A Difficult Conversation

Is that title clickbait-y enough?

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A little while back I talked about how using a guide for a game isn’t such a bad thing.  You don’t always have the time to “git gud”, so why not use the resources that are freely available online to help you?  I’ve also recently mentioned that gaming is the only form of entertainment that actively prevents you from accessing more unless you prove you are deserving of it.  There are exceptions of course, with walking simulators allowing pretty much everyone to access the full story regardless of ability level.  Then we have the likes of Star Fox Zero

Star Fox Zero
It’s fine if you don’t like the game because it plays badly. Hell, it’s fine to just plain not like it. But to dislike it because it’s accessible to casual players?!

Now, I haven’t played Star Fox Zero.  Hell, I didn’t even have a Wii U to play it on.  But I am very aware that a lot of people didn’t like it due to it having a poor control scheme.  I’m also aware that a lot of people didn’t like it because it included an invulnerable mode, that made it near impossible for you to fail.  It seems that a lot of gamers weren’t happy that some people would be able to experience the game’s story without the struggle that comes along with it.  This isn’t the only game to do this, in fact a number of recent Mario games have had a similar option in which repeated failure allows you to play through a level whilst invulnerable.  I have seen comments that dislike this feature too.

Mega Man 10 logo
Would an easy mode in Mega Man 10 reduce the feeling of success from those who finish the game as it is?

But why?  Why does it matter if people who find the game challenging have a way of engaging with content later on?  There seems to be this idea that games’ endings, regardless of their supposed target audience, should only be accessed by gamers who have earned it.  To them, I ask this question:  Did you earn the right to see the end of that movie you watched?  Could you skip past the scenes that you didn’t like?  How about that book you read or listened to?  How is gaming such a specialist form of media that you can’t enjoy the story unless you earn it?

DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)
The reboot of Devil May Cry was easier than previous installments, allowing more people to experience it.  It still had super hard difficulty modes to unlock for the hardcore player.

Games tell some genuinely fascinating stories and I don’t see why those stories shouldn’t be enjoyed by everyone.  Anyone can enjoy Firewatch, why can’t everyone enjoy Mass Effect?  I’m not for a second saying that difficulty should be removed from all games, by all means keep Dark Souls difficult, but why couldn’t their be a “casual” mode that removes some of the challenge so a less skilled player can enjoy the world?  Most players would go for the challenge, but some would appreciate a way to explore the world without being brutally struck down at every turn.

Firewatch tower
Walking simulators like Firewatch are something of an exception.  However, the more serious player could take the time to explore more diligently than those who are only here for the story.

A great example of this is in Furi.  This is designed to be a very challenging boss rush game (with a cracking soundtrack I might add) in which you will be defeated over and over.  But if you want to experience the story, then you can select the “Promenade” difficulty, in which the bosses practically lie down for you.  Trophies/achievements won’t unlock in this mode, but you can still discover the plot at a leisurely pace.  If a game that is designed with difficulty in mind can do this, then why can’t others?

Ornstein and Smough
Oh look!  It’s these guys again!  Could you argue there was technically an “easy” mode thanks to the ability to summon?  Does the fact I summoned mean those that didn’t summon enjoyed the game any less?

“Hardcore” gamers!  You can finish your games on the hardest difficulty you like, and well done to you for doing so!  Seriously, beating some of these games on their hardest setting is a huge challenge and overcoming that is one hell of an achievement.  But don’t lock others out of this hobby due to some elitist nonsense.  Embrace the weak players!  Discuss the plot with them!  Tell them about how crazy the game can get!  Maybe they’ll grow to be interested in the challenge side of the hobby.  The great thing about this is that it would actually increase the diversity in games that are released.  Many mock the number of similar games that are released these days, but is that perhaps because some of these games are so accessible?  Would their be more Souls like games if there was a way for more people to enjoy them, thus opening up to a greater number of potential customers?

Down with elitism in gaming!  Up with accessibility options!  Would letting everyone play be such a bad thing really?

37 thoughts on “A Difficult Conversation”

    1. I do worry about those gamers that demand games should be difficult so they aren’t “taken over by the casuals”.
      I will grant that multiplayer is a different animal, but single player modes could and should be enjoyed by everyone.

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      1. Yeah that’s a fair point, it’s not fair that so many people can’t enjoy games because others think they’re not skilled or worthy enough to play. I think the big take away here is that everyone in the community should learn to encourage other players rather than put them down.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Amen to that, brother!

