Video games without an easy difficulty are elitist – Reader’s Feature

A reader argues that optional difficultly levels are essential for all games, in order to make video games accessible for everyone.

A regular issue that has been raised recently, is game difficulty and in particular in games such as the Dark Souls trilogy. I have put my five pennies worth in on the subject before. In summary, I have tried them, found them too difficult and given up on them. They are just too hard for my skill level.

A small disclaimer in this is, I am diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which does affect my ability to persevere and my levels of patience. A final point is I am now 49 and have the reactions of a stunned slug, wear glasses that resemble pint pots, and have fingers like sausages! Maybe a slight exaggeration but it isn’t easy being me.

One argument, from reader Craster, piqued my interest in particular, with the line ‘this argument shows how little respect most people have for video games as art’ in regard to game difficulty. This argument I disagree with. In 2013, British artist Tracey Emin was awarded the CBE. At the ceremony she is quoted as saying, ‘art is for everybody and not just the elite’. This is not a new sentiment and has been stated by a number of artists of all forms of art over the years. And this quote will form the basis for my argument.

I will never be able to own a piece of artwork form the aforementioned artist. Her work sells for millions of pounds. Only a select handful of individuals will ever own a piece of her artwork. Referring to her quote it would appear that her art is for the elite. However, this is not the case. I can have access to her work in many different ways and forms. I can go to a gallery and view her work. I can look at her work online and in books. I can buy prints and photographs of her work and display them in my own home. Her art is available to anyone and not just the elite.

Another good media to look at is film and TV shows. Many of these are made and produced in the English language. The most popular films of all time are in English. This would alienate a huge section of society unable to enjoy the art these directors and producers have created. They don’t expect a German national to learn English, they provide access to the film through subtitles or dubbing. This opens up the art of film to all and not just those that can speak several languages.

My final point concerns books. The Harry Potter series of books has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide. They have been translated into 80 languages. This number continues to increase as more languages are added, giving more access to the art of writing and storytelling to more people around the globe. It also goes the other way with books being translated into English, such as the Bible or War and Peace. Access for all.

I might not get what the artist is trying to achieve, the nuances the artist is trying to convey in their artwork, but I don’t have to, I can digest it in my own way. I have no idea what Picasso is doing in his artwork but it doesn’t stop me enjoying it in my own way.

How does this fit into video games? Many people state that video games are an art. I too have that belief, but do I have access to this art form in all its guises? No, I don’t. There are a number of games which have locked access behind a difficulty wall. I will never have the full scope to experience these games due to my inabilities, that artwork is for the elite players. By including a difficulty setting for those less skilful opens the art to all and not just the elite.

Microsoft have recognised this point by introducing the adaptive controller to allow those people who cannot use a regular controller. This allows for people who have been locked out of the art of gaming by giving them the tools to overcome the difficulties faced. I can’t find any details of how many it has sold but the very fact they developed it shows a desire to open gaming up to everybody and not just the able bodied. This is access for all.

My closing statement on this matter is gaming should give players the option to set their own difficulty setting. It doesn’t have to detract from the game or the experience the developer is trying to portray. There are plenty of tools available to them to encourage players. Maybe don’t give an Achievement or Trophy for completion unless you complete the game on the developer’s desired difficulty. We shouldn’t be making gaming only for those with the best skills. To quote Sony, ‘play has no limits’.

By reader Dirtystopout

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