In a recent interview with the Washington Post, creative director of the Demon Souls remake Gavin Moore revealed that the team contemplated including an easy mode. While they eventually decided to go against the addition for the sake of maintaining the first game’s spirit, this announcement again reignited the conversation about gaming difficulty and accessibility.
The Souls Cycle
Every time a new game in the Soulsbourne series is released, we’re met with a combination of some players appreciating the challenge and others decrying it. It’s a conversation without end, with emphatic voices on either end confident in their position. So, what are these positions, and what games best illustrate them in action?
Keep it Difficult
The arguments from those looking to keep games like the Souls series difficult are usually coming from a position of purity. The idea here is that games should be created to enable a specific feeling. In the case of Souls games, this feeling is generated through struggling and overcoming obstacles.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the latest full release from Souls developer From Software, as Erik Kain at forbes.com explains, was perhaps the best example of this argument in action. With only one primary weapon and no way to grind for a stronger character, Sekiro was extremely divisive in how it forced players down a certain route. This was simply targeted design in action, said enthusiasts. No, opponents argued, it was rail-roading.
Aiming for Accessibility
On the other side of the argument are those with a different desire from their games. Rather than appealing to a narrow audience, those who want accessibility through more difficulty levels feel games should be open to as wide an audience as possible. The central idea here is inclusion, and difficulty plays a single but important part in that.
In regular video games, a strong illustration of this concept of inclusion was in The Last of Us 2 by Naughty Dog. Largely regarded as one of the most accessible games of all time as noted by theverge.com, TLOU2 raised the bar of accessibility by a huge margin. Including options like text-to-speech, HUD scaling, high-contrast filters, combat cues, and much more, TLOU2 could take years to be dethroned.
As a general concept, the notion of accessibility in interactive entertainment is hardly a contentious one. Online casino games like the slots at Leovegas.com have built themselves on this idea, where customer choice is king. Modifying bets in games like Boom Pirates and Crusader has long been crucial in this experience, where players can wager as much or as little as they like. The thought is that nothing is lost by letting players choose, so they are able to. Video games, it is argued, are just another example of this idea in action.
Like so many aspects of how we appreciate art, there isn’t one easy answer to the question of where the line between difficulty and accessibility should be drawn. Really, it’s just a matter of individual tastes and what each player wants from an experience. That said, if games do include an easy mode or great accessibility options, nobody is forcing players to use them. Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, however, is entirely up to you.