Discussing: Difficulty in Old and New Games

seth-sfivx-largeOn Facebook, a friend of mine was complaining about being unable to get far in the Arcade mode of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. I’m assuming he got it as part of Games with Gold. I told him that it wasn’t too hard and that he needed to get better. The thread continued and eventually I told him to turn the difficulty down from Medium to Easy and work his way up. Another one of his friends commented and was adamant about not doing that. He talked about how lower difficulties were for casuals who didn’t want to actual play the game and just get to the end. When I challenged that thought and said that multiple difficulties are there for a reason, he countered by saying that he grew up during the days of Castlevania and Mega Man and those games were super hard and had no saving or anything to help you. He said that players nowadays don’t understand “the struggle”.

My initial thought was what a backwards and old man way of approaching this. As someone who also played those kind of games as a kid, I understand “the struggle” as well. However, games started having difficulty settings too around then. This got me thinking about how games have changed in terms of difficulty and I’ve come to a few points I’d like to make.

The first time I saw this, I thought "what do I even do here!?"

The first time I saw this, I thought “what am I even supposed to do here!?”

Why Should The Next Generation Suffer?

This guy’s sentiments are not thoughts I hadn’t heard before. Too many times I’ve heard older gamers from the NES era complain about how easy gamers nowadays have it. How they never had to suffer the hell blocks in Mega Man or the Medusa heads in Castlevania. As someone who has endured these challenges and many others, I wonder why older gamers would want to make newer gamers endure these hard as nails enemies. Lets be honest: a lot of games back in the 80s and 90s were made extra hard to extend their life span or to suck more quarters out of unsuspecting gamers’ hands. It got so bad that a good portion of those games were intentionally unfair and would force you to resort to exploits rather than raw skill. That’s not fun. In fact, it’s not even challenging. That’s cheating. Sure, there were games that were legitimately challenging but there were games that just would flat out cheat. I don’t understand why you would want to make newer gamers suffer what we had to just because developers didn’t know how to elongate their games in an efficient way.

The-Elder-Scrolls-IV-Oblivion-Mod-Imperial-City-Pack_12

I will NEVER see everything this game has to offer!

Only Games Restricts Content

Here’s something most probably don’t consider. Among all forms of entertainment, video games is the only one that prohibits you from accessing all of the content it provides right from the beginning. Get a movie? There’s nothing stopping you from checking out the bonus content or even skip to the end of the movie. You can skip to any track you want on an album and you can just open a book right to any chapter you want. Video games make you work for it and I get that this is the point. However, as a paying consumer, don’t I have the right to any part of the game that I bought? I think I do and if that isn’t available to me due to obvious constraints of the medium, then at least it could make that process as simple as possible. I know this seems counter intuitive to how most games work but as a product, which video games still are as well as other things (such as pieces of art and technological achievements), we as the consumer who bought the game and made a transaction deserve access to all of the content we bought.

Thief_Difficulty

See, this is a good idea!

Options, People. OPTIONS!

At the end of the day, having games be hard or simple should ultimately be an option, not a line in the sand. Every game should have a difficulty option that holds your hand through the game as well as a difficulty that turns the game into Dark Souls. Seth at the end of Street Fighter IV should be a pushover on Easiest but Hell on Earth on Hardest. What’s more is all these difficulty settings should be available at the start and not as an unlockable. The only place I would draw the line is in removing features from the game. For example, Batman Arkham Asylum removes the counter signal in combat. This shouldn’t be in the hard difficulty but instead an option you unlock in the Options menu that you turn off and on. So you can still play the game on Hard difficulty but with the feature still intact. Turning off mechanics of the game is not a difficulty thing but a handicap and should be separate. However, I support all these options being made available as OPTIONS! Hell, make an option that makes the game intentionally cheap and have your game be Shao Kahn hard. Just as long as I have the choice to not do that if I want. That’s what achievements should be all about: for the hardcore that want to beat a game on the hardest difficulty with all assists mechanics off and intentionally cheap AI. You can have your fun with that while others either play the game right down the middle on medium or easily in casual mode.

So those are my thoughts on difficulty in current and older games. What do you think about this issue? Should games stay the difficulty they are? Should they be easier? Should they be harder? Leave me a comment down below and let me know. As a bonus, tell me a game you like that is a good example of the difficulty setting you like and describe why that is. Peace and Love, gamers and players. Colorwind out!

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