Piece of Cake? Why No Piece of Lead? While not everybody immediately buys a game, and decides to beat it on the hardest difficulty unlocked on their first and afterward second+ playthroughs, I do. Yet It's been coming to my attention, as of late a increasing number of newer games have seemingly made hard mode a parody of what it once was.
Ikaruga, one of the greatest, games to ever grace the "Hard Mode Gamer"
While fan made games based off I want to be the guy still maintain, our love of stupid hard games, I find it pitiful that game developers feel not enough players would benefit from, or even want a "Hard Mode". Perhaps however I should give a better definition as to my term of "Hard Mode"
The Definition Hard Mode: Difficulty which nearly exceeds the ability of human reflexes and a games built in mechanics, while many never use it certain gamers enjoy an increased challenge both for longer playtime, more strategy, tighter windows of opportunity, and bragging rights, while possible for a player to abide by a certain set of rules they set themselves, many enjoy a clear-cut built in choice. A Hard-Mode needs not be intended to be short, and is fine if it's more time-consuming, slow or buggy controls do not qualify as being part of what can be said to make a hard-mode, unless the game is Retro, or it brings a different play-style to the game in question. For more information see [Insane, Masochist, Speedrun, No-Save Run, No-Death Run]
Continuing however, a hard-mode should not be considered a "Arcade-Mode" by most standards unless the game is originally of an Arcade Style (Retro doesn't count think instead Guitar Hero, DDR, or Streetfigher, etc), while it can be seen as a way to compete, it doesn't ultimately make the game a greater challenge to get through, rather it's just a incentive for more players to revisit the game for a second playthrough, and this is what I feel is part of the parody of hard-mode as of late.
This is what a "Arcade Mode" should feel like
There's been an outpouring argument, that enemies with increased health and your gun doing lesser damage is stupid, and to a certain point, I do agree, ironically however, it seems this is what most developers feel is considered Hard-Mode presently. The less people who enjoy it the harder, right, just throw a few sleazy achievements in there so we can warrant doing a shoddy job. As for poking fingers, a game I have yet to try on it's hardest setting as it was "locked" but which definitely follows this concept is the recent, Spec Ops: The Line, which felt at the ignorance of gameplay and difficulty, it could get by on a fantastic story (which it somewhat does). It also happens to fall under one of the greatest stereotypes against hard-mode lately, the aimbotting, always know where you are 5000000 HP, first person shooter AI.
We're killing a genre, which nobody even knows if it's a genre anymore
Don't Let It Go Extinct! Somewhere along the line however (probably Spec Op's) we seemed to have gotten confused about why we give enemies HP, it's not to make them bullet sponges but to have the player actually have to maneuver and think how to dodge instead of just blasting them 12 times with the magnum and winning the game.
I feel this misconception probably comes from RPG's where insanely hard was considered giving the boss a stupid amount of HP and the player gambling on luck to win, but to be honest, when was the last time we actually felt amazing from a boss-fight? My answer to that question is recently, Deus Ex: HR, which ironically the developers apologized for making the bosses so hard.
Despite all the swearing, and the raging after having died 100's of times (yet finally having used the environment effectively, trapping him, but also trapping you), and yet when you're about to be slaughtered by a boss as you see his minigun around the corner. You have one bullet in the chamber, a tranquilizer dart, you rush out, aim wildly and hit them dead center in the head, winning the fight, that's when a game feels truly great. It scares me, that the idea of such feelings of pride, and true satisfaction may die off, for the tacked on multiplayer, or arcade mode. So please if anything don't let hard-mode die off, despite how stupid it may look from the outside for others.