanna refusing to use their powers as a Self-Imposed Challenge.
  • In the Invader Zim and The Loud House fanfic Siblings Of Doom, Lincoln ends up beating Gaz repeatedly in video games. The latter becomes deeply obsessed with beating Lincoln, even following him to his house. Lincoln considers throwing a game, but Lynn points out that Gaz would hate pity even more then an earned victory.
  • After thousands of years of loops in Screw You Fate, I'm Going Home, Lelouch remarks about how boring "the game" has become because he always wins. After spending a loop refusing to get involved in the conflict with Britannia, Lelouch decides to see if he can defeat Britannia without Geass.

  • Superman II's villain, General Zod, describes exactly this early on, and is shown bored as hell in the White House after taking over the world. He sounds sad and disappointed when he utters the line.
    Zod: I win. I always win. Is there no one on this planet to even challenge me?
  • In Spartacus Varinia asks her current master why he doesn't just have his way with her. He tells her he wants her to give herself to him.
  • Star Trek: Generations has the character-against-environment variant. In a matrix that's sort of a fantasy world, Captain Kirk is riding a horse as it jumps across a chasm, in a reconstruction of his old homestead. Then he realizes how futile it is jumping across the chasm as he did many times before, since in the fantasy version there's no way he could be hurt if he fell in, removing all the thrill from it.
  • In The Matrix, Agent Smith believes this to be the reason behind the failure of the first iteration of the Matrix, which was designed as a perfect utopia. He rationalizes that humans define themselves through misery and suffering, and thus paradise was a dream they couldn't accept as reality. The actual reason is that, to accept the Matrix, humans need to believe they have a choice in the matter, even if they aren't really aware of it.
  • The Beast in Kung Fu Hustle is introduced locked up in a mental institution, but he could easily break out any time he wishes. He voluntarily stays there because there doesn't seem to be anyone left who can offer a challenge and put up a good fight against him.
  • Gladiator: In one match, Maximus kills each of his opponents extremely quickly, leaving his audience totally silent, which makes him chastise them by saying "Are you not entertained?!" Proximo also criticizes Maximus for this, urging him to Win the Crowd when he fights.
  • A deleted scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park has Roland Tembo bringing this trope up with Ajay. Tembo notes that he has become such an effective hunter that not only do his latest hunting expeditions wrap up too easily to be thrilling, but he has also started feeling bad for the relatively defenseless animals he is killing. This is what motivates Ajay to bring him along on the Isla Sorna expedition to hunt the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.

  • Angela from Super Powereds felt this way about refusing the title of Captain Starlight. While she could have never gone to the trouble of earning it, she wouldn't have felt like she was actually making a choice in deciding that she didn't want to just mimic the fame of her grandfather. She also feels this way about winning Chad's affection, since most other male characters she can easily seduce.
  • The Sax Rohmer novel, The Golden Scorpion: The Yellow Peril villain Fo-Hi, who has spent years training himself to be The Spock in order to gain supernormal mental abilities, including limited mind control, falls in love with the Distressed Damsel. Only to find that the very strength of this new emotion is causing his mind control ability to force her to agree, despite his wanting her free acceptance of his love. Since he refuses to lie a false love would be hollow to him.
  • In Anansi Boys, Spider can make people believe or do what he wants them to. In general, he just considers it a good way to have fun with people, but when he starts to get emotionally close to someone he feels a lot more conflicted about it.
  • Darth Vader suffers from this during the events of Shadows of the Empire. Luke's flying during the Battle of Yavin and their duel on Cloud City gave him the best challenge he'd had in years. Suddenly, fighting against his lightsaber droids and blasting Rebels in his TIE Advanced x1 was too easy now and left him disgusted in how easy it was.
  • In The Perilous Gard, the main character is offered a love potion to give to her love interest by the fairy queen. She declines, because she wants him to really love her.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: In "The Mule", the villain admits that he grew up lonely and unloved, so he used his mutant powers to force people to be his friends. Finding someone willing to be his friend without forcing it was so novel that he couldn't justify Brainwashing her. Because of this flaw, he lost his best chance at conquering the galaxy.
  • In Assassins of Gor a young chess prodigy is forced by the ruler to play a game of chess against a foolish simpleton. The prodigy at first refuses, saying it would be an insult to the Game, until he's threatened with death.
  • The whole purpose of both The Most Dangerous Game the story as well as the trope in general. In the original short story, the villain is a big-game hunter who got bored with dumb animals and started hunting humans who could present more of a challenge. Then he finds another almost equally-bored big-game hunter who would be even more of a challenge than random sailors who don't know how to really fight back.
  • Agatha Christie invokes this trope in a sad way for "The Apples of Hesperides," one of the short stories in The Labours of Hercules. Emery Power, an incredibly rich man, hires Hercule Poirot to track down an extremely valuable (30,000 pounds-worth) golden goblet he had previously purchased at an auction and was stolen before he could receive it. Poirot eventually discovers the missing chalice at a small convent in Ireland; the thief's daughter had been a nun there, and she donated the goblet without realizing just how priceless it was. At Poirot's suggestion, Power lets the nuns keep the chalice—he's more interested in the knowledge that he owned the cup than the cup itself. But when Poirot returns to the Mother Superior and tells the whole story, he remarks that Power is a desperately unhappy man: his wealth has made him able to buy or obtain anything he wants, which has taken all the challenge—and therefore all the joy—out of his life.
  • In Bridge of Birds, the wise man Li Kao, who has a slight flaw in his character, tells Number Ten Ox that he would actually have become a criminal like his parents if he hadn't found getting away with crimes to be so easy it was boring and that solving crimes was more of a challenge for him.
  • It turns out that this is the biggest problem facing Brakebills graduates in The Magicians. Most students tend to be highly-competitive challenge-oriented individuals who flourish while studying the Difficult, but Awesome art of magic, but go to seed without something to focus on. Worse still, magic is capable of satisfying all material needs once mastered, so life becomes frustratingly easy. Some graduate magicians waste their time with pointless hobbies, some descend into hedonism, while others begin taking serious risks while Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life - as is the case with Quentin and the main characters.

