Dialing Down the Difficulty


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?

Image captured by Hatm0nster

9 Comments Add yours

  1. simpleek says:

    I don’t think there’s any shame in dialing back the difficulty. Sometimes you really get stumped with how to beat a level or you simply don’t have time to figure out how to beat something and you really just want to get on with the story. That’s how I typically feel when I encounter problems in a game. Like you said, the point of playing a game has nothing to do with being challenged. Sometimes you just want a chance to enjoy the story and characters. I think that tends to be more important these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      I definitely run into occasions where I need to look up hints because I’m anxious to get on with a game. Sometimes I have the patience to spend an hour figuring out what ‘m supposed to do, but often times, I don’t because I want to know what’s going to happen next. The fun part of playing games is progressing, after all. And after people go through all that work writing up walkthroughs, I may as well use them….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. duckofindeed says:

    I think for me, video games were directly tied to my own pride and opinion of myself. In the past, particularly during my school years, I used to not feel like I was skilled in the same way as many other people…I wasn’t great at drawing or this or that, I was never popular, and so on, but one thing I found I was good at was video games. My sense of worth has changed since then, fortunately, but I still want a challenge from my games for much the same reason as before. When I beat a tough task in a game that many others can’t complete, I can reassure myself that there is something out there in this big, wide world that I excel at.

    At the same time, video games should be fun, and that’s what matters most. I like a challenge, but not to the extent that it makes a game aggravating. If I’m not having fun, I may as well dial down the difficulty. But you’re quite right, playing on an easier setting is completely fine because not everyone approaches a game with the same goals. Some want to test their skills, some want to relax and unwind after a long day. We have to play in the style that suits our tastes best, and for many, playing on the highest difficulty level just for the sake of it is not their idea of a good time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      It can be hard to change styles though don’t you think? You almost have to convince yourself that the new way is just as correct as the old.


      1. duckofindeed says:

        That’s quite true. I still can’t bring myself to play on easy mode. That old part of me that needs to challenge myself still won’t allow it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jasyla says:

    I see no issue with dialing back the difficulty. Also, people like different types of difficulty – some like devious puzzles, some like games that require excellent reaction time, some like strategy, some like memorization.

    There is a belief among some retro gamers that games nowadays hold our hands too much, are not about challenge. And I think… so what? When I was 10 I might have enjoyed playing a level of something over and over until I got it right, but now that kind of difficulty turns me right off a game. As I’ve been going back playing NES and Genesis games, I’m noticing that many games have difficulty based on repetition. You need to learn enemy patterns, you need to scour the map (or Internet) for secrets. Beating something on the first try isn’t possible unless you get extremely lucky. Personally, I think the further away we move from this kind of challenge, the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      The “too much hand-holding” sentiment is one I’ve seen a lot of too. I kind of get it, nobody wants to be led by the nose through a game. However, modern games are much more complex than their retro counterparts so I would think more explanation would be in order no matter what.

      I agree with your thoughts on repetition-based difficulty. It’s fine, but not so much when your time is limited.


  4. Dina Farmer says:

    I think there is not shame is dialing down the difficultly. If I didn’t do that I’d never complete a game. I tend to play a game on easy mode unless I’m 1000% sure I know what I’m doing. I play games for fun never for a challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      It’s kind of ironic because I like a challenge, but whenever a game gets too hard, I get frustrated. I guess I only like a challenge up to a certain level. I only do easy mode on the toughest of games, but I rarely ever do hard mode. I only did hard mode on Kingdom Hearts 2 because it was the easiest way to get the secret ending. (You had to get 100% in normal mode otherwise, which was impossible for me.)

      Liked by 2 people

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