    It’s not even just an accessibility thing for me, either – often it’s mostly about time. If I’m in a position to play a game that’s recently released, I tend to play on “Normal” just so I’m in a position to write a review reasonably quickly. Ditto if I’ve got a few games to play in a short period of time. Later, if I’ve got more time, or I really enjoyed the game – or even if I found it a bit too easy – I might got back and turn the difficulty up, but I really don’t have the time (or patience) to spend hours and hours defeating just one boss or section these days.

    I mean, bollocks to that, right!?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think it’s different when you’re younger. All that time and so little money so playing with a greater challenge makes sense to maximise your time. But when you’re a grown up you just don’t have time to chip away at a boss for 30 minutes when you can turn it down a notch and be done in 10.
      I’ve seen a few arguments for “well it prepares players for the online component”, but is everyone going to play the online mode? With something like Overwatch or any other online only game I do understand, but for most games an option to enjoy it at any level should be available.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, and the prep/practice for online argument only works to a point, too. Even in the toughest Shooters (turned up to hard) online’s an entirely different beast anyway – and the tactics are what change, really.

        Sure, if you’ve completed a linear campaign on hard, you’ll have a few advantages, but you won’t necessarily be in a position to not be (literally) capped in yo’ ass anyways.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s another case of a vocal minority. Folks love to find stuff to complain about, it validates their sad, pointless existence. More accessibility is always a good thing, especially for something like video games. The less niche it becomes, the more options we have, the more games get developed, the more developers surface, etc. We all win!

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  3. But…not everyone likes the same books or movies. That’s why we have different genres. If you don’t like weird David Lynch movies, should David Lynch have to film separate easier to understand versions of all his films so they can be more easily digested by the public? If horror novels are too scary for you, should they all be censored so that everyone and their families can read them? What about all that M-rated stuff? Should everyone have to release special cleaned up versions of everything so everyone that’s under 17 or just plain can’t tolerate mature or graphic content can have a chance? What if I don’t like Firewatch? Do we force the devs to make a version with gun combat? Or are these all absolutely terrifying sentiments?

    I do not endorse any kind of elitism, but none of us are entitled to any special accommodations either. Games with varying difficulty settings are one thing, those choices are there for a reason and are obviously completely optional, but if From Software or whoever else wants their games to be a certain level of difficulty, that’s their choice. We don’t “deserve” to be able to play every game in existence anymore than every moviegoer or book reader “deserves” to enjoy every single story in existence.

    And there are already more pieces of each kind of various media that we enjoy than we can probably ever possibly experience every single piece of in our lifetimes as it is. There’s absolutely no one out there in the dire situation that they can’t find a thing to play because an extremely small percentage of all of the games out there are too hard for them. There are literally thousands of games out there that everyone can play already and there’s extensive video footage freely available to everyone who doesn’t want to actually any given game for various reasons. You can literally pull the phone out of your pocket right now and press a few buttons and be playing dozens of free and easy games within seconds. Games couldn’t be more accessible right now unless they were being piped directly into our eyeballs.

    So do we really want the minority of developers that do things differently to change their vision of their game for no reason other than more mass market appeal? And do we really want everyone under the sun copying and pasting the same formula so often that it becomes an over-saturated, meaningless mess? Don’t we have enough of that going on already?

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      1. I see your point (after I responded to the previous one!) which is why having ways for people to watch gameplay these days is quite so excellent.

        Here’s a thought: how about games like Until Dawn, in which everyone can play but they end up with a suboptimal result? There have been many games over the years that give you a “less good” ending for playing on a lower setting but it allowed those players to experience what the game had to offer.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think your point on movies is somewhat moot here. Assuming you have something with which to watch movies the. You are able to experience that story, nothing is preventing you from watching it and digesting it in your own way. Foreign movies even have subtitles so that I don’t need to learn another language to be able to enjoy it too.

      A good thing about modern gaming is that services such as YouTube mean that someone can watch a “game” without needing to have the ability to defeat boss X which is nice, but I very much feel that there should be as many accessibility options as possible. Would there being an option to play through Dark Souls with an easier set of bosses mean that the experience of those that want to face the real challenge any less enjoyable?

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      1. Why is it moot? You have a blu-ray player, you put in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but then you turn it off because it’s too scary. You COULD force yourself to watch it all, but you don’t. Is that someone denying you of something?

        You have a blu-ray player, you put in Mulholland Drive, but you didn’t understand the convoluted plot and so you didn’t receive the message that David Lynch intended to convey to you at all. You COULD re-watch it multiple times or look up theories online or etc. but you don’t, so you never know what that movie was actually about. You have technically experienced it, but not fully or as intended. Is that someone denying you something?