    Live Action TV  
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Warren makes a robot girlfriend who looks and acts exactly like a real girl - except it agrees with him 100% and does nothing but try to please him. Eventually he meets someone who challenges him, disagrees with, and requires him to actually try to make her happy. Suddenly his pleasure-bot holds no appeal so he leaves her for the one that challenges him. Of course, being a spineless creep, he doesn't so much break up with his robot girlfriend or even shut her down, he just leaves her to run down her batteries.
  • The Brady Bunch:
    • In one episode Bobby is all bent out of shape that he's the only one in the family without a trophy. He tries selling magazine subscriptions, since there's a trophy for the one who sells the most, and seems to be doing quite well. But Cindy accidentally comments that their parents put their friends up to buying most of the subscriptions, so Bobby cancels those orders, saying that a trophy won from that wouldn't be worth anything.
    • In another episode where Jan thinks she's no good at anything, Greg has the great idea of everybody throwing games of skill for her to win: Greg throws a game of Ping Pong, Marcia & Cindy lose at Monopoly, and Peter & Bobby lose at darts. Cindy accidentally spills the beans to their parents though, and they convince the kids that winning that way doesn't help Jan. Greg apologizes to her on behalf of the group and of course they're Easily Forgiven.
  • In Babylon 5, during the middle of deciding which two of his three wives to divorce, Londo is laid low by a poisoning, and one of his wives has a blood type which can save him. Though she actually doesn't like him and wouldn't entirely mind seeing him die as she would be his widow, she donates her blood to save him anyway because she doesn't want to win her battles in such a one-sided way.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In the episode "The Squire of Gothos", Trelaine repeatedly complains that hunting Kirk is "too easy" to provide the fun he'd hoped for.
    • The page quote comes from "This Side of Paradise", where the crew comes upon a seeming paradise planet with Kirk musing that humanity wasn't really meant for such a thing.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • In "The Neutral Zone" Ralph Offenhouse has this view regarding the 24th century society (what little he knows of it) since he was a financier, a job the moneyless economy of the Federation has no use for. Picard tells him that the challenge is to "improve yourself" (what this means isn't explained). In the Expanded Universe he becomes the Federation Ambassador to the Ferengi later after adapting.
    • In "Elementary Dear Data," as Data has read every Sherlock Holmes book, he is able to deduce the entire plot by remembering the plot when he and Geordi play in the holodeck. So Geordi orders the computer to create a new mystery and plot worthy of challenging Data. The computer brings the Moriarty character to full sentience and awareness of his surroundings beyond the limits of his program. From inside the holodeck, he is able to devise a means of destroying the ship. It also crafts a separate Holmes-like mystery which isn't just an amalgamation of plots and tropes from the books. Data solves the latter but cannot overcome the former problem alone.
    • In "A Fistful of Datas", Worf and his son Alexander are in a Western holodeck program. Playing sheriff, Worf easily defeats the outlaw Eli Hollander, but Alexander complains it's much too easy, so he resets the program to a higher difficulty level. As Worf likes a challenging fight, he approves the increased difficulty.
    • In "The Outrageous Okona", Data attempts to understand humor using a holodeck simulation. When he realizes that the simulated audience laughs no matter how badly he bombs, he shuts down the program.
  • The Hirogen from Star Trek: Voyager are like this. The more powerful and cunning the prey, the more enjoyable the hunt. This comes back to bite them on the ass when they program holographic prey that become more dangerous than their creators.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: In "The Battle At The Binary Stars", the USS Shenzou stands her ground against a fleet of two dozen Klingon warships. The Klingons, rallied together by T'Kuvma to take on the Federation, complain that the single starship poses no challenge for them. Cue the arrival of ten Federation starships to back up Shenzou, and the Klingons are presented with the challenge they wanted. With better than two-to-one odds in their favor, of course.
