I’ll be the first to admit that if I a game is kicking me while I’m down, I will occasionally counterattack with a change in difficulty. I had to do this recently with Bioshock Infinite, which while frustrating as I had gone through the whole game on a different difficulty level, I was quite relieved as it just let me finish the game. I had to switch down to easy mode as I was getting completely obliterated right at the end of the game. I could have done it on normal mode, but I lacked the patience and to be perfectly honest, I just wanted to finish it.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a challenge in games just as much as anyone else, but my skills aren’t always up to the test. There does appear to be a certain amount of snobbery at times when it comes to difficulty modes in games. Tell someone you completed the new Call of Duty on the highest difficulty setting and you’re a God. Tell that same person you completed it on easy mode, then you’re just a newbie who apparently doesn’t deserve the title of ‘gamer’. This does annoy me slightly, as I think it really depends on the game genre, and the kind of player you are.
There are some people who are excellent at completing FPS games on the most hardcore settings, and that’s because they have the patience and the strategic knowledge to get through them. Me? I’ve got an itchy trigger finger and if someone jumps in front of me, I’m going to fire as many rounds into them as I possibly can. I don’t have the patience for conserving ammo, so I normally set my FPS games on normal difficulty, which is just the right amount of strategy and ‘all guns blazing’ for my gaming style.
I would absolutely love to be able to claim I finished a game on super hardcore mode, but I can’t see it happening anytime soon. If JRPGs had a better range of difficulty settings, then you can guarantee I’d be all over that. I can spend hours grinding my characters up to a good enough level, and then spend several more hours utilising the perfect strategy to beat down that secret boss who refuses to give in. I’m not sure how many hardcore FPS players would have the same patience and strategic planning, however.
My point is, every game has a different strategy, and a different set of mental skills is needed for each one. I start every game on a normal difficulty setting, but when it comes down to fighting games, it’s normally knocked down to easy relatively quickly. Is it because I’m just a bit rubbish at them? Mostly, but it’s also because I just want to enjoy the story. Persona 4 Arena finally arrived on Friday, and about an hour in I got fed up and had to knock down the difficulty mode. It’s very accessible and allows for people of all skill levels, but I’m just awful at fighting games, but I do still love to play them. I just lack the brain power to remember all the combos, but at the same time I’m not a button basher. I like to think i sit comfortably in the middle, with mostly my lack of patience to blame when I knock the difficulty down a notch.
I think the whole stigma of easy mode has become even more apparent with Xbox Achievements and PSN Trophies, as gamers can wear these with a virtual badge of honour. The person who completes Bioshock Infinite on 1999 Mode will have more achievements than someone who can only get through it on Easy mode. Does that make them less of a gamer? No, of course it doesn’t. I’m sitting on a comfortable 32K gamer score on Xbox Live, and that would be so much higher if I completed some games on harder difficulty settings, but I really don’t care that much. Some people clearly gain enjoyment from playing their favourite games in the most challenging way, but it’s just not for me I’m afraid.
What do you think? Do you think easy mode is an acceptable mode for the so-called ‘hardcore gamers’ to play through, or can you only be classed a real gamer if you hoard your ammo and spend extra time on a game with a perfect strategy on Hard mode? Should we be playing for the achievement and virtual trophy, or should we be plying for enjoyment, regardless of the difficulty?