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Promoted: Cblogs of April 2019: A Discussion on Difficulty

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A round-up of last month's community musings

As a testament to how far removed I am from the contemporary gaming news hype trends, I had no idea about how Sekiro inspired an intense discussion on the nature of difficulty in video games and questions of accessibility and inclusion, until I read an article in The Guardian titled: “Sekiro, Baba Is You and the Politics of Video Game Difficulty”.

So, let’s step back and discuss this issue in this month’s Community Blogs Recap.

This month, one blog, by Dwavenhobble have touched on the issue. It seems that the high difficulty of Sekiro has inspired some to call not only for an easier option in that game but for developers to rethink the difficulty of their game in general in order to provide options to keep the games more accessible to a wider range of people.

Generally, from what I saw online, the argument for reduced game difficulty focuses on three things. First, the fact that an “easy” option would be optional, and as such will not affect the experience of those who want to experience a more difficult game. Second, the fact that difficult games may push some people away from enjoying otherwise great games. Third, there is also a call for in-game options to disabled gamers, which we have fortunately seen some games try to address (such as measures to support colorblind gamers, measures for one-armed control, and many others).

The counter-argument depends mostly on the developer’s vision. If From Software wanted Sekiro to be balls hard, then they have all the right to make it so, and you have the right not to buy it. It’s basically a free-market principle, where the developer and the customer have the right to choose what to make and what to buy. Note that this argument does not negate the reasoning behind requesting a reduced challenge, but simply relegates it as a non-question in the face of the developer’s vision.

Ironically, I remember a time when this discussion was reversed.

Remember the outrage associated with the White Tanooki Suit

When Nintendo first started adding optional accessibility elements in their games, such as the super suits in the New Super Mario Bros. games, some gamers objected that such options would “dumb” down the games. Without fail, I saw people complaining against every reduced difficulty option in games such as Fire Emblem, and Mario Kart among others.

At that time, the argument against such an option mainly followed two trends. First, is that these options reduced the difficulty of the game to such a point as to cheapen the experience. Basically, you didn’t really finish a Mario level if you needed a Super Tanooki Suit to do so. Second, is that these options ruin the balance of the game, as a reduced difficulty option may be a crutch that developers know to exist for the player, and as such do not balance the normal difficulty well and may make it stupidly hard or not pay much attention to it.

The counter-argument at the time went into the same vein as the argument for difficulty options today, but also invoked the developer’s vision argument. Since Nintendo wanted to put these options in their games, it was their vision and their right to put them in.

In both cases, I empathized with the arguments from all sides, but I end up in a position that is firmly within the developer’s right to make their games the way they want to make them.

Personally, I'm worried about the trend of the game getting easier and less challenging. It was certainly the case that the market has adjusted to overall decrease the difficulty of games. However, often there is the option for increased difficulty, which is sometimes well-balanced and sometimes not-so-much. So, I understand the desire for difficulty options at both ends of the spectrum.

Yet, many games are designed with an optimal difficulty level in mind. Games like Dark Souls were sold based on the premise of their difficulty, and the fact that your greatest enjoyment and sense of accomplishment is in surmounting that difficulty. As such, it frankly defeats the purpose of the games to decrease their difficulty. Not, when in fact, you have many options to decrease the difficulty significantly.

Hard truth is, none of these games are truly "difficult"

This may be a controversial view for some, but I am going to say it. The Souls games are not at all difficult or hard. Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze with one heart is hard. Getting Platinum ranks in Bayonetta is hard. Finishing a Souls game is more a matter of time.

These are games with obvious sets of rules (that you must figure out), and repetitive mechanics that are easy to figure out. The fact that one boss can kill you in three moves is immaterial if you can upgrade yourself to meet them, summon reinforcements, and/or fight five or ten times until evasion becomes muscle memory.

A friend of mine, who played and finished only 10 games in his life, has played and finished Bloodborne just because it looked cool. He enjoyed getting over the initial difficulty and then figuring out how much resources the game actually gives you to defeat it. His own verdict is that Crash Bandicoot is the harder game.

I sincerely think that developers know what they are doing when making a game’s difficulty curve. When that curve is messed-up, a majority of players would figure that out. Maybe it is the developer’s vision to provide a difficulty option, and maybe it is not. Maybe providing these options reduces the enjoyment of the game, or stops players from really grasping the game’s systems.