  • In the Dinosaurs episode "Nuts to War", when the two-legged animals are unable to get pistachios, Fran asks Earl why he can't just have another nut snack. Earl dismisses the idea because they aren't shelled, providing no challenge in getting the nuts out of the shells.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In "Beast's Obsession", Olivia tries to invoke this by not fighting Lewis in hopes that he'll lose his interest in raping her if she doesn't put up a struggle. It works, but he comes up with something arguably worse to do instead.
  • This trope was a running theme on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The witches and warlocks who inhabit the Other Realm have the power to bend reality to their will, getting almost everything they want with a few simple gestures or incantations; many of them also snub Helda, Zelda, and Sabrina for choosing to live in the mortal world and having to actually work to get things. But on at least two occasions, it's revealed that there's general dissatisfaction among magic users:
    • Sabrina's Aunt Vesta lives in "the Pleasure Dome," a place full of perpetual enjoyments (a restaurant with desserts that make you thinner, a giant amusement park, a mall that never closes, etc.) At the end of the episode, Vesta remarks that the happiness she gets from living there is rather shallow...but then goes with it anyway, laughing that it still feels good.
    • Sabrina's cousin Marigold and her two daughters are not only witches, but also extremely wealthy and spoiled—to the point where the girls don't even dress themselves without using magic. When Marigold breaks the cardinal rule of witchdom by telling a mortal (a plumber who she's fallen for) about her and her daughters' powers, all three lose them. While the children are devastated, Marigold comments that she had magic for hundreds of years, but it never truly made her happy; living in the mortal world for a few days has.
  • In The Librarians, this is at least part of the reason why Ezekiel Jones is on the team. Before becoming a Librarian-in-Training, he was a world-class thief, and as Stone points out, with the resources the Library has given him, he could rob the world blind with barely any effort. Ezekiel replies by saying that that would be too easy, and he likes a challenge.
  • This turns out to be Nakadai Mikoto's backstory in Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger. Due to being the host for half of the Big Bad, he picked up anything he tried with zero effort. After years of intolerable boredom, he found a Transformation Trinket and became a supervillain just because it seemed fun.
  • The robots in Westworld are programmed only to give minimal resistance to the human guests in the park, a fact which seriously bothers The Man in Black; if the robots can't fight back, then nothing that happens in the park actually matters, and he desperately wants them to matter. When the robots later revolt, he's therefore delighted, despite it endangering his life, because at last there's risk and challenge involved.
  • In Season 4 of The Wire, Avon Barksdale has been locked up for a while now, and Omar Little's reputation leads to him being able to terrify the guppies left behind easily. Case-in-point: his first appearance of the season has him going out in a teal bathrobe with no gun to get cereal from a corner store. Every dealer still runs from him, and a drug house drops a package his way just because they don't want any trouble. He quickly gets bored of this, and decides to set up a robbery of Marlo Stanfield, the kingpin who took Avon's crown. The resulting rivalry between them lasts the rest of the series.
  • Space: Above and Beyond: In "Sugar Dirt", the human forces launch an assault to seize a base previously taken by the Chigs. The attack goes off flawlessly, and the humans effortlessly occupy the base and begin settling in. Given that the Chigs typically put up a hellishly difficult fight for the humans at every turn, their failure to defend the base sets off red flags for the human leaders. It was a trap, and a devastating Chig counterattack, including additional forces pulled from another important Chig base, quickly overwhelms the human forces newly occupying the base.
  • The Good Place: This seems to be the problem with the Good Place for some residents, like Hypatia of Alexandria. With everything they want at their command, true fulfillment and purpose are both steadily dissolved over time until they're left in a mindless pleasurable haze.

