False Difficulty In Video Games

There is a difference between a good game that is difficult and a game that is disguised to be a good difficult game under cheap armor.

By Artemis, Posted 23 Jan 2015

Difficulty in video games is a complicated thing to talk about, because every person has their own definition of what it difficult and what is not. Something that you find hard in a game might not be something your friend finds difficult and vice versa.  Even if something people find universally difficult, you will always find that small group of people that just breezed through it like it didn’t matter at all. Nowadays, difficulty in games seems to be an added “bonus” to gamers, since the general consensus is that games are being made too easy nowadays. However, there seems to be a misunderstanding as to what real difficulty is and what bad game design is.


For example: the Castlevania games from the NES era. These games, while difficult, used their game design to teach the player when they should attack and when they should back off. Nearly all of the player’s mistakes weren’t the fault of the game but the fault of the player themselves. The Mega Man games did something similar, using their game design to teach the players about the difficulty rather than just not telling them anything.   If you look at a game like Jekyll and Hyde though, it almost doesn’t tell a gamer anything through design or even text boxes.  The difference is that, no matter what, the game sets you up for failure, and you’d have to spend more time with it than you have to spend time with something like Mega Man. Not because of good game design or difficulty, because you can’t find out how to conquer the thing.  Back in those days however, this is somewhat forgivable because games were just starting to gain a following and there was no real standard on how to make your games frustratingly hard but “fun”.

Nowadays though, a sort of standard has been set, with books about game design being written and those young gamers from the early days of gaming have grown as well, along with their tastes. People have expressed what they like and dislike, and with developers trying to cater to both the hardcore demographic and the new gamer crowd that’s been seemingly coming out of the woodwork.  Developers now have the difficult job of trying to appease everyone and to make a game that is strictly difficult and nothing else might result in less overall sales, which from a business standpoint isn’t a good thing.  This is why a lot of games that have been difficult in the past or a little unforgiving, like the Fire Emblem Series, have added the “casual mode” difficulty in Awakening, in order to appeal to newer players, which managed to successfully save their franchise. They also managed to put in Nightmare difficulty for the veterans of the game, simultaneously pleasing both newbies to the series and those who had been playing it for years. This gave the series a perfect balance of difficulty, even with the so-called “casualfication” of the series as a whole.

Dark Souls 2,Gif,Video Games,Difficult,Modes,Feature,Editorial,Angelina Bonilla

There are of course niche games like Roguelikes, survival games and others that are always an exercise in patience when it comes to playing them. These are the sort of games like Neo Scavenger, that use the game mechanics itself and simple logic on what one needs to survive. It’s a difficult game, but with every game over you realize your mistakes and you learn from them. A game that doesn’t do this, is Dark Souls 2. While its predecessors Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls have a reputation for being difficult but fair, but this one on the other hand has an issue with its hit boxes. If you roll out of the way, your hit box doesn’t always come with you, causing you to be struck just when you thought you magnificently dodged a move. While some can say it “forces you to adapt to its own brand of difficulty” it really shows the fact that the game designers just designed the game badly in order to give you a false sense of difficulty. It is an achievement to beat Dark Souls 2, yes, but that isn’t from the game’s difficulty by good game design, it’s because of how broken the game actually is.

The problem with difficulty in games is that people are starting to not recognize the difference between a game that’s actually difficult, and a game that’s broken and one of the only reasons they keep losing is because of bad game design or a glitch. People have become so “used” to their idea of what an easy game that they are willing to praise anything that they perceive as difficult, even if that means that the game is broken by design. They want to test their mettle against games so much because they have something to prove when they beat a game even if  that game functionally doesn’t work as well as it should.  They get a false sense of achievement from something that should have been difficult in a way that worked, rather than a way where you had to adapt to a terrible system. Difficulty in games is fine, but there is a difference between what is truly difficult and what is just an exercise in futility.

Over the years games that are genuinely difficult at the start of the game are getting harder and harder to find and now hardcore gamers are desperate to prove themselves. It is like a trial by fire for them, even if the fire they are trying to escape is in a furnace with a window that it just big enough for them to fit through.  They see any difficulty as good difficulty and will get angry at anyone who says otherwise, because the other person should just “Get Good” in order to destroy something that they are essentially crippled against. There is a difference between a good game that is difficult and a game that is disguised to be a good difficult game under cheap armor. It’s just a matter of tearing off the armor to see the good or bad game inside.

Angelina Bonilla, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information

Dark Souls II


Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Namco Bandai Games
Developer(s): From Software
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2014-03-11

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