Difficulty in Gaming

Two articles regarding game difficulty seems to have sprouted up on the net. One is from Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software (developer of indie RPGs such as Avernum and Geneforge), who wants to make games with easier, accesible difficulties. His opinion stems from being a game developer, however, stating that:

"People will happily forgive a game for being too easy, because it makes them feel badass. If a game is too hard, they will get angry, ragequit, hold a grudge, and never buy your games again."
Another article is from IGN, which is retardedly subjective or they're just brewing up some controversy. The article whines about games for not having enough difficulty levels, or are just too easy, today. But it seems to me that the writer is badly missing his older Nintendo games. Especially when he said:
"Forget graphics, forget weapons and puzzles, forget story, forget characters, and forget controls. Difficulty is the single most important element of any game."
So what's my personal opinion about game difficulty? Well, despite what IGN said, it's the story that propels me to finish a game. I don't mind if the game is easy, hard or gives you penalties when you die. If the story is good, I'd find a way to finish it no matter what. For example, I'm not really good at platform games (that's why I can't finish most of my NES games back then). But in Prince of Persia, I have to patiently jump over the same obstacle again and again until I succeeded because I want to see the game's ending.

Though I do agree with both articles about games should have more difficulty options, ranging from very easy to modes that will give you nightmares. I always treat games as a brief getaway from the challenges of reality. So it's not good if I buy a game and can't enjoy it because it's too damn hard. That's just plain cruel. On the other hand, I do love to be challenged occasionally. Especially with strategy games. So I crank up a game's difficulty, from time to time and come up with different tactics to keep the game fresh.

So what about you? What's your say about game difficulty? You like it easy or hard?

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Plynx said...

Game "difficulty" misses the point entirely. The importance is in having your choices have meaning. If the majority of the choices the game provides you are meaningless, because you are going to roll to an inevitable victory, the problem isn't that the game is easy, it's that it's not fun. Similarly, what passes for difficulty in many games is nothing but tedium. Rather than letting you explore the consequences of your choices, it suddenly and disproportionately punishes you for making a single suboptimal choice, then punishes you with boredom (aka, repeat the level). Both are just crutches for poor game design.

If story is what I want, I'll read a story. When I play a game, I expect gameplay. The difference between a story and a game is that a game gives you choices and lets you explore outcomes. If the choices are meaningless for any reason, it just becomes mind numbing and dull.