During a recent review of the contents of a couple old USB drives that I had forgotten that I stashed away, I found a handful of articles that I had written for a site that went defunct. Since I hate for words to sit unread (even those in incoherent, rambly sentences), I decided I might as well share them here. Here’s one from around February 2013 in which I mused over playing games on “easy.”
Last week, Kotaku released an brief but interesting article on “very easy” games modes. It’s a quick read if you just want to pop over there. It’s okay — I’ll wait.
Um. You still…? Forget it, forget it. Here’s the jist — a reader contacted author with idea that Ni No Kuni’s developer, Studio Ghibli, should release a “very easy” mode patch in order to make the game more accessible to, in this case, his girlfriend. Author pondered this and then asked:
Why shouldn’t video games like Ni no Kuni come with a Very Easy mode so that anyone can appreciate them?
The author went on to acknowledge that many current games offer easier modes of play (or have built-in cheats, if you will) for the less experienced or casual gamer. He then concludes by saying that having lower difficulty options makes games more accessible and generally doesn’t take anything away from the gaming experience. (By the way, Kotaku has release several articles on the notion of easy modes of play in video games, most supporting the idea.)
Makes sense. I don’t have any problem with this notion at all. How this pertains to Ni no Kuni I don’t know since I haven’t played the game, however I wouldn’t have any issue with games offering easy modes of play, either with the games or after the fact. There’s plenty of support out there for easy modes, and plenty of gamers will gladly confess to choosing easy modes of play. (A quick search brings up other Kotaku articles on the topic and plenty of I-play-on-easy-and-that’s-how-I-like-it blog posts.) Opinion over. Let’s all go home.
But…not really. Let’s take the author’s question into the mostly hypothetical and slightly realistic realm. The industry is having a tough time right now. Sales are down, there’s a glut of current generation games on the market, and we’re on the verge of the next generation of consoles. Let’s pretend that, in an effort to improve sales, the industry decrees, decrees they say!, that ALL games MUST include easy modes of play. The hope is that non-gamers, mobile gamers, and casual gamers will jump feet first into the vast ocean of console/PC play knowing that all games have now lower difficulty options.
Looking at the issue through this academic lens makes me question my initial opinion. If an easy mode is planned into a game, that’s fine; but making companies include a causal play modes in games just so they seem more accessible to every single person on the planet doesn’t really make sense to me.
Speaking only for myself, I fall into the not-really-casual-but-not-quite-hardcore spectrum of gamers, if there is such a thing. I play games semi-regularly mostly on normal or easy modes. If you read my last opinion piece on cheating (and I know you all did, r-i-i-i-i-ght?) you probably picked up on my willingness to trade in being a “hardcore” gamer for being a happy gamer. Therefore, it’s probably not a surprise to know that I rarely move beyond the normal difficulty level in most games. Sometimes I’ll play games on harder levels if I enjoy them enough; but I mostly stick to the easier modes because I don’t have long stretches of time to sink into harder difficulty levels. If I only have an hour to play, I want it to be an enjoyable, progression-filled hour, not a horrible hour-long drudge through a single area.
I don’t choose games because I know they have “easy” modes – most of the time I’m not really *that* informed about a game. I choose games because I like the characters/had fun with a previous title/heard good things about it/etc. And like most folks, I lean towards and away certain games anyway. If, say, a popular war-themed first person shooter has a casual mode it wouldn’t matter to me because I don’t enjoy war-themed first person shooters to begin with. And I tend to shy away from games that are naturally difficult (I’m thinking of Dark Souls here, though it’s difficulty has been debated). Sorry, but I don’t think I’m really missing anything. I’m very comfortable in my gamer-dom.
Still, the notion of “very easy” modes has some gamers up in arms. On the Kotaku article there’s one particular comment that pretty much sums up the basic negativity (paraphrasing ahead).
–If you can’t handle a game that only offers normal and hard modes, then don’t play it.
–Our population is already coddled enough, do gamers need coddling too?
–In the past, games offered only one difficulty level and you learned how to beat it by playing, so suck it up.
Harsh words, yet I understand the sentiments behind them. I mean, I like having the choice to play an game on “easy,” but petitioning companies to make casual game modes just to make games more accessible to a supposed audience that’s probably already happy playing Angry Birds on their phones, just wouldn’t seem right.
What’s your stance on the issue? Is it completely ridiculous or perfectly feasible to ask game companies to include easy modes in all their games? What’s your preferred mode of play?