Why Difficult Games Need to be Difficult

I have been playing a whole lot of Sekiro lately. I may have gotten the game by mistake but I feel I’m just getting into the right mindset and the groove of the game. It’s a really punishing game and I can’t remember how many times I’ve died already. And not just from the bosses, though! I’ve died from some of the lesser enemies who manage to either catch me off-guard or simply overwhelm me with numbers. Yet I still keep coming back for more!

Yes, Sekiro is a very difficult game and has managed to keep my ego in check. It can be incredibly soul crushing to see all your hard-earned experience drained by half all of a sudden you when you encounter a boss that simply feels too much to overcome. The same can said for all the other games that can prove too daunting, leaving some gamers to cry out for developers to add an “easy mode” for them.

I, in all honesty, don’t agree with this assessment. I believe there should be games that are difficult and adding an “easy mode” to them would not be in the best interest of either the developers or the people that play them.

I’ve heard a lot of arguments saying that making games like Sekiro and Bloodborne more accessible to everyone would help developers like FromSoftware, who intentionally make them so difficult that some people have to ask for this. I can sort of understand this sentiment as they can see a lot of people enjoying something and they want to get in on the fun. Besides, playing a difficult game on “easy mode” is just optional and not something you need to play on. It’s just there for the gamers who want to play it on an easier setting. That seems fair, right?

Well, not really because it’s never really defined what “easy mode” would mean to them. It would mean different things for different people. Would that mean giving them a beefier life bar or enemies do less damage than normal? Does it mean there’s more recovery items or buffs available? Will you be able to slow down the game at specific times so you’d have more time to react? That’s a lot of things to keep track off and it’ll be difficult for developers to really know what to put in “easy mode” while keeping it challenging.

But let’s say the gamer doesn’t really like hard games because it does take time to “git gud” to progress. Maybe they just don’t have time to invest in playing video games because they have responsibilities in life now. Maybe they’re just older and they don’t have the reflexes to play something that requires split second reactions. I do find myself on that same boat throughout my life and, this may be a hard pill to swallow for them, but maybe you shouldn’t be playing that particular game. Simply put, maybe that game just isn’t for you.

Even when I was younger, I could beat a lot of games on my NES/Famicom. Some games, like Contra, were hard but you could give yourself a boost of thirty lives to finish it. I didn’t need to do that after playing it so many times, though. I ran through Punch-Out!’s entire cavalcade of pugilists and went all the way to the top to face Mike Tyson. I managed to beat him after getting knocked down a bunch of times.

Even then, there were some games that, even though I wanted to play them, I knew I couldn’t beat. Even when armed with the Konami code, I could never, ever beat Gradius. That’s just one example of the plethora of games I never could finish. That’s never really bothered me. So there were some games that I found too difficult to beat? Big deal. I never really wanted the game to be easier, though. I just figured that these type of games aren’t really for me. And it wasn’t like today where it’s super easy to see some expert go through the game without taking a single hit. I say that’s impressive because I couldn’t do that myself!

However, there’s one thing the people who want “easy modes” to be built in games from the start that don’t really get about difficult games and that’s the weird sense of community. This is something I came to find when I started playing Sekiro. When I started playing the game, I thought it was pretty difficult already and it only got harder as I progressed. I eventually reached a point where I had to face off against the True Monk, which is a boss I just couldn’t beat. I could maybe take off a lifebar or two but, once I got to the third phase, I was just too beat up by then to defeat her.

So, what did I do? I went to the Internet for help. I looked up several guides on how to beat the True Monk and I saw a lot of videos that shows different techniques to beat her. Some can be cheap and cheesy, some require more finesse and some show how to use the AI’s dumb way of navigating through the stage to trick them into falling off a cliff! I went for a mix of cheese and finesse. Glitching the boss just doesn’t seem fair.

But you can see the immense appreciation for these guides! I wasn’t the only one stuck on this boss and there will be more who will need help as well. Now, do you think all this help would be appreciated if everyone could just switch to “easy mode” when they do get stuck on something like this? You could say there still would be a lot as some players would never try to make the game easier when the going gets tough. But in reality, I think they would because, well, there are people asking for “easy mode” in the first place.

But the biggest reason why I believe difficult games should remain difficult is because there is a market for it. I do agree that, technically, nothing would be lost if difficult games if an “easy mode” was added. But even if it was just an option, its legacy would be damaged. One of the biggest selling points of a lot of FromSoftware games is that they’re difficult. This does alienate some gamers but it also emboldens others to play them. It’s not the lore or the story why games like Bloodborne or Dark Souls became massively huge, although some would argue that’s part of the reason.

But the primary reason is some gamers do crave the punishing difficulty. If FromSoftware did make a Dark Souls or Bloodborne with a difficulty slider, the soul of what the developer intended, which is making a super challenging game targeting a specific set of hardcore gamers who demand to be punished until they “git gud,” would be lost.

They understand not all games is intended for everyone and trying to appeal to everyone creates a watered down product. Difficult games have their own fanbases, much like how JRPG, fighting games and shooters have their own subsection of their own communities. They don’t want to add an “easy mode” because that’s not what they want with their game. They know their players want something that appeals to them and what they want is something hard. So why mess that up? Why mess up that formula just to try to get the gamers who don’t appreciate what they’re trying to create?

What the people who want an “easy mode” don’t really understand about hard games is that’s part of the reason why the game is so good. Yes, the story and the lore would still be there even if they did make the game easier. But what made these games so popular in the first place is because they were difficult. If they were easier, they might just be another game on the market. Yes, nothing may really be lost if there was an “easy mode” baked in them. But, at the same time, the thing that made them so good would, in essence, not feel the same.

What’s your take on adding an “easy mode” in a hard game? Let me know in the comments section below!

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