Let’s talk difficulty levels

(Photo: wallpapervortex)
AMMAN — Ever since Atari introduced a difficulty level switch back in 1977, the level of difficulty people choose to play a game has been subject to either teasing or adulation. It has always been a controversial topic, although not always in the limelight. اضافة اعلان

But, on September 22, 2011, the infamous Dark Souls game rekindled the smoldering flame of controversy that spiked outrage amongst the gaming community, that asked “should all games have a difficulty setting?” 

Spending most of my life playing video games has really shaped the way I personally enjoy them, and to many onlookers, my preferred settings makes me look like somewhat of a masochist. But to me, and many others, there’s simply something extremely gratifying knowing that even after all the blood, sweat and tears, you eventually beat the game by the skin of your teeth. 

That sensation is the reason that most people tend to choose to play at the highest difficulty setting, and can’t see the game being played any other way. But, with the massive increase in the popularity video games, and the amount of people picking up playing video games for the first time, these difficulty settings are often avoided due to the brutality of the experience. How can someone enjoy a game when they feel that it’s impossible to progress? You don’t.

This isn’t to say all games shouldn’t have a difficulty setting. With games like Dark Souls, Cuphead, and Bloodborne, the soul of the game lies with its constant reminder that you are not the superhero that most games want you to be. It’s meant to be a soul crushing experience for most people, one that provides players with an unparallel challenge. Yes, it does require a certain level or expertise and skill that most new players just don’t have, but that doesn’t mean that these skills can’t be acquired through trial and error. 

Take Cuphead for example, a brutal “shoot ’em up” title that has the player engage mostly in boss fights. To beat them, you’re required to not only rely on perfect inputs and positioning, but to also memorize the boss’s phases and attack sequences. It’s not easy, but it was never supposed to be.

It’s developers, Studio MDHR, even opted to include an easier difficulty setting, which removes some attacks entirely to allow other player to be able to experience it as well. This wasn’t exactly met with the most positive feedback, with people saying that they weren’t getting the full experience on the easier setting. 

So, at this point players are left at a crossroads — do they want to be included but be told that they have achieved a lesser victory, or grit their teeth and maybe have a shot at winning? 

You can’t expect developers to cater to all skill levels or to include everyone in the experience. The gaming medium simply does not work that way. There are plenty of more relaxing experiences such as the latest Yakuza game; alternatively, From Soft’s last release, Seikiro, is the polar opposite of that. However, no game can meet a true middle ground where both levels of players would feel satisfied. 

Ever since Atari introduced a difficulty level switch back in 1977, the level of difficulty has been subject to either teasing or adulation. (Photos: wikipedia)

Some games even tell you what setting it is recommended to play at based on how developers want you to experience the game. While this still polarizes the community, the intensity of the controversy is often softened by this small nudge in the right direction. Difficulty settings nowadays often have descriptions such as “The Cinematic Experience”, “Casual Gamer” to “You will Die” levels of difficulty to better prepare incoming players to what their experience to-be will feature. 

There are games that people who always play a game at the highest level of difficulty, can’t bear to play, like Animal Crossing and Pokémon. People like these often look down on people that do not complete games at their hardest setting, stating that if there is no challenge, then what’s the point of playing a game at all? 

However, a counter argument is easy to make here, as the opposite may just as likely be true — why spend so much time on one game when I can breeze through several times during the time it takes you to finish one; all the while experiencing the same story?

People also make up their own challenges to add a level of difficulty to a game that isn’t there to begin with. One such game is Dead by Daylight, where the players have started creating their own unique twists on what a “win” means, and challenges that they adhere to in order to give themselves a greater challenge throughout the game. 

In short, this article isn’t looking to say that difficulty settings are inherently the way to go — in fact, quite the contrary. What does however grind the gears of many is the ‘elitist’ outlook that many players have when they play video games, often stating that any who finish the game on anything but the hardest of difficulty settings are simply incompetent.

There are plenty of games that offer incredulous challenges; and it is for this reason that just as many games should feature ease of access to their content, without all the drama that may ensue as a result of said ease.

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