Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Game Difficulty, true measure of gamer worth or a masochist endeavor for bragging rights?

"Back in the day there were no checkpoints or difficulty levels, you died and died til you learned the patterns, it was pure skill" 
I've heard that a lot on various gaming sites from various gamers.
Mention games that caused massive controller breaking rage due to difficulty and you'll hear, Battle Toads, Contra, Ninja Gaiden. Now people will say Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. 
You'll also hear some gamers proclaim that these games measure a "true gamer". Only a "true gamer" can get through these incredibly hard games and anyone who can't isn't a real gamer. 


As gaming evolves and embraces more people from all walks of life, the definition, if there ever was one definition, of gamer also evolves and changes. This means that games have to adapt to the influx of gamers, not the other way around.

I've had discussions before with gamers about game difficulty. I have said before and I will say again, I usually start a game on Normal difficulty but I ain't too proud to go Easy if I need to. I game to relax, to immerse myself in different worlds and do things I can't do in real life (like throw fireballs or rip someone's arm off and beat them with it...we'll talk about violence in games some other time though). Gaming is a large part of who I am but the difficulty I play at doesn't define me as a person. My life creed is "if your entertainment stops being entertaining and fun, its time to move on". So, for me gaming is entertainment, its stress relief, its fun. 

During these conversations I've had with others I've been told that playing a game on easy is pointless and a waste of money. That playing on Easy defeats the designer's and developer's game mechanics and point. I've even been told that if I'm just going to play on Easy I should just watch a movie instead.


First is that obvious do my gaming habits affect someone else? Obvious answer, they don't.
Second is, If the game comes with an Easy or even a Very Easy option, it means that the developer put it in there, so I'm not ruining their artistic vision. "But Dark Souls" you'll say...Yes, what about it? "It has no difficulty options"...Yes, what's your point? I don't play Dark Souls, because its too difficult and frustrating. 
Obviously These games were intended to be punishingly hard. Many people will play them and love them, many people will not. The developers were aware of this and chose to go this route. I respect that, but I won't spend my money on their games. I won't spend hour upon hour in growing frustration replaying bits of the game and memorizing patterns and enemy locations because, after all is said and done and I reach the end, what have I proved? My skill? My ability to control rage? My determination? Perhaps, but overall I've proven nothing except that I'm a masochist. There is no glorious prize at the end of the rainbow except bragging rights. If I complete these games I can say "I FINISHED THIS GAME!!! KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!" Which truly changes nothing in my life at all or yours, or anyone elses. 

"But you feel accomplished when you complete a hard game"
I squeezed out 3 kids, I already feel accomplished. I managed to get my fat ass outta bed today, I feel very accomplished thank you. 

I played Hakuoki Demon of the Fleeting Blossom 7 times recently. Its an Otome game. A text adventure game for women. Though honestly, I think its a great story that everyone should play but I digress. Obviously, a text adventure isn't difficult, yet I feel accomplished. Because I played through all possible outcomes. I also learned a hell of a lot of history as well. Does anyone care that I finished 7 times? Not really. Did I enjoy the game, very much so. THAT is the important part. 

Right now Gaming is like the damn Gold Rush. Thanks to Facebook and the Wii and Smartphones and Tablets people of all ages (and some rally smart pets) can be introduced to the joys of gaming. Whether you consider a Facebook game a "real game" or Angry Birds, the fact of the matter is they ARE games, they are interactive media, they are entertainment. Gamers are no longer those people that dedicated weeks to memorizing the exact pattern to the final level of Battletoads. Gamers are Elementary School kids, That little old lady that walks her Sheltie past your house twice a day, your homeroom teacher. 

In my opinion these people are TRUE Gamers because they don't care about leaderboards or trophies, they don't need to prove their skills, they play these games, these apps, these time wasters for entertainment, for fun, to pass the time. 

Here's the thing Video Games are GAMES. The first definition of Game in the dictionary is: 1. An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime.

Nowhere does it say: a frustrating enterprise that might result in rage or tears.

You know why I game on easy instead of watching a movie? 
Cause I fucking feel like it. Because I want to BE in the story playing an active role. That role could be picking choices in a "choose your own adventure" type game or kicking alien ass in Mass Effect. Nowhere does it state that my role in the story has to be difficult, painful or frustrating. That's what I game for, so my character, my Avatar can go through drama while I eat Doritos during the dramatic cutscenes and stab things with pointy things in between. 
Does that make me less of a gamer? No. By definition I play games, therefore I am a gamer. 

"But", you might say, "you're really not bringing anything new to the debate. If you don't wanna play on hard that's fine why are you calling people who do masochists? Why are you taking issue with them if you expect them not to care about how you game."