        You have a PlayStation, you can buy Dark Souls at any store, and you can play it any time for as long as you want, but you find it too difficult to be enjoyable so you give up. You COULD finish it if you looked up strategies, sought out co-op help, and kept dumping a ton of time into it by grinding yourself up to more powerful levels, but you choose not to, because you don’t find it worth the time or effort. Have you been denied of something or are you better off just playing something that you actually find fun instead?

        It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about what effect difficulty selection would have on Dark Souls. From Software knows that these games are hard. They get thousands of requests for this feature to be added to each of their Souls games. They choose not to make their games that way anyway and that’s their right. They have no obligation whatsoever to make games that are universally enjoyable.

        Sure it would be nice if everyone, ever could play it all in its entirety with no effort. It would be nice if I could play Fallout 4 without having to spend 200 hours I don’t have on it too, or if I could play World of Warcraft without having to team up with other people to do everything, or if I could play all those cool looking online-only shooters offline and solo, but I can’t, so I guess I’ll just have to play one of these other 5 million games. What a dilemma. 😉

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      2. (I don’t mind long comments, don’t you worry :-))

        I stand by my point on movies. The entire experience is there and you can reach the ending. You may not fully understand t or appreciate it like someone who is an expert on cinema might, but you can experience it at your own pace.

        My thinking here is more that you provide options to the player. I like that the more recent Mario games provide a way to skip content if it’s proving too hard for the player (the magic tanooki suit thing). It’s an option that can be ignored by the more serious player but picked up by those that want more but aren’t able to progress. I like that this is provided to players. Let them see the world they’ve paid for, even if they aren’t getting the complete experience that a more serious player would. With the Souls games, perhaps the player would like to see the rest of the game world, but they just can’t get past that first boss after hours of trying. My wife has watched me play Dark Souls and asked if there’s a way we can play together because it seems too hard for her. I feel it’s a pity that she has to find out that she can’t explore Anor Londo because she isn’t good enough.

        One that I like to refer to is Darkest Dungeon, which is brutally difficult from the outset. The developers have added in so many options that can add or remove aspects of the game to tailor it to your level. This, I feel, is an excellent way to handle challenge. You provide options to the player as far as possible. If they make the game super easy for themselves, then that only alters their experience of it and doesn’t change anything for other players (which is why these sort of things would never work for multiplayer games).

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      3. I get that when I start playing horrors! In fact, ever since I played Alien Isolation I encourage her to not watch after she screamed “Holy Shit!” when the xenomorph slithered out of a vent. Thank god I didn’t have the voice sensitivity switched on for it!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Pretty amazing. If you play it, pay attention to those text files because there’s a whole kind of hidden story to what’s going on that you can easily miss if you’re not thorough enough. You may even still have to do some research to fully understand the whole thing. It’s a very strange, layered narrative, but once you finally see the whole picture it’s quite impressive.

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  4. I do think it’s ok for games that are known to be difficult like dark souls and bloodborne to keep their difficulty as they cater to a different sort of gaming audience, they’re known to be difficult so it’s ok, but I agree with everything else you said, there’s no reason to get angry about games being accessible to casual gamers

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  5. I’m with you man. Games like dark souls and Nioh, though fun at times, can be a real pain. I played and got pissed at Dark Souls 3 for a long time and suffered through it because it’s suppose to be a hard game; but I find that I have a much more enjoyable experience with Mass Effect or Uncharted. Heck even one of my favorite series, Kingdom Hearts, is a pretty easy hack and slash game that has really tough bosses, but only if you want to find them.

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    1. I like having optional super hard content. It’s a nice way of offering additional challenge if you want to take it on. It doesn’t punish those who only want to experience the main story. Thanks for commenting!

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  6. games definitely needs some challenge, but as far as alienating people because “they aren’t good enough” is wrong i think. Games are meant to to be accessible. Easy to pick up and hard to master. I love one of Miyamoto’s comments about Mario Galaxies back in the day. The game can be as hard as anyone wants it to be, depending what you chose to do with the wealth of content available. As a result they didn’t make hard mode.

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    1. This is a good way to look at it I would say. It’s as hard as you want it to be. Give players options to progress even when it’s too tough so they can at least see the game and it’s world. Let the expert players play the expert levels and beat them the way they were meant to be beaten, but let other people at least experience it.

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  7. The “hardcore gamer” or “true gamer” brigade tend to be the most toxic in the games community. I’ve seen a lot of them proclaiming what they think makes them better than everyone else. I’m interested where this fatuous console war nonsense comes from – it’s like sports fans bickering about their favourite teams. Next thing we know there will be console war riots to ape football hooliganism.

    I usually go for indie games these days as I’m 32, work full time, and don’t have the time I did as a kid to work out what the heck to do next in Super Metroid. Frankly, I’m always using YouTube and whatnot to work out a quick solution to puzzles. I’ve done it throughout Breath of the Wild in the shrine sections. I don’t get the satisfaction of solving a puzzle, but I do save a load of time to experience more of the game.

