Game On: video games are much easier than before
If you’ve ever found yourself playing in an arcade, chances are you’ve realized that video games can be very, very difficult. It’s not crazy – I’ve always been a hardcore gamer, and, honestly, arcade games can feel downright masochistic if you’re actually trying to beat a game or get a high score.
On the other hand, gaming on a couch, computer, or even a phone tends to be a much more laid-back experience. It’s no surprise – after all, since their inception, arcade games were designed to eat piles of coins, and they stayed that way.
While most games started out as trick-based affairs – think Pong, Pacman or Galaga – there are some arcade games where you can play through an entire campaign no matter how bad you are, provided you have enough coins – small arms games like Time Crisis and Virtua Cop, for example.
One of the benefits of bringing the arcade experience home was the ability to replay a game to your heart’s content without constantly losing quarters. To compensate, of course, home video game cartridges have been Dear – usually around $50 to $80. Keep in mind this is the early 80s and late 90s, so we’re talking about $100-$160 in today’s dollars. Yeah.
So rental stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video started carrying video games. It wasn’t long before game companies realized they were losing money because of it, so publishers started urging developers to make games unreasonably difficult – logic being that if your player everyday could not finish the game in a weekend, he would be more likely to buy it directly.
Lead designer of the 1992 game Ecco the Dolphin, Ed Annunziata took to Twitter just a few years ago to apologize for the game’s unreasonable level of difficulty. He freely admitted that it was done to shut down the warriors weekend rental.
The practice was most common in the United States, so 1994’s Streets of Rage 3 was made significantly more difficult than its Japanese counterpart. Today, most fans insist that the Japanese version is the balanced and “true” version despite the language barrier.
A better solution, of course, is for developers to implement difficulty options. The practice became widespread throughout the 1990s in PC games first, with strategy games like Civilization offering players robust AI difficulty options.
Many RPGs have chosen to do the same, with its difficulty levels affecting incoming and outgoing damage values and certain luck vectors. This gave games more replay value than before – beat the game on normal mode? Now challenge yourself to hard erase it.
The catch with difficulty options is determining what is considered the “true” intended mode. Halo has always made this obvious by marking its “Heroic” difficulty level as “the true Halo experience”, but it’s often not so clear. I find the BioShock series ridiculously simple on anything below difficult settings, but that’s just me.
Unsurprisingly, you don’t have to go far to find keyboard warriors online warming up under the collar of what “the real experience” is for any game you can imagine. A surprising number of these elitists were even upset when FromSoftware got the sheer audacity to make Elden Ring a bit easier than its predecessors, Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
For me, such arguments are a waste of time. Video games are meant to be a form of recreation – if you like making them particularly challenging or competitive for yourself, go for it, but don’t push your standards on people who just want to kick back and relax. Not everyone has cat-like reflexes and many players have different abilities.
Anyone who is physically capable of enjoying video games should be free to do so – it makes no sense to control. I may never play games with easier settings, but I’m still happy to see the option available to the many gamers who aren’t daredevils like me!
Riordan Zentler can be contacted at [email protected]