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Easy mode in videogames

Date: 2019-09-16

There is a debate in the last few years to make game easier for the general public, by creating a really easy mode. I'd just call it "journalism difficulty", since most people who write about games, are not really gamers. Long gone the people who played through their games, then write a review about it. Now it looks like it's enough to complete 50-60% of the game for writing an article.

Anyway the latest cry about difficult videogames is from Ars Technica. Starting with an interest subtitle:

"Not every player wants to suffer through gatekeeping challenges just to see a game."

See a game? I thought we want to play a game? If I want to see it, I go to Twitch or Youtube. To play a game is an interactive experience in most cases.

Then the article goes on about easy mode difficulty, including CHEATS, which was never meant for easiing the game, but to test it without actually playing through a game.

I have nothing against easy mode. Most games have it by default, usually difficulty level, like: easy, medium, hard. Usually the easy mode is really for people who struggle with medium. Some games don't have difficulty settings, instead the game becomes harder and harder, ease the player into the mechanics and story. They are not impossible games, but challenge the player more than usual.

There were games, like the Thief series, where mission difficulty wasn't based of the artificial intelligence, but basically mission objectives. In those games, easy meant, that you have to get less loot from the riches, and soon as your main objective was done the mission was complete. The expert difficulty was the real deal, where you had to collect an insane amount of loot, and you shouldn't kill anyone, plus most of the time you had to get out of the place, you broke in, and you had significantly less health than on easy.

Alien: Isolation devs made the choice to add 2 difficulty settings. By default the game had easy, normal and hard. The devs recommended hard even for first time playthrough as it reflected the best experience. Later they added novice difficulty, which was even easier than easy, practically made the game as a walking simulator. However they also added a Nightmare difficulty, which had considerable less crafting items, our navigation system (maps and motion detector) is gone, and the Alien become even more of a pain in the ass. Nightmare is for people who knew every little corner of the place, because there were no map that could help you.

Can you imagine Alien Isolation, with a helper like in the new Mario games? You died 2 times, so now we just remove the Alien for the rest of this mission? Where is the fun in that? If you struggling with a game, go on easy difficulty, but don't make the game really, really easy.

People who want to play Dark Souls, they already know that game is a tough son of a bitch to beat. The gaming meme of "x game is the Dark Souls of y genre", is true, but if you think that Dark Souls is hard, play Alien: Isolation on Nightmare mode, or play Thief series according to Ghost rules, which adds many extra difficulties for the game.

## There is no shame…

Playing a game on the easiest difficulty. Up until a few years ago, I also played every game on easy. Then one day I tried on medium and I had fun with the challenge. I finished Alien: Isolation on hard, on my second playthrough, getting some of the no-death achievements, I couldn't even earn on easy. And now I am part of an elite group who finished the game (and enjoyed it both the gameplay and story) on hard difficulty.

I completed one of my many Bioshock playthroughs on normal, first time, because I realized how powerful enemy research is. It made it much more acceptable challenge.

## Just play the game…

On the difficulty you want. If you like playing on easy, play on easy. If devs balanced their game well, than you can get to a point where you increase the difficulty and still enjoy the game.

But please don't make it as easy as a baby can play your game. Can you imagine a Cuphead game with journalism difficulty, where you only need to run through the levels and one-shot the boss? We partly play games to challenge ourselves, by escaping into a fantasy world. No ones stop you to play on easy, but don't make anything too easy.

Can you imagine a This War of Mine, that has so much resources that your people never struggle, that you don't need to make hard choices?

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