Regardless, I think there is nothing “political” or controversial about this topic. All games are an open restaurant, and it depends on you whether you like the food or not. If all restaurant offered the same menu, that would be a truly boring world.

*- Joel Peterson, AKA "The Manchild", has been a part of the Destructoid community for a long time, eventually becoming part of the staff. Last month, his other responsibilities have caught up with him, and this is his farewell message to the community, especially the Cbloggers. Good luck whatever you do Joel.

*- Do you think there are too much killing and murder in videogames, then maybe you would like to do like DrDoom here and take a break managing your own zoo in a game like Zoo Tycoon 2. Yet, in a hilarious twist, the murderous instincts of us gamers manage to show themselves in most mundane of games.

*- Do you like lists? I like lists. Who doesn't like lists? Lists like this top 10 GAMES OF ALLLLLLLL TIIIIMEEEE by MajinRotty. Honestly, even though it is impossible to agree with any such list (Even your own), this one here covers some really strong game with a lot of good analysis about what makes them great.

*- The Grandia games made up a JRPG franchise that is well-known for its excellent take on turn-based battles and a sense of adventure that is unique among the more brooding games in the genre. In this retrospective, Lord Spencer asks "Where the Hell is Grandia?" and explores the series's strengths, reasons for demise, and possible comeback scenarios.

*- In his BoB entry, LaTerry confronted his own biases against military FPS games and came out of it with a lot of insight. This is an excellent blog because it offers a rare introspective look on a person's biases, and how that colors their view of games and genres and many other things.

*- With his first blog, Haklen57 hits it out of the park. This blog does great justice to his love of Mega Man Legends and details many of the great things about that unfortunately unrealized franchise. Just like this blog, those games were obvious labors of love.

*- Check out the second part of Haklen57's blog on the greatness of Mega Man Legends with this blog that focuses on the second game. Both these blogs share the Topsauce.

B- The Band of Bloggers bandwagon is continuing on with another prompt, provided this time by the excellent dephoenix. This month's theme is all about getting out of comfort zone, so check out these blogs by community members who decided to do just that and write a blog:

A- This is a not-so-short guide of how to beat the Demon of Hatred in Sekiro by resident action games expert, Fivefinger Delta.

A- Apparently, with the release of Sekiro, there has been a discussion on the game's difficulty and accessibility. As usual, Dwarvenhobble weighs in on the latest gaming discussion with his own well-written point of view. I agree with Bhim here in most counts.

No one expected Sekiro to launch such a "controversy"

A- PC gaming is not gated by hugely advanced machines, as more games can be played at the power of your basic working laptop, as this article by Joel Peterson (The Manchild) details.

A- 2017 was such a great year for games, as the list of the top 10 2017 games by Blazehero surely confirms.

A- This is an interesting interview by Sapato64 with Daniel Pesina, the martial artist sho provided much of the digitized imagery used in the original Mortal Kombat games.

A- Sometimes, we think back to a game we enjoyed, and are surprised at how we enjoyed it despite the obvious flaws. In this blog, Mikeyerik shares with some of those games.

S- Shoggoth2588 has been sharing with us his monthly gaming journal for the past few months, and that includes many details on the bunch of varied games that he plays, such as Dark Souls III and Final Fantasy IX in last month among others.

S- Give a big hand to Osc, who navigated quite a hectic month in March, and still managed to work on this side game he has been developing as a hobby, and provide use some updates.

S- If you are interested in learning basic coding, then it looks like TheBlondeBass is starting a blogging series to do just that. Honestly, the style of teaching is really good, and this can be a start if you are casually interested.

S- Here, you can read Lord Spencer's latest Saturn Reviews blog, covering the very good Dark Savior. A review of Deep Fear will be next.

P- Check out PSToid's latest podcast, which discusses the recent allowance to change your PSN IDs among other things.

Maybe every game needs a funky mode

S- Stories like this warm my heart. Our own Peter Glagowski's mom seems like such a cool person, especially in the way she enjoyed PAX East 2019 even more so than her son.

S- Flegma shares with us an update on an interesting gaming contest, where challengers are asked to develop games for the retro MSX computer. Many of these games, including Flegma's own, look interesting and fun to play.

