What is it that defines a given game? Some would say its story and characters. Others would say that a game is defined by its gameplay. Then there’s its difficulty. While there are many games out there known for being “hard”, I doubt that many of would venture the opinion that a game is defined by its difficulty. Yet for some reason many of us gamers insist on attaching a great deal of value to difficulty. We tend to look down on easy games, and even go so far as to consider “easy mode” an illegitimate experience. Is difficulty really all it’s cracked up to be though? I don’t think so. I fact I’d say “easy mode” actually has several merits to it.
First of all, if difficulty isn’t actually important, then why do we treat as though it is? Well, that’s because it kind of is. Wait, hold on there. I know I opened this whole thing by saying it wasn’t important, but just hear me out for a second. The earliest games were all about challenge. They were all about pushing us to the limits of our skill in the hopes that we would keep playing and get better. That was literally the entire point. There were no training wheels; you either got better or you stopped playing. It was the defining feature of the arcade-era games, and it was a mentality that’s more or less defined gaming in its near-entirety up until very recently. In short, what we’ve all learned from day 1 onward is that games are supposed to be challenging. This especially true for those of us who’ve been playing for a long time.
After playing games long enough, the idea that there has to be a challenge is something one takes to heart. It makes dialing down the difficulty (if the option is available) an almost unthinkable act. After all, beating our heads-in against the proverbial brick walls in our games has always been the correct choice. Doing so is our badge of honor, so doing any less would simply be shameful. Even if the goal is simply to get past a particularly obnoxious fight or segment, gamers tend to need excuses for bumping the difficulty down a level. We tell ourselves it’s to save time, that the game caught us unprepared, that the segment itself is just plain broken, and so on. The thing is, these are all legitimate reasons for bumping down the difficulty level. There is one more though; one that might just be the best reason for decreasing the challenge: we just want an easier game.
Challenge and difficulty may have been all-important to games in the beginning, but that’s not really the case anymore. Games offer so much more than simple challenge these days. They offer excellent stories, unforgettable characters, and huge worlds to explore, just to name a few. Playing on lower difficulties doesn’t rob a player of any of these, so how could it rob them of the genuine experience? They still get to immerse themselves in the game’s world, story, and characters. And certainly still get to enjoy the gameplay. All dialing down the difficulty really does anymore is make getting through it all go a bit more smoothly if need be.
Really, playing on a lower difficulty setting is perfectly fine. The reason doesn’t really matter. It could be any of those I mentioned earlier, or it could be something else entirely. Maybe you want to ease yourself into the game before taking on a higher difficulty, maybe you’re not interested in the challenge at all and just want to play through the story. Whatever the reason, you should go ahead and play on the easier difficulty if that’s what you want to do. That’s what it’s there for!
What do you think of dialing down the difficulty in games?
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