    As for Star Fox Zero – gamers can also be such divas. Polygon refused to review it as it couldn’t work out the control system. I mean, this is its job – review the game as objectively as possible, but it couldn’t be bothered to patiently stick with it. As a Wii U owner I have to state the game remains a disappointment, but the control system, when you do get used to it, is quite enjoyable and effective.

    It’s just the usual temper tantrum foot stamping from spoilt gamers, from my perspective. We’ve never had it better, as gamers, but all seemingly 90% of the community does is spend their time raging at each other, making death threats to developers for delays, and crying about minor imperfections.

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    1. The console war things are still a hangover from the days of playground arguments over whether you had a Nintendo or a Sega (with that sweet BLAST PROCESSING!) but in which the participants have yet to grow up. I like to believe that in reality these people are actually quite sane individuals, but the anonymity of the internet causes them to flip out.

      I’m also like you with regards to looking up solutions. I give a puzzle a little while before going and finding support somewhere (personally I like games that have an in built hint system to help you rather than getting the solution outright from another source). It really does come to time once you reach a certain age doesn’t it!

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      1. Yeah, it’s called online deindividuation – most of the volatile sorts you meet online would likely be rather pleasant if you met them in the street (now doubly possible thanks to the handheld Switch!).

        It’s always about time! I’ve managed to get in 100+ hours in on Breath of the Wild since March, but to do that I’ve basically had to play that game, and that game only. It’s been a pleasant journey!

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      2. I didn’t realise there was an actual expression for it, thank you for that!

        I’ve started on FFXV recently and keep getting distracted by side quests (which are pretty cool) but the lay of the land means that getting from one place to another can be a real pain. Damn those open world games!

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  8. I couldn’t agree with this more if I wrote it myself. It’s one of the reasons I love Let’s Plays. There are games out there that I either don’t own, don’t have the time to play, or just cant play for various reasons. I’d never have experienced SOMA but for an LP, because the game mechanics and atmosphere are anxiety inducing for me, but there are other games that I just want to know the story, but I need to build my the skills to get past a part. I readily admit my gamer skills have slipped in my old age. I was better at platforming when younger, because I had more time for the trial and error necessary. It is so easy to offer different levels of difficulty for combat so that players who aren’t so great at that can focus on other things. Mass Effect is a great example, because the dialogue choices are exactly what I love.

    When the Wii first came out some of my IRL gamer friends bemoaned that gaming was becoming too mainstream. I looked at them like they had two heads. And some of these people are/were “geeks.” They’d been on the outs yet they were doing the same thing. Omg 70 year old grandmothers can now play a bowling game; nothing is sacred anymore!

    For all the Wii Sports and easy difficulty there will still be your Dark Souls and Bloodborne. I’ll say it again “Let people enjoy things.” Having it be accessible to more enriches the experience.

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    1. There’s that whole “It’s not my hobby anymore because everyone’s doing it” mentality that comes in for some people. They want to be part of the niche group and if other people join in it isn’t as cool anymore. That’s certainly not a mentality that solely in video games either.

      I loved that I managed to get my mother in law to play street fighter. Never would have though that possible, but the newer games are so much more accessible!

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      1. Omg yes. The Hipster Mentality, but I know people I’d considered hipsters (or at least with a hipster aesthetic) and they’re not even like this. I actually saw a conversation on FB where one of my friends said he wouldn’t read something that was too popular. I just refrained from commenting. Yes, sometimes popular things aren’t good (Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey), but there’s usually a good reason *why* they’re not good (or harmful) that’s fairly easy to ferret out. If I see something has a lot of hype, it usually piques my curiosity, and if I see a broad spectrum of people like it, I know it’s usually worth my while. I’ve also come to the conclusion that I couldn’t care less about being cool, because being cool to me is acting unapologetically like yourself. Took a long time for me to learn that lesson, and I’ve never been happier. It’s not just a video game mentality. There’s always been in groups and out groups as long as there have been humans (even before we could’ve been called that tbh).

        And I love that! Like I said, your Dark Souls and Bloodborns will always be there, and you can up the difficulty of most games if you want. The more people who can access games is a good thing!

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  9. I’ve been playing games for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always tried to entice more people to the dark side and enjoy the hobby haha! 😉 I say as long as you are having fun, no matter what game it is and what difficulty setting you have it on, more power to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. It’s a shame more people don’t get to play some of these games as they perceive them as too difficult (which they may well be). Worse is when someone spends the money on it, plays it for a few hours and then finds it’s too tough. What a waste!

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