Because I'm a hypocrite, we've established this in numerous blog posts. 

But, not only that, Because in these discussions, not only are the people who play on easy decried as posers, but, there's a general call from the "hardcore" to do away with easier game settings. They demand you "go hard or go home".
See THAT is when I get my knickers in a twist
You wanna be a masochist? You feel a great sense of self worth for beating a game that made you break controllers, scream, rage, waste hours upon hours to get through a single boss. Yo, knock yourself out. I. Don't. Give. A. Shit.
You wanna put an end to "Easy" settings because you think playing on hard somehow makes you better? Fuck. You. 

There you go, that's my reason for being a hypocrite and getting all up in other gamers' faces about difficulty. Cause playing on nightmare doesn't make you better than a gamer that plays on easy. Because you're forgetting that games are supposed to be a pastime, a FUN pastime and playing on difficult isn't fun for a lot of people. Because I'm sick of gaming on easy being equal to watching a movie. I don't know about you but, I didn't get to punch anyone or use a batarang once while pretending to be Batman ONCE while watching The Dark Knight. But I did get to do that playing Arkham Asylum, on Easy. 

BTW...I have Demons' makes an excellent frisbee for my dogs. 


Joe Perri said...

I play games on Hard...but only co-op games...the part that me and my friends talk about most of the time is how we hilariously died 30 times to the same boss. We don't rage though, why?, because it's a game, lol. But I do agree with you that people who play on easy are true gamers...heck, I want to play on easy once so I can enjoy the story and scenery...then I go back to push myself and laugh at how ridiculously hard some of the bosses become.

Sihaya Atreides said...

you might not rage but many people do. I remember a post ages ago on one of the sites i used to frequent that was dedicated to pics of broken controllers that people had broken out of rage/frustration.

I'll be honest, I rage... A LOT. I don't like being frustrated or getting stuck in a game. Which is why I play on normal and easy. I have enough stress in real life, I don't need my entertainment stressing me too.

It would be like doing Yoga to relieve back pain when it causes you migraines. In other words, stupid.

The first game I EVER played on hard and finished was Gears of War 3 and frankly, I don't feel any more accomplished for having done it than I do for finishing Gears 1 or 2 on Casual.

The problem isn't whether you like playing on hard or not. the problem is the people who feel that easy modes should be eliminated from games and that people should be forced to play on one default difficulty and either suffer through it to the end or not game at all.To me that's ridiculous.
The problem is the people that seem to feel completing games on hard makes them special or something.

When's the last time you were at a job interview and they were impressed by either your gamerscore or your dedication to playing only in Hardcore mode?

Nocturne.™ said...

This is a good subject.
First: If I don't know a game, I tend to try and play it on easy to see if I like it, because let's be honest, if a game sucks on easy it's gonna suck much much worse on normal or hard or whatever the fuck the highest difficulty is.
Second: the term "gamer" has absolutely nothing to do with difficulties in ANY game.
Third: Difficulties are only implemented to attract a larger flock of people than just the so called "hardcore" gamers.

A message to our fellow gamers out there:
The term Hardcore gamer in my logic is a very disturbing term as there are no casual or hardcore gamers.
Funnily enough, the ones that cry "I'm a hardcore gamer, suck it biatch" are usually console gamers and we all know that console games are tuned down in both difficulty and visible factors (graphics, game performance).
NO I'm not bashing consle gamers, because to each their own, don't believe me?
OK, you don't have to, BUT it might be a fun experiment to test, play the same game on both console and pc on the same difficulty (preferably HARD, as that are what "hardcore gamers" tend to play) and you'll see you'll ragequit the PC version with the most bitter tears ever (unless you claim you rock on both systems).

Games should be played for entertainment indeed, not for enlarging virtual penises, because having a huge dick on the interwebs still doesn't get you pussy in real life, just sayin'.
Think about that the next time you flame a gamer who plays games on the easiest difficulty, because that dude / chick might get laid more often than you, the so called Hardcore gamer.

This message is not directed to anyone in particular, if you feel offended by reading this, I know I reached the correct audience :)

Game on :3

Sihaya Atreides said...

I rock all systems biatch! lmao

Nocturne.™ said...

yes yes you do, you so funny :D

Joe Perri said...

I wish my job interviews asked about my game scores,'re right, they are supposed to be played for fun and no way should easy mode be son is almost 1 and I cannot wait to start co-op gaming with him on easy mode!!!

Joe Perri said...

I love what you said about console vs. PC and the ePeens, lol.

Sihaya Atreides said...

when my son was little I got him a V-Smile. that is one awesome kiddie console. I freely admit I played the shit outta care bears.

Joe Perri said...

Lol, I will have to look into one.

PS. Love your blogs!