It might’ve been a pride thing, to show that I had gaming skill and the proper ability to play a game at harder settings, but I used to always look down at Easy Mode as the child’s setting. The be able to make the fewest mistakes in a game, to show that I had such a high proficiency in my gaming ability that making it less difficult was insulting to me. In all reality it was probably just insulting to my ego. But a difficulty setting is important. If a game is too easy, then it’s easy to get bored in the game you lose interest. If you set it too difficult, then having a lack of mastery of the game means that you’re going to get frustrated and likely drop the game at this point. Some games don’t have a means of changing the difficulty and expect the level design to test the player’s proficiency of the game. Look at any Mario Brothers game and you’re hard-pressed to find any adjustable difficulty setting, but go to Megaman or a Shmup or an FPS and they’ll lean on difficulty settings to better tune the game to the player. This is also useful for replayability where players already have an understanding of the mechanics and are returning for a deeper experience.
But over the past few gaming generations, games have been much more story-centric and sometimes that’s all I’m looking for in a game. The game’s mechanics don’t become any easier, they just become less forgiving when you screw up. None of this is to say that I hate adjustable difficulty settings and want non-adjustable settings. Many games work great because of adjustable settings. Mainly games where you’re trying to develop a skill like Rhythm games akin to Dance Dance Revolution or Rocksmith where you’re constanly in a develop-improve cycle; Puzzle games work well with adjustable settings too, getting your brain to think of the problem differently or in a more efficient way so you can make connections to the solution of harder problems more quickly. But not all games need to be played at a higher difficulty to get a more rich experience than the game can give. Take The Last of Us for example. You go through post-apoc America fighting infected and other survivors by scavenging for parts with Ellie. At some point you can start combining your parts to make moltovs, broken bottle shanks or boards with nails in them and it helps you overcome the different scenarios of sneaking through malls or trying to not get mugged in a hotel. The fundamental mechanics of The Last of Us don’t change between the settings don’t change but the punishment for being clumsy and drawing attention to yourself while sneaking or having bad aim and wasting all of your ammo get more harsh with the increased difficulty. The only benefit for this increased punishment is that it reinforces that the player have better situational awareness, patience and aim and can elevate the experience of the game. But if the gameplay seems boring to you, if the gameplay seems repetitive at times, or if you just don’t have to play through the game at a bullet sponge, kidney shot precise setting then higher difficulty settings are just a hindrance to our time. I’m playing a low of these games because the story is enticing, not necessarily because the gameplay is outstanding. Sometimes the gameplay is just so bad or frustrating that it makes me drop the game altogether which means I lose out on some great stories. A lot of times the gameplay is great, but gets repetitive and I find it an obstacle than a reward. Very few games do I go to replay because it has great gameplay all-around. I still get to experience all of the set-pieces in their glory. I still get the jist of the gameplay and can see how it can elaborate on itself, which may just come from playing games for however many years. And most importantly, I get to enjoy the story in a more concise and less drawn out way because the gameplay isn’t slowing me down as much to getting to the story. My priority for what I want out of a game shifted. I don’t expect a game to give me the whole package, just a good one for what it’s strengths are. For many, it’s the Story so I took the easy road to get it. Twitter:GIntrospection Blaugust Day 11