Saturday Morning Gaming: The Debate over “Easy Mode”
There is yet another debate over the whole “easy mode” thing. Here’s the basic gist of the complaint: Some games are very difficult and that makes them difficult for everybody to enjoy. So what game designers ought to do is make games that everybody can enjoy by lowering the difficulty. This will make it so that differently abled people can play, people who only play casually can play, and people who aren’t otherwise inclined to invest hours and hours into learning the intricacies of the game can play.
The counter arguments cover a lot of ground. Some of them take the argument that “if you want an easy game, you should make your own easy game.” Others take umbrage at the whole “differently abled means needs easy mode” and they say something like “If you want to make games accessible for differently abled people, that means that you add a color-blind mode. That means that you add subtitles for cutscenes. That means that you make stuff like the Xbox adaptive controller.”
Now, what does “easy mode” mean in practice? Well, the game L.A. Noire did a thing where when you got put into a particularly difficult fistfight or shootout and you died twice in a row, the game would ask you if you just wanted to just skip the section and get back to the story. More recently, God of War (2018) allowed the player to change the difficulty on the fly, allowing him to play (AND BEAT!) the whole game on Normal Difficulty and then, after beating the game on New Game+, encountering the Valkyrie Queen and saying “she kills me after two freaking hits… I’m going to switch to Easy Mode” and beat this previously undefeatable boss after only three or four tries.
I’m one of the squishes that sees things from both sides. If someone wants to make Dark Souls or Super Meat Boy and then tells the audience “only good players need apply”, then I suppose I’m down with that. I mean, I played Super Meat Boy and I beat the first area. After I beat the first area, I felt like I had, seriously, accomplished something. Then I saw the second area and said “yeah, that’s bullcrap” and stopped playing the game entirely. I played LA Noire and gave up playing somewhere around the house where I had to interrogate a husband whose wife was killed and stepped over a tricycle on the way to do it… not because of the physical difficulty, but because of “this ain’t why I play these games” reasons. (An “easy mode” of LA Noire, for me, wouldn’t have involved easier fistfights, but fewer location details.) On the other hand, I am also the player mentioned in the previous paragraph (you know what you get for beating the Valkyrie Queen? An axe handle that allows your thrown axe to no longer be affected by gravity. Dude. That is AWESOME.)
So it’s not like I’m going to say that video games shouldn’t offer stuff like “easy mode”. I, myself, have taken advantage of such things.
That said, I also see the allure of games such as Dark Souls and the like. I played the original Dark Souls and got playing, fought against the first REAL boss and spent a good couple of hours trying to figure it out… then mastered the whole sword jump/dodge thing and beat him. And then, a few minutes later, when I encountered the second REAL boss, I said “yeah, that’s enough of that crap” and put the game down saying “this game isn’t for me” rather than “this game should be different”. I’m GLAD that Dark Souls exists, even though I can’t play it to save my life.
At the same time, I’m glad that God of War (2018) had a difficulty downgrade when I met the Toughest Boss In The World.
So I guess I’ll say that “Easy Modes” are like nachos. If someone wants to offer me nachos, I will ask myself if I am hungry. If I am hungry, HECK YEAH I WANT SOME NACHOS!!!!! If I am not hungry, eh, I don’t need them. And if I see someone else playing a game and dying/losing and saying “they should offer me nachos”, I will think something like “nobody is obliged to give you nachos”. Because, seriously, they ain’t.
But nachos are nice, when you are hungry.
So… what are you playing?