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Gameverse | August 25, 2019

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Game Difficulty Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Robert Endyo

Game difficulty has been a hot topic on both ends of the spectrum recently.  On one side, the popularity of the “Soulslike” genre has caused an outcry for an “easy mode” that would make these sorts of games more accessible.  On the other side, games are getting difficulty levels and accessibility tools that can go as far as essentially making the game play itself, which draws its opponents.   Both of these scenarios have some level of validity, and both have equally valid counterpoints.  However, I don’t think either is true – and here’s a couple of reasons why.

The first reason is that there are far too many games available for anyone to be hung up on one not fitting their particular difficulty level desires.  I have a backlog of games I want to play so extensive that I’m fairly certain I will not have the free time within my lifetime to do so.  If you can look at the latest “Midnight Soulsborn IX” and say, “this looks too difficult for me,” then you can move on to the next more approachable title and have a great time.  Let those who are masochistic (or “skilled” I suppose) enough to play those sorts of games have their fun and be happy doing it.

If you catch some gameplay from the latest “Jumping Plumberman Universe” game and it feels like it’s not enough of a challenge for you, shift your focus to a game that gives you the abuse that you seem to crave.  Let it be accessible to those that find value in it.  There is no shortage of games out there that will fit your tastes, assuming it’s not classic stealth.

The second reason you shouldn’t waste your time being unhappy with game difficulty levels is that it’s not your choice to make.  Game developers can make a game as tough or as easy as they want to.  It’s their design and they have the final say in what market it’s going to appeal to.  Some developers, and especially publishers, will want their game to appeal to the widest audience possible, so they’ll work to make a game have adjustable difficulty to suit a variety of players.

It’s fine to make your voice heard, everyone’s free to say they want something to be easier or more difficult, but the best way to show developers and publishers what you want is to vote with your wallet.  If people aren’t buying games, then there’s a good chance that games are going to change down the line.   Then you can refer back to the original resolution of spending that money elsewhere on games that do fit your preferences.

At the end of the day, the topic gets more discussion than is necessary.  No one is entitled to have the game envisioned except for the developer.  If we want to explore new genres and experience the creativity that drives the game industry, developers need to be unencumbered by the demands of different players.  In trying to get games to adhere to our individual standards, we risk further homogenizing unique games.  Developers and publishers are already shifting franchises to adopt gameplay from the status quo even when it doesn’t fit within the game’s context.

Make an effort to explore games with which you are comfortable.  No one has an excuse to be ill-informed about the nature of a game these days.  Reviews, gameplay, and streams are readily available and can give you as much information as you could ever need to make an informed decision.  Buy games that you will enjoy and don’t let the ones that won’t entertain you be on your radar.