  • An age-old argument comes up in sports, particularly at the college level and somewhat less so at the high school level, with regards to the level of competition of the opponent. Particularly prevalent in football and basketball, teams will sometimes deliberately schedule games against perennially weak programs to guarantee a win, reasoning that it builds confidence and allows teams to – once a large lead is built – work on untested plays or actual game situations that have given them trouble against better competition, and/or play deep reserves who normally wouldn't see playing time without having to pay much of or any price. On the other hand, other programs – including but not always traditionally strong programs – will schedule games against as strong of teams as possible, believing that one does not get better by consistently playing bad teams, and it is this latter philosophy that fits this trope ... beating or at least being competitive against strong teams, or even just the opportunity to learn from playing the better team after taking a brutal loss, no matter the strength of your own team, has more benefits in the end than soundly and decisively beating a pitifully weak team.

  • In the French classical piece Le Cid by Pierre Corneille, there is a very famous line that says "À vaincre sans péril on triomphe sans gloire." Which roughly translates as "To win without risk is to triumph without glory."

    Video Games  
  • See Challenge Gamer for a player with this mindset. If a game does not have official ways of making the game hard enough to be satisfying for such a player (e.g. harder difficulty levels), they may attempt a Self-Imposed Challenge.
    • Video game reviewer "Yahtzee" Croshaw theorizes that "Challenge" is one third of what makes a good video game, generally speaking (the other thirds being Context and Catharsis). Challenge being relative to the player's ability naturally, and if it's pants-poopingly hard for someone, they might not find it fun to grind through. However, if it's outright insultingly easy, no-one will be able to wake their brain enough to be able to have fun.
  • Speaking of, the Self-Imposed Challenge just reeks of this. Gamers who have gotten so good at a game that the game's intended challenge simply isn't enough for them, so they decide to attempt some utterly bananas challenges like getting to Ganon with no sword, getting to Bowser with no stars, escaping the mansion without firing a bullet, or escaping the BSL Research Station with 0% completion.
  • In Immortal Souls, Big Bad Draconis tells John that he can mind-control his Love Interest Allison into forgiving him for the wrong he did against her, and into saying she loves him. John considers it, but declines, saying he'd rather hope to someday hear it all from her and have her actually mean it.
  • A variant in Mass Effect: when the Reaper Sovereign approached the geth for an alliance, it offered the geth a Reaper body as a reward. A Reaper body would be capable of housing all the geth programs in a single structure, something that the geth would like very, very much, and have been working for hundreds of years on building themselves (they're nowhere close to completion). The geth (most of them, anyway), however, reject this offer, believing that they must "self-determinate", or build their own destiny, not rely on the aid of others.
  • This trope is commonly the reason why Carmen Sandiego went into crime. She was originally an ACME detective (or a former spy, depending on how old the game is), and eventually became the absolute best the agency had ever seen. After a while, though, Carmen became too good at her job, and pulled a massive Face–Heel Turn by becoming a criminal, reasoning that it was a lot more fun to try to outwit her former employers rather than work for them.
  • A running theme in the Sly Cooper games. Sly and his entire family have spent all of their lives robbing master criminals rather than ordinary people, as the latter poses absolutely no challenge at all. Sly sums up their attitude in the first game: "You rip off a master criminal, you know you're a master thief."
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Canderous cites this as the reason he despises the Mandalorian mercenaries and bandits the party encounters. He considers them embarrassments to the armor and dishonorable thugs shaking down farmers and settlers, "taking scraps when they should be taking worlds!" It's also the reason he signs on with a boatload of Jedi and Republic sympathizers. Cracking heads for the local branch of the local crime syndicate is no fun at all - going up against Darth Malak and the massive Sith army in a stolen smuggler's boat? Yeah, that's more like it!
  • Morrigan Aensland, from the Darkstalkers series, is one of the most powerful characters in Capcom's entire pantheon of fighting game characters. Rather than exercise this power, however, she limits her strength just enough so she can be an even match for her opponents, so that her fights can be fun (which she has a biological drive to do: in the world of Darkstalkers, succubi like Morrigan can literally die of boredom).
  • Fate/Grand Order: Scathach has no interest in actually dying, and likes the fact she doesn't age. However, she sometimes wishes she wasn't immortal because she's a Blood Knight, but her fights start to get boring because she is in no danger.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic lives for the thrill of adventure, and while he doesn't go out of his way to seek a conflict or hurt people, there is no doubt that he loves a good fight with anyone that can challenge him. He even states outright in Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic Generations that adventures are no fun if they're "too easy."

