By: Ethan Daucher
It seems as if in recent years the gaming industry has shifted its turns to games that are difficult and hard to play. For example Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and the most recent one to come out, Cuphead are among many recent immersions of these new “ultra hard” games. A big question arises and that is whether or not having an extremely difficult game is a good design choice. The more difficult a game becomes, the more exclusionary this game becomes, keeping a handful of people from playing the game and enjoying the content and gameplay it has to offer.
One thing to note throughout this article is what the term “gameplay” means. Gameplay, to put simply, is a major distinctive part of a game, whether it be the plot, or the music, or how the game is to be played. Essentially, it’s how you as a person interacts with the game itself.
The big argument and debate that is being made with Cuphead and games alike is that exclusion can be made to a lot of people who want to see the content because of how difficult these games can be. Because of this, many people argue that that is a bad choice because it can cut off a big section of its audience. The big flaw in this argument is that videogames are subjective, some people do not like first person shooters while others do not like RPG’s. Some people do not enjoy 2D side scrollers while other do not enjoy walking simulators. The thing that it boils down to is that almost everybody plays video games whether it be on your iPhone or it be a massive triple A titled game. There is a massive audience but it is the developer’s choice whether or not they’d wish to cater to a small section of that audience and still make a profit.
Personally, the types of games I tend to enjoy the most tend to be a good grindy RPG such as Destiny, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, etc. or even a simple FPS (first-person-shooter) such as overwatch or counter strike. There have been a few games in my life that I myself have never been able to personally beat such as DOOM and most recent of all, cuphead. At the end of the day I very much enjoy a challenge from a video game and want it to push me at my skill, but not to the extent to where it is blatantly impossible or extremely frustrating to beat, so I can see where some people are coming from that stance.
However that is primarily a personal problem the same way Cuphead is a personal problem to me, and that is not something that a videogame developer should have to anticipate. If they’d wish to create an extremely niche difficult game, then that is perfectly okay.
One point of the argument that I agree with however is “easy mode” in games and that a lot of games deserve one. DOOM and Cuphead had an easy mode in there, however you could not experience the entire game in Cuphead’s easy mode, which I believe is a bad choice. Most games that have been released this year have had an easy mode, yet some developers choose not to include one and that is still their choice. In my opinion, easy mode should be included in games to cater to younger kids or people who are new at video games and are still learning, but most importantly, people with disabilities. This can be the difference that decides whether or not they can play the game and experience the gameplay as much as they would like to.
Yet again, if a developer decides to not put these mode in their game, that is still their choice whether or not they’d wish to. The “ultra hard” games is a genre itself and including challenge in a video game is what makes a video game a game. The win and lose state, the challenge of overcoming the lose state and winning is the very essence of what composes a video game, and if a video game does not have that, then it will have no appeal at all to the mass market including myself.
What people need to understand is that there is a spectrum of difficulties that people enjoy. On one end, there is a small few who enjoy the little challenge in games, and in the middle there is the majority who enjoys matchmaking by skill level such as Call of Duty or Overwatch, and on other side, there are those who enjoy video games that are “ultra hard” and impossible to beat to many, which also has a small audience just like those who enjoy a game with little difficulty.
As a developer, it is their choice to whom they decide to appeal their game to on this spectrum, and if there is no challenge, then it is not a game.
One thing that a vast majority enjoy in a game is that sense of satisfaction in a game when you beat a level or collect an item that was challenging to do. When beating a game that is on the harder side of the spectrum, the satisfaction that arises is even greater than it would in a more moderate type game. Personally speaking, when I was playing Cuphead, it took me an hour just to finish the first level of the entire game. In Cuphead, there are 17 boss levels, 17 Run n’ Guns, and 3 worlds. I had not even scratched the surface at that point, but I felt the biggest sense of satisfaction when I finally did beat that first level, and that is what those “ultra hard” games try to do to the person playing the game.
I very well do understand why some people find it frustrating that they are angry at these super hardcore games that are coming out, but if a developer wants their game to be on a certain spectrum of difficulty then they have every right to do so. As for me I get frustrated just like anyone else when I can’t seem to beat a game or level, but this does not mean that all games should flatout not be “too hard.”