Easy Mode Is Essential For Me And I Shouldn’t Have To Defend It
As the news broke that Bluepoint Games had discussed (and rejected) the idea of adding an easy mode to Demon’s Souls, once again heated discussions about difficulty levels in gaming broke out on social media. Every single time this happens the same tired arguments come out from those who insist that if you can’t play a game that’s incredibly difficult then you simply need to “GiT GuD.”
It’s incredibly boring, very frustrating, and just shows that so many people still have absolutely no understanding of disability and accessibility. It’s time to end the accusations and assumptions that those of us who rely on easy mode are “lazy”, “unskilled”, and “shouldn’t be gaming”. In fact, many of us work harder for our victories than those playing at much greater difficulty levels.
Gatekeeping And Toxicity
The most common argument about easy mode being unnecessary comes from those who believe it offers no challenge to players and is, therefore, pointless in their eyes. There are also those that believe adding difficulty modes changes the “purity” of the game experience. The Soulslike genre is especially guilty of this way of thinking, with many fans of games like Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls believing you simply shouldn’t even bother trying to play games of this type if you can’t deal with the incredibly high difficulty level.
When you really get down to it the removal of difficulty settings is basically gatekeeping, and toxic gatekeeping at that. No other medium requires a specific skill level in order to access it in the way that gaming does and far too many people don’t consider this when trying to beat their score on mega nightmare insane mode.
Beating ridiculously high difficulty levels has become a badge of honor and with this has come a particularly toxic breed of gamer that views those who cannot achieve this as being somehow unfit to be in the gaming community. What these people need to realize is that for some of us easy mode can require more skill than others playing hell modes will ever possess.
Easy Mode Isn’t Always Easy
I’ve been playing games since I was a kid and it’s well documented that I’m absolutely in love with Lara Croft. My love of Tomb Raider games began when I got my very first PC and remains to this day. However, I don’t think I’ve ever played a single one on a difficulty level above easy, or story mode as it later became known. Even then, I’ve had to enlist the help of others to get past specific obstacles.
The reason isn’t that I don’t practice, can’t be bothered, or am super lazy but instead is because I’m Autistic, and as part of my Autism, I have a lot of symptoms of Dyspraxia – a developmental coordination disorder.
This means I’m ridiculously clumsy, can’t dance in time to save my life (which makes me sad since I love rhythm games), and couldn’t tie my shoelaces properly until I hit my teens. In terms of gaming, I have terrible hand-eye coordination, an utter lack of rhythm and timing, and some fine motor control issues with an added splash of forgetfulness. This means that easy mode isn’t so easy for me.
I could spend years practicing specific moves and jumps in a game but if there’s any kind of variable that means I can’t memorize when to hit a certain button and instead have to very quickly react to a constantly changing situation, I’ll probably never manage it. My brain simply doesn’t process information fast enough. This is why for me an easy mode is essential.
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Losing The Game, Your Keys And Possibly Your Mind
Just as Dyspraxia can make gaming tricky, there are also a large number of other disabilities that can limit how games are played and enjoyed. Some of these are physical and some aren’t, but all can be equally challenging in different ways when it comes to being able to navigate different types of games.
Many people think of disabled gamers as those who have physical issues and require adaptations like Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller, or even those who have specialist controllers from amazing charities like Able Gamers, whose profile has been raised by COO Steven Spohn and a number of content creators who support their work. However, the reality is that disabilities are numerous and there are far more disabled people playing games than most people realize.
Being disabled can affect everything from how fast you can press a button to if you can even remember which button to press in the first place. To play certain games at high difficulty settings, or sometimes even just at regular difficulty, you need fast reflexes, great hand-eye coordination, and a good memory. Not all of us are blessed with these things. Some of us have reactions like the Sloth in Zootopia and keep losing our cell phone, again, only to later find it in the fridge.
A race for that high score on super nightmare insanity mode doesn’t take place on the level playing field many so many assume it does. Many people have a head start they don’t even realize they were given.
If you find difficult game modes easy then I’m happy for you, genuinely. It means you probably don’t face getting frustrated because you cut yourself making a cheese sandwich for the third time this week and you can’t remember where you left your keys, again. For some people everyday life is, well everyday, while for others even tasks like doing the laundry can require more effort than you’d imagine. Disabilities aren’t always visible but for those of us who are disabled they’re always there and it’s only others that don’t notice their existence.
Easy Mode Can Be The Easiest Accessibility Setting
Adding easy modes to games takes away nothing from the existing experience, yet that nothing can be everything to someone else. If you enjoy brutal difficulty modes then I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, you do you. Just spare a little compassion for those of us who simply can’t compete on that level, through no fault of our own.
Without story mode, I’d never have been able to enjoy the stories in the Tomb Raider games and as such would have missed out on so many enjoyable gaming experiences over the years and it’s not just those who are disabled who can enjoy easy modes. Younger or less experienced gamers as well as those with less time on their hands can also benefit from not having to spend three hours repeating the same boss fight over and over again due to its difficult mechanics and steep learning curve.
Easy mode is, in many ways, the easiest accessibility setting developers can add. With a little more understanding we can make it a norm, bringing gaming to a wider audience and helping eliminate the stigma associated with choosing to bypass difficult mechanics. Gaming should be for everyone and tuning some of the more difficult aspects of a game to create an easy mode is another step towards making that a reality.
NEXT: The Last Of Us Part II Does Difficulty Settings Perfectly
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Helen began playing games at an early age with her first computer being a hand-me-down Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It didn’t put her off… She is all grown up now but is still a gamer at heart, especially when it comes to The Sims and other strategy and simulation games.
She juggles the daily demands of life with a family and somehow still finds the time to indulge her two passions in life, writing and gaming; sometimes both at the same time.
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