    Visual Novels 
  • This trope forms the core motivation for the Big Bad of Dies Irae, Reinhard. He is so powerful that nothing can even hope to stand up to him, yet he also realized just how dull this is and just can't feel alive. Doubly so since he is also a Blood Knight that craves conflict. Hence why he teamed up with the mysterious Mercurius in order to help in creating a foe that is worthy of him that will allow him to go all out for the first time in his life.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has Izuru Kamukura, a man who was granted every talent imaginable artificially implanted into him through extensive brain surgery. However, it came at the expense of his emotions, memories, and everything that made him human. With all of that power and no way to appreciate any of it, he became completely bored and detached from the world.
  • Likewise, the fan game Danganronpa Another has Utsuro, a child born with supernaturally good luck called Divine Fortune. His luck could cure the sick, grant wealth, and always ensured he was safe and got almost exactly whatever it was he desired. However, this meant he never had to work or to apply himself, and the people around him were always trying to exploit his power, including his own parents. He resorted to living on the streets, bored and detached from the world around him.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • On one occasion Xykon tells Roy to go away to level up a few times, and come back when he's tough enough to be a challenging opponent. Xykon is an epic-level Sorcerer lich and thus very few things can actually put up a fight against him. Granted, in the rare times he does face something that can threaten even him (as seen when he fights the ghost of Soon Kim), he becomes pretty uneasy, in large part because he's a Control Freak.
    • Also inverted when Xykon and Team Evil are at Kraagor's Tomb. The tomb is built from magic stone, meaning the lich can't just phase through it. As such, he and his team have to fight the hordes of obscenely powerful monsters put in there. Xykon is actually pretty delighted at the prospect since they're strong enough to give him experience, something very rare at his level. In fact if Redcloak wasn't there to heal his injuries, he probably would've even been defeated at least once.

    Western Animation  
  • An episode of Quack Pack, "Dental Mental", has Huey accidentally get a mind control device surgically attached to his head, which he subsequently uses to win any contest, order anyone around, and eventually take over the world. However, he becomes unsatisfied once he is king of the world, knowing that no one truly respects him and he's being honored only because of the device on his head.
  • In the Futurama episode "Free Will Hunting", Bender is acquitted in court because, as a robot, all decisions are dictated by his programming and he is thus not responsible for his actions. This depresses Bender, since it means he has no choice in how he acts, and goes on a spiritual journey (which he hates doing). Futurama also parodied The Twilight Zone episode above.
  • The Simpsons: When Homer is revealed as the Stonecutters' Chosen One, they start bending over backwards to keep him happy, which includes rigging games so that he always wins. When he goes bowling they count every roll as a strike (with Chief Wiggum even shooting the leftover pins with his revolver), and when they play poker the other Stonecutters show Homer their cards and invent new hands on the spot ("What you've got there is the, Sampler!"). Homer starts getting bored and dissatisfied with this very quickly.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: Professor Venomous was once a widely feared supervillain, but at the behest of other high-level villains like Cosma, he mostly retired to profitable crimes or even legitimate business. He quickly became wildly wealthy, but found it boring and pointless because there was no challenge or action; he’s just doing paperwork, making phone calls, and attending board meetings instead of actually being a supervillain. All he really wants to do is fight heroes and terrorize the world like any self-respecting Mad Scientist. This causes him to form an Odd Friendship with Lord Boxman, because while Boxman is a bumbling idiot, he at least refuses to be a glorified executive and continues to battle heroes, lack of profits be damned.

  • Very broadly speaking, this is one of the explanations sometimes used by philosophers and theologians regarding the purpose of suffering.
  • Video game cheat codes. Same applies to using the console commands and level editors to make the game easier. It can be useful to get past a challenge you simply can't beat (possibly to see the story), it can be interesting to check out alternate ways to play, and it can be an absolute blast when playing around in a Wide Open Sandbox. But just giving yourself the best gear, activating God Mode, and blowing through a game unopposed can get old real fast.
  • Certain hunters, the great memetic badass President Teddy Roosevelt included, feel this way. It's not only cruel, but unsportsmanlike to hunt an animal from the safety of, say, a helicopter, with a gun that is approximately Space-Age in its killing tech.
  • The "ignore them, they'll go away" strategy of dealing with school bullies relied on this trope. The expectation was if you didn't respond to the bully, they'd get bored and leave you alone. As always when applying fiction tropes to Real Life, reality ensued. Actual results of this technique vary widely; sometimes it works, but sometimes the bully is satisfied by the simple ongoing challenge of trying to get noticed again. In any case, "just ignore them" has been acknowledged to be a generally lousy way of handling bullies.

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