Easy Mode 4 Lyf

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 will 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 really don’t care to. I just want to see the worlds, enjoy the stories, and sometimes just mess around with the game mechanics.

If you’re then 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 from 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.

3 Thoughts

  1. I still remember playing the likes of Doom and Descent with cheats on more than not back in the day. There was a switchover point though somewhere along the way, where I decided that… actually… I quite enjoyed the ‘challenge’ of playing on the higher difficulties without the benefit of cheats after all.

    My memory wants to tell me that switch was related to when I first got a dial-up modem and so had access to multiplayer for the first time. But… I think my memory is a dirty liar and that the switch was before that. Because I didn’t get my first modem until into my teens.

    Whatever the case there though, agree with the sentiment that it’s a very odd hill for so many people to choose to die on, re: what difficulty other players can access or use.

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  2. Everything comes with tradeoffs, especially that of time. Spend hours on one game deep diving and milking it dry, or spend the same time on lots of other games, tasting a variety of experiences. Neither is more “correct” than the other. What might be fun for one person may feel dull and boring to another.

    We should all just be happy that more and more people are playing and enjoying games how they like.

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