Video Games

Video Game Difficulty

Comments (4)
  1. charlesfwh says:

    Interesting piece. Broadly I agree with the spirit of the article, and I certainly have reached the point with gaming where I’m playing them largely for the experience over a personal challenge. Judgement and value of worth as a gamer are perplexing as everyone games for individual reasons, applying a broad judgement against one particular type breaks down under scrutiny. I do find the notion that we play for fun narrows the discussion down somewhat as you would imagine there are a range of reasons, educational, the experience, the challenge and upskilling to name a few beyond escapism.

    Nice post and delivers a balanced approach to the conversation which as noted can be contentious to tackle.

  2. Dan says:

    This topic can’t be covered enough, it flares up all the time. Anyone gatekeeping video games because if difficulty is just an elitist. They should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of the difficulty level. Well, that is my belief anyway.

    These days I start a new game somewhere in the middle, until I understand it, then I dial it up. Prefer games where you can change the difficulty at any point. Sometimes I just want to trounce stuff, other times I want to be challenged.

  3. quietschisto says:

    I’d like to throw in my two cents about the backtracking element, as it is a super-delicate balance, and it depends on so many things. In the end, all death mechanics are basically a checkpoint system. No matter if you have fixed respawn locations, get transported to the start of the stage/fight, have to reload a save or even restart the entire game. It all boils down to how much progress you lose.

    In games focused on the narrative, it makes sense not to lose a lot of progress. You’re here for the story and ambience, not the shabby combat system. Ori would be a great example. Sure, gameplay is an important part, but it’s more means to an end, to progress. That’s why these games allow for (semi-)free saving. Of you’ve been through the fight or platforming section once, you can do it again.
    Plus, by tieing saving to a somewhat “limited” resource, not only does it give the player more control, but it instantly becomes a player choice. You can choose how much progress you’re willing to sacrifice, in order to save your resources. I think that’s a big part in why the no-death approach in Prince of Persia (2008) did not sit well with audiences. There’s no choice to be made. The game tells you “Nah, you won’t lose any progress”, instead of “Huh, you died. Aren’t you glad you saved a minute ago?” One approach feels almost patronising, while the other makes you feel proud and like you did something great, even if you don’t realise it.

    It gets harder when challenge and/or helplessness are an important part of the game. In Dark Souls, feeling small and like everything is against you, is a huge part of the experience. If you’d just respawn outside the boss arena with full health and Estus, the stakes would be dramatically lower! Now, I do not agree with all the bonfire placement and consequent backtracking, but I simply want to point out that it’s super-tricky to get right.

    Another good example are horror games. If there’s nothing to lose, then why not try to ram your head through the metaphorical wall until you manage to break through? When you lose the sense of danger, a big part of your fear is instantly gone.

    I’m not offering any solutions here (I could probably get very rich, if I had one), but I want to point out that there is no one-fits-all-solution out there. Different types of games need different approaches to their difficulty, including checkpoint/death mechanics.

  4. Heather says:

    The one thing that always gets me when someone brings up this topic is why it should even matter to them what other people do. If a game has multiple levels of difficulty and game developers continue to bring out games with them then it’s really no one elses business if Joe Bloggs plays it on easy mode or hard mode.

    I love when gamers decide to make up their own challenge modes. I’ve seen World of Warcraft players do a no-die challenge when levelling a character. If they die then that’s it; they delete the character and start again. They don’t have to, they just do it because they enjoy it. Likewise, I’ve seen pokemon players who have played the entire game with the same team.

    As a disabled player I have a completely different perspective of game difficulties. Personally my life is hard enough and I just want to play a game to enjoy it. Being able to beat the hardest mode has never been possible for me due to my disabilities. Other disabled players may see things differently and find that hard modes offer them a challenge they can master. I find that most people who generallyadvocate for hard modes always forget that life is subjective. They never ask ‘why don’t you play hard mode’ they just look to embarass people about it.

    As you said in your conclusion; games are there for fun. It’s just sad that people can’t understand that we all enjoy things in different ways. There’s so many different games out there now that we don’t need to fight over things. Can’t we all just enjoy what we like?

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