Death to Get Gud
The difficulty argument has once again reared its ugly head in the world of games thanks to recent tweets from both Double Fine and Xbox. Both tweets made the point that easy difficulty levels and god modes are still legitimate ways to play a game. Predictably a certain group of people jumped on their high horses, dragged out the “get gud” argument and then rode off into the sunset, secure in the knowledge that the way they play games is the only valid way to play and that everything else is a hollow experience.
Beating the game on the lowest difficulty is still beating the game
— Xbox (@Xbox) July 9, 2021
Of course, I am talking in hyperbole here but in this instance, it is hard not to. This argument comes out of the woodwork on a regular basis, anytime someone suggests that easy mode is ok or that Dark Souls should have difficulty levels. It is bordering on boring at this point, the sense that even arguing against these reactions is doing nothing but tread water. But at this time in my life, things have forced a change in the way I play games so it has given me a new appreciation for choice when it comes to gaming.
As it so happens, just like a lot of my personal gaming history, it all starts with Doom.
If you beat Psychonauts 2 with the invincibility toggle on, you still beat P2. https://t.co/OinBv1nuNr
— Double Fine (@DoubleFine) July 9, 2021
I am an old PC gamer at heart. The mouse and keyboard is my weapon of choice, especially for an FPS. I tried to play Doom 2016 on a console but compared to my time with the game on PC, it was frustrating and annoying. I just couldn’t wield the thumbstick like I could a mouse. My accuracy was off and instead of an all-powerful demon slayer, I felt like someone barely in control and making it through luck only. The only way I could scrape through and finish the game was on the easiest mode on the Xbox, whereas I was quite comfortable at the medium difficulty on PC. My mind persisted with the thought that because I was playing on an easier difficulty I wasn’t having as much fun.
Now we fast forward to Doom Eternal. The game is harder than Doom by a significant margin. It is faster, more intense and takes no prisoners when it comes to the demon-slaying action. I was very much looking forward to challenging myself and pushing through the game on my PC. But in the time between Doom and Doom Eternal my personal circumstances changed. I suffered an unknown ailment in my wrist, something that has been going on for two years now, and as a result, I had to adjust my thinking.
You see using a mouse to play Doom Eternal now causes me pain, significant pain. I tried to play Doom Eternal with the mouse and keyboard but it just caused agony in my wrist and I was forced to put the game aside. I told myself that once my wrist was better I would go back to it and finish it, but as time rolled on and my wrist continued to be an issue my attitude began to change. Why had I put this barrier on myself, this artificial roadblock that stopped me from playing a fantastic game? My controller was right there, it doesn’t hurt my wrist. Sure I would have to bump the difficulty down, but that isn’t a reason to skip out on such a well-regarded title is it?
So with no end in sight for my wrist problems, last weekend I restarted Doom Eternal with a controller. With a fresh outlook on the game I have to say, I have had a blast. Sure it isn’t that challenge that I was originally gunning for, but there is more to the game than just testing yourself. There is the power fantasy, the wonderfully gothic storytelling and the incredibly cool setpieces, all of which are just as impactful on easy as they are at a higher difficulty level. All of these features have nothing to do with the difficulty of the game or the challenge it presents. I am so glad I changed my mind because I have enjoyed every second of the experience and am looking forward to tackling the DLC next.
So what is my long-winded point here? Well, my point is that difficulty levels are not just a matter of making things easier, they are also an important part of accessibility. Without an easy mode, who knows when I would have finally gotten to finish Doom Eternal? The fact that my very minor disability was catered for was fantastic and it proved to me that difficulty levels should be looked at in the same light as colourblind settings and subtitles, essential inclusions that open up gaming to people who would otherwise miss out. They open the door for those people while still providing a challenge for those that want it.
All people should be able to enjoy games. All ages, all possible needs. It’s an ongoing and important process for our industry and a challenge we need to met.
End of the day? We want you to have fun, to laugh, to experience a story that affects you. On whatever terms you want.
— Double Fine (@DoubleFine) July 9, 2021
Now I am not saying that all games should have a super easy mode. The Souls games, for example, are built around the idea of the challenge and as a result, that challenge is essential to the game. But, that is a choice the developers have made. They know that they are going to exclude a large portion of gamers because that is the type of game they want to make, that is their vision. What I am saying though is that games that do include easy modes, invincibility cheats or story focused modes shouldn’t be the subject of scorn or ridicule. They are enabling the widest range of players to enjoy their titles and opening the doors to all that want to jump in. Finishing the game on easy is still finishing the game. If god mode is how you want to play then that is perfectly valid. There is no wrong way to experience a game and insisting otherwise just makes you an elitist, gatekeeping prat that frankly is in the vast minority.
Gaming is for everyone, not just for those with the physical abilities to compete or complete at the highest level.