In a recent article I wrote about the upcoming launch of the Nintendo Switch, I noticed a common trend amongst the developers of Switch games: they all claim that their games will be difficult enough to keep people playing, but they never once mention what difficulty level their game will be. The developers of these games seem to think that the standard “Casual” difficulty is high enough for the average gamer. If they mean casual gamers don’t want to spend lots of time struggling with a difficult game, then they’re wrong. An easy difficulty is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Games have come a long way. Back when I got my first computer, few of the games we had would have fit on that little box. Now, most of them are easy enough for a child to play, and we’ve seen the introduction of a few in which even a child can be able to play. However, many people still feel that games without an easy difficulty are elitist.
Video games have been around for nearly half a century and have become a mainstay in the lives of millions of people. It seems as if every generation has a new video game that supplants the old ones, bringing a fresh take on the genre. However, there is one type of video game that may be defined by the challenge and difficulty to play it.
Is there a need for an easy mode in Dark Souls? (Photo courtesy of Bandai Namco)
A reader believes that in order to make video games accessible to everyone, optional difficulty levels should be included in all games.
Game difficulty, particularly in titles like the Dark Souls trilogy, has been a frequent topic of discussion lately. I’ve already thrown in my five cents worth on the topic. In conclusion, I tried them, found them too tough, and gave up. They’re just too difficult for my current skill level.
A minor caveat in this is that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which affects my ability to persist and my patience levels. Finally, I am 49 years old, have the reflexes of a startled slug, wear spectacles that look like pint pots, and have sausage-like fingers! Maybe a little exaggeration, but being me isn’t easy.
In relation to game difficulty, one statement from reader Craster caught my attention in particular, with the phrase ‘this debate demonstrates how little respect most people have for video games as art.’ This is an argument with which I disagree. Tracey Emin, a British artist, was given the CBE in 2013. ‘Art is for everyone, not just the privileged,’ she is reported as saying during the event. This isn’t a new feeling; it’s been expressed by a lot of artists from many disciplines throughout the years. And it is on the basis of this quote that I shall build my case.
I’ll never be able to buy one of the aforementioned artist’s works. Her art fetches millions of pounds at auction. Only a few people will ever be able to possess a piece of her work. According to her statement, her work is intended for the upper crust. This is not the case, though. I can access her work in a variety of ways and formats. I’m able to go to a gallery and look at her work. I can look at her work in books and on the internet. I may purchase copies and photos of her art to hang in my house. Her work is accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy.
Film and television programs are another excellent source of information. Many of these are written in English and produced in English. English is the language of the most popular movie of all time. This would alienate a large segment of the population, who would be unable to appreciate the art that these filmmakers and producers have produced. They don’t expect a German citizen to be fluent in English, therefore subtitles or dubbing are used to give access to the film. This makes the art of cinema accessible to everyone, not just those who can communicate in many languages.
My last point is about literature. The Harry Potter novels have sold over 500 million copies across the globe. They’ve been translated into over 80 different languages. This number is growing as new languages are added, providing more people across the world access to the art of writing and storytelling. It also works the opposite way, with literature like the Bible and War and Peace being translated into English. Everyone has access.
I may not understand what the artist is attempting to accomplish or the subtleties that the artist is attempting to communicate in their artwork, but I don’t have to; I can digest it in my own time. I have no clue what Picasso is trying to achieve with his artwork, but it doesn’t stop me from appreciating it in my own unique manner.
What role does this play in video games? Many individuals consider video games to be an art form. That is my belief as well, but do I have access to this art form in all of its forms? No, I don’t think so. A lot of games have restricted access behind a difficulty barrier. Due to my limitations, I will never be able to fully appreciate these games; that artwork is reserved for the most advanced players. The inclusion of a difficulty level for those who are less skilled makes the art accessible to everyone, not just the elite.
Microsoft has acknowledged this by creating the adaptive controller, which allows individuals who are unable to use a traditional controller to play. This enables individuals who have been barred from participating in gaming to do so by providing them with the tools they need to overcome the obstacles they encounter. I couldn’t find any information on how many were sold, but the fact that it was created indicates a willingness to make gaming accessible to everyone, not just the physically capable. Everyone has access to this.
My last thought on the subject is that gamers should be able to choose their own difficulty level. It doesn’t have to take away from the game or the experience that the creator is attempting to convey. They have a variety of methods at their disposal to motivate players. Perhaps don’t award an Achievement or Trophy until the game is completed on the developer’s preferred difficulty level. We shouldn’t limit gaming to those with the greatest abilities. Play, as Sony puts it, has no bounds.
Dirtystopout, a reader
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