Right now the internet is in the midst of its annual videogame difficulty discussion, this time thanks to the news that Psychonauts 2 will feature an invincibility mode. On the one side, there are those who are adamant that all videogames should be a brutal gauntlet where only the strong survive. On the other side, there is a somewhat more nuanced argument to be had.
Whenever I see this discussion flare up again I feel totally baffled by its continued existence. Growing up I instinctively chose the easiest difficulty mode available whenever I started a new game. It simply never occurred to me that videogames should be a challenge. While I may not have realised it at the time, games were always about the simple enjoyment of immersing myself in a different world, playing as a cool-looking character, and having FUN.
I can still vaguely remember a conversation I had with one of my friends sometime in my early teens where he told me that he completed all of his games before buying new ones, often 100%-ing them. This came as something of a shock to me. I had by this time played dozens, if not hundreds of games across three generations of consoles, but I could probably count the number of games that I had completed (and by that I mean reached the end of the main story) on one hand.
This revelation genuinely made me consider whether I was some sort of pretender, while my friend was living among the pantheon of the “Real Gamers”. Still, I never really changed my habits. Usually, I’ll play on the default difficulty setting these days to get what I would consider “the developer’s true vision of the game”, but I’ve no qualms in flicking the difficulty down if it’s a choice between that and banging my head against a wall.
The truth is I’m not good at videogames. I have awful hand-eye coordination, pitiful reaction times, and my brain just isn’t wired to figure out logic puzzles. I could probably improve at some of those things, but I don’t particularly care to. I just want to enjoy the world and story that the developers have created, and sometimes simply mess around with the game mechanics.
If you’re the kind of player that enjoys completing games on Nightmare difficulty mode, or takes pride in figuring out impossible dungeon puzzles without reading a walkthrough then more power to you. I wouldn’t want those things to be taken away from you and yes, I am impressed by your skillz. When development teams are ploughing an impossible amount of hours into building their stories and worlds, however, maybe don’t begrudge them for letting as many people as possible experience what they’ve crafted. And please, don’t berate people for wanting to play a game a different way from you.