Debating Difficulty in Games

Gamers are upset, what else is new?

That is a blanket statement and could be applied to a number of current topics, but the strangest one might be toward developers creating difficult games that aren’t accessible for mass consumption. In short, there are no difficulty settings and no amount of outrage will likely deter this decision.

While this is unfair to those gamers with disabilities and there is an argument to be made there, ultimately, developers have the right to make a title how they see fit. For FromSoftware this has been how they’ve operated for a number of years now. Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and the recently released Sekiro are all titles that have a high degree of difficulty and they hang their hats on giving gamers a challenge.

Their titles were never meant to be accessible to everyone, otherwise they would have included difficulty sliders. But instead, these titles rely on the players perseverance and ability to adapt to the situations in front of them. You might end up breaking a controller or quitting in frustration, but FromSoftware is banking that you’ll learn from your mistakes and continuing pushing until you find success.

That is the reward in playing these titles, seeing those obstacles in front of you and overcoming. It’s what their known for, it’s the same fashion that old school Mega Man games were, in which precision was required or you would fail. Imagine if FromSoftware followed in Team Ninja’s footsteps and gave you a pink ribbon in 2004’s Ninja Gaiden to remind you that you’re playing on easy. That was funny then, but it would more than likely be offensive to some players now.

If a developer wants to make a difficult game, then so be it. Activision, one of the gaming industries largest publishers, allowed FromSoftware to carry out their vision with no compromise in regards to accessibility. How crazy is that? The publishers of Call of Duty, possibly one of the most accessible and well known titles in existence today, let a studio known for single-player titles create a single-player title for the hardcore genre.

No easy mode has ever ruined a game, this is true, in fact the argument can be made that easier difficulties can act as a training mode of sorts to prepare for higher difficulties. But making inane statements that a developer should cater to everyone would be a disservice to the original vision for that title. If failure happens to be a core feature in the title and you happen to disagree, don’t play it, there are other titles that will cater to your style of play.

With so many high quality titles hitting the market, it’s strange that difficulty would even be a topic of conversations. There are so many games to choose from that this argument should have been dead on arrival. FromSoftware makes difficult games for a small community of players. They’re beloved for it, if these games were easy, it would take away the reward for beating a difficult section or a nigh-impossible boss. It would honestly just be another action-adventure game set in feudal Japan. This would be a shame, because its difficulty is a key part of the games identity.

With respects to those individuals with disabilities, who honestly have a dog in this fight, people should instead focus that outrage toward the continuous inclusion of microtransactions and loot boxes, failed promises by developers of live services, and the unfair labor practices plaguing the game industry. Developers will ultimately do what’s best for themselves and the communities they serve.

I mean, Borderlands 3 is coming and it will have guns with legs. Let’s focus on that instead.

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