No shame in easy mode

The last few years there’s been a lot of talk about how challenging games ought to be, usually whenever a new From Software game hits store shelves. It feels like whenever another challenging title releases we witness a cycle of people asking for easier difficulty modes, followed by hardcore gamers coming out against it, which invariably descends into petty arguments and namecalling.

I don’t specifically want to talk about From Software today or even any of the games they have produced that are often central in this discussion. Instead I want to talk about easy modes and other difficulty-altering measures in general.

There has always been a culture of shaming when it comes to difficulty. Old school shooters like Doom reveled in coming up with mocking namesakes for their difficulty modes, and developers have long included other good-hearted jabs at players who prefer easier difficulties. Other games will flat-out tell you that an easy difficulty mode is an “unintended” way to experience the game, or strip out swathes of content to punish offending players.

Even the community likes to mock people who play on easy, referring to it as “baby mode” or, in recent times, “games journalist mode”. Guess they are still very upset at that Cuphead review that doesn’t actually exist. It’s no surprise that people feel anxious about playing on easy, but here’s a word of advice to anybody who feels pressured by developers and other gamers to git gud: “fuck them”.

On the Subreddit of a strategy gaming series I frequent, I recently saw a post by a player who was going to quit the game because he just couldn’t play it on normal. He had a good time playing on easy, but people told him he wasn’t experiencing everything the game had to offer unless he at least played on normal. He tried again and again, but just couldn’t make it. He wasted a whole lot of time not having any fun, just trying to figure out how to somehow win. It killed his enthusiasm for the game, invalidated his joy at beating it before on easy, and got him to quit even as other players backpedaled and tried to tell him playing on easy was actually just fine.

Outside of multiplayer games, you don’t owe other players, or even the developers, fucking anything. Your only obligation is to yourself and don’t let anybody fool you into thinking there are restrictions on what you are allowed to do to make the game fun for yourself. Play on easy, use cheats, download a mod, disable gameplay elements that are giving you too much trouble; it’s your game now. Does the developer block off content when you play on easy? Fuck them! Patch it back in yourself. This is now your “intended way” to play!

In all seriousness, there are reasons to play on higher difficulties. Challenge can give birth to memorable moments, there is fun to be had in overcoming steep odds, but none of that matters when it’s not suitable for you. You’re not gonna have any amazing moments with the game if it makes you not wanna play the damn thing. You can always come back to a game again later and try it the “normal” way, but at least you’ll get your money’s worth out of the game once. And if nothing works? Refund it and put the money towards a game that actually brings you joy.

Sure, people will complain and probably look down on you, but here’s a bit of truth: they probably cheated too. Hell, the game probably cheats as well! Those “games used to be much harder” types? They grew up in an era where games came with built-in codes to make them easier, magazines with walkthroughs and tips reigned supreme, and Game Genie was almost a must-have peripheral. There is a reason the Konami Code and other old cheats became in-jokes within the gaming community of old.

Those Git Gud hardcore gamers? You can bet those folks used wikis and guides to figure out whatever tricky game they are in love with. You think hundreds of thousands of people all figured out how to beat a notoriously difficult game without outside help? There’s a reason games like the Souls series and Paradox games have their every mechanic and detail meticulously documented on a wiki, why there are dozens of intricate guides and tutorials available for them.

Games have always had means of making them easier and players have happily used them since forever, and then also used outside sources or community help to figure out challenges they can’t overcome alone. If all of that is valid, then so are you when playing on easy mode. If not, then REAL gamers are a rare species indeed.

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