S- Here is another fantasy filled recap of Marcel Hoang's latest Dungeons & Dragons sessions. This time, with the interesting twist of two sessions with and without the trusty paladin. How did things turn out in the end?

S- We get another D&D story session from another community member. The story told by Teterchimp is interesting because the locations in the story are inspired by real-world names that you are challenged to figure out.

S- Taking a break from his "Project Ranger" blogs, Aurachad shares with us some of his Roll20 D&D stories.

C- The best way to kill your gaming backlog is to add a couple of games that you won't play. Wait, that doesn't sound right. Anyways, that's the philosophy of icobus magnus who just picked up a number of interesting Wii and PS3 games to add to the collection.

T- Dango shares the atypical experience of someone who did not previously enjoy From Software games yet found Sekiro to be ultimately a great game.

T- This is not a review of Katana ZERO, but rather a critique of it by Riley1sCool with the admission that it is nonetheless a great game.

T- Kumasimc shares these thoughts about the Action Adventure Sci-Fi game, Echo.

T- If you are a fan of Bullfrog's past library of management sim games, then you should check out Flegma's thoughts on Startopia, a sim game made by former Bullfrog people.

We got it easy today

R- With it being so different from other From Software games, Sekiro was bound to be received differently by fans of the company. Such reception comes from Deediddle who appreciated the differences enough that the game ultimately is recommended by this review.

R- In another review, but of a much older game, Deediddle reviews Life is Strange, an adventure game that he liked more than he thought he would even if the ending is a disappointment.

R- Someone enjoyed the crafted world of the latest Yoshi game on the Switch, as you can see from Calvinbrine's review of, well, Yoshi's Crafted World.

R- Check out another review by Calvinbrine this time covering the low-key but still excellent looking Box Boy and Box Girl.

R- LastKingofHearts is back with his short(ish) reviews of older (and sometimes current) games:

M- Continuing from the months before, PhilsPhindings is continuing to scour some famous video game tunes and trying to find the music that may have inspired them:

M- In the first, and maybe the last, review of a music album, dephoenix reviews what is apparently an accidental masterpiece called Moist by the band: Titty Citty.

Seriously though, would Cuphead have been as good a game if not for its challenging but fair gameplay?

F- The Marvel Cinematic Universe simply steamrolled itself into the popular public conscience of today. Turning stories that were in the domain of a niche of American cultural group and propelling them to a worldwide mainstream. A total of 21 movies directly connected to the MCU have been released, and here you can see how Boxman214 have ranked all of them:

F- Before watching the final Avengers movie, Boxman214 decided to share some of his own predictions. Personally, without being interested in the MCU at all, I made a correct prediction of 80% of what happened in the movie.

F- In defense of bad videogame movies comes Sapato64 who argues that Mortal Kombat Annihilation wasn't such a bad movie after all.

R- I have no idea what these blogs by Aurachad are about. Something related to a Project Ranger thing:

R- I have no idea what Shades of Greg is on about.

Ultimately, everyone is entitled to their own opinion

Two final notes:

One, the issue of “game accessibility” when it comes to disabled gamers is more complex. Disabilities come in widely different forms, and a solution for one player may not be a solution for another. Developers who attempt to provide accessibility options should be commended, but not everyone will succeed in providing all necessary options for all situations.

Two, it that reviewers should reflect the difficulty of the game as well as the difficulty options when making their reviews. For example, a reviewer complaining about the difficulty of an action game when they are playing it on normal instead of the provided easy option is unfair. Similarly, a reviewer saying a game is too easy when there is an available hard mode that they have not attempted is also unfair. Reviewers should know their own level and play the games accordingly.

For instance, I remember The Wonderful 101 getting slammed for its difficulty by reviewers who played it on normal. Admittedly, the game was difficult at first when I played it on normal difficulty, so I played it on easy. It became much easier, and I had the time to get better at it, before eventually mastering it at hard. This is a case where a game gave a variety of difficulty options but was slammed because of it.

To celebrate the recap of the entire month, give a hand to the following bloggers:

Topsauced Bloggers:

Comments of the Week and Band of Bloggers Team:

Most Prolific Bloggers (Not counting reposts and fails):

Be Lucky

Blog Count: 58

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