Read any game-related site on the Web, and it won't take long to find a criticism of games that are "too easy." The reasons that gamers and game reviewers might find a game too easy are plentiful, ranging from a general feeling that a game lacks challenge to frustrations that a game is too easy because its systems can be broken in one way or another. Often these complaints about lack of difficulty are accompanied by insults leveled at developers or at novice or "casual" gamers, to whom some developers have attempted to appeal by making games more accessible or less difficult.
It's easy for gaming veterans to lose sight of what it's like to be new to gaming, especially for those of us who have been playing games since we were very young. Gamers who are experts in a particular genre in particular expect a different level of challenge from a game than anybody who plays that genre more casually might expect. While it's understandable that expert gamers want a challenge from their games, some of us have gone a bit overboard with our expectations. Should we be allowed to complain that an unusual loophole in game mechanics breaks a game when it's possible not to use that loophole? Should we be hurling insults at any company that aims a game at younger, newer, or more casual gamers than we are?
What's a game developer to do about the difficulty issue? Adding difficulty levels to games is one solution, and developers seem to finally be warming to the concept that Hard modes shouldn't be hidden out of sight until after a game has been completed on "Normal mode." We're even seeing Extra-Hard and "Nightmare" game modes that cater to the most skilled—or perhaps the most masochistic—gamers. On the other hand, Easy modes and options that allow gamers to skip past difficult or frustrating gameplay segments are becoming more common as well.
Still, it's nearly impossible to create difficulty modes that cleave to everybody's definition of what's easy, normal, and hard. I've noticed a tendency in the so-called "hardcore" gamer community to play on the most difficult setting possible, then complain if that setting makes the game too difficult. Apparently, dropping the difficulty level to Easy or Normal is an insult to some people's pride, as though the game itself is insulting the player by having a difficulty level that's above that player's ability. Go ahead, try to suggest dropping the difficulty level to a player like this. "But I always play games on Hard!" is the usual response. Sometimes, there's just no way to win with the gaming community.
In the end, those of us who consider ourselves "gamers" need to take a step back and understand that today's gaming market is broad and diverse. With so many great games coming out, it's okay if some games are too easy for some gamers. Sure, reviewers should point out the difficulty level of a game, as that's part of explaining to readers whether or not they might enjoy the gameplay experience. What reviewers and gamers shouldn't do, however, is toss around insults about a game and the people who enjoy it if they personally found it to be too easy. All that does is make gamers look like a bunch of rude boors, chase off people who are just starting to get into the hobby, and insult fellow gamers who are getting into a new system or game genre.
We can be bigger than that. We can push developers to give us options in terms of game difficulty without acting like self-entitled children. We can also learn to accept that not every game is going to cater to the hardest of hardcore genre fans, and be willing to enjoy the games that challenge us while appreciating that a game isn't necessarily bad if it doesn't push the most skilled players to their limits. Perhaps the game is aimed at new gamers, or it's meant for gamers who play games in order to relax or feel powerful, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Date: February 23, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*