Asking gamers what their skills are at a game before even trying the game? What a cruel concept. Make the wrong decision, and the entire game may be ruined for you! Too easy, too hard, not positioned at what the developer intended, all of these factors can mix together to give you a less favorable experience than that you expected with your sitcom levels of excitement earlier.
What brings this topic to mind for me today? Recently I came under fire from a friend about what difficulty I have chosen for a game in particular.
I chose the hardest difficulty on this game. I would never dream of trying this game on a lower difficulty, it just seems like cheating. I know you like it though.Why do we chose one difficulty over the other? When is playing on easy acceptable vs. playing on hard?
My answer is completely dependent on the experience you want to take away from your game.
When do I play on easy?
On a game primarily driven by narrative, I will usually take the semi-easier path. I won't go so far as to make a game on the easiest setting possible. Not usually. However, when the main draw of the game is the story, I don't like to accomplish herculean tasks for that reward! On a game like the Metal Gear Solid series, the story is integral to my experience. If you miss the cinematics, you are skipping more than half the game, and I know this from experience! Same with Mass Effect. While I enjoy the battle sequences immensely, the story was the main draw for me from square one. The game is very rewarding in this aspect. Why should I make it drawn out and difficult to get to my reward, the next part in the story? Thats like getting the first book in a series, but the only way to get the second one is to run three miles underwater and skydive off of a zeppelin. I just want to find out what happens next!
|ARRRGHHHHH WHAT HAPPENED|
|ARRRRRGHHH WHAT WAS SHE SUPPOSED TO DO|
Another reason to play on easy is to build up my skills/experience so that I can take on the bigger difficulties. Sports games are the perfect example of this. I play NHL games. I love them. When I first started though, I was absolutely terrible. Starting at the easiest setting, I ramped up my skills until I'm at the harder levels, and while doing this, I'm building up the experience levels of my players to help my progress.
Magic: The Gathering for PSN and XBLA is another key point. You play online or against the computer, and they have every card unlocked for their decks and access to each one of them. When you start the game, you get the chance to unlock twenty more cards for each deck, but start with the best ones locked. Starting with the computers at an even harder difficulty makes gives you then two issues: They have the greatest stuff unlocked while you do not, and they know how to use them even better than you might! Why not unlock the cards at a lower difficulty, matching the skills of your decks, then raise the abilities of the computer?
Imagine one of the more stressful days you've had. After that day, go home and play video games. When you get home, do you want to be met with the GAME OVER screen repeatedly? I know I don't enjoy my failures being thrown in my face when I'm already on edge. Call of Duty: Black Ops' combat training mode gave me a fantastic release. I'd start up a game, set up many many bots on a low difficulty, and then let loose with some shotguns, knifes, tomahawks, whatever my angry heart desired. Relaxation at it's best!
Don't think that I can't understand the hard gamers. I know very well the arguments. I do agree with some of them as well! Those who were born in the fires of old school gaming love a challenge! Being raised on the completely ambiguous Legend of Zelda for the NES, being forced to run through your paces on Mega Man and Contra OVER AND OVER again until you remembered the exact right path to take, or just playing a broken game like Mickey Mouse-capades... it makes your skin tough and resolve even tougher.
|ARRRGHHH BUT I LOVE LOVE|
Speaking of achievements (see what I did there? It's called an excellent segway), the trophies and achievements that only unlock when completing the hardest modes in gaming are, in my opinion, a fantastic idea. They really feed into your feeling of superiority when finally conquering insanity difficulty on Mass Effect, or beating Halo with all of the skulls turned on, etc. The whole premise really feeds into human's desire to prove how good they are compared to others, giving us even more to brag about.
|ARRRGH THIS IS WHAT I BEAT|
What do you play on? Please let me know your reasoning in the comments below, or even on our FACEBOOK page! Did you enjoy reading my point of view, or want to see what our other staff have to offer? Subscribe too!