Dead Easy: Hitman and Integrated Difficulty

This is the forth post in a series of blog entries about the inclusion of an ‘easy mode’ in all games. The previous pieces were: Difficulty and Design Intent , Is Art for Everyone?  and Designing Difficulty. In this post I want to expand upon my previous one, in which I looked at examples of how to make difficult games., this time focusing on the 2016 Hitman game.

N.B. I want to make clear that this post is for now putting aside the issue that an easier mode in games would be beneficial to differently abled or disabled players. I want to look at the discussion regarding this in a post on its own – mostly because I would like to research this topic in more detail so as to be more educated on the matter. Therefore, the arguments presented here relate mostly to players who can’t play games due to their skill level, although I am sure there will be some cross-over.

Black Friday came and went, and since we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here, there was no family gathering with mountains of food for me. However, we have recently begun importing the more capitalist aspect of the holiday season, with price slashes worth fighting over. All this is to say I finally bought Hitman Season 1 in the sales and it was an excellent decision.

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Dead Easy: Designing Difficulty

This is the third post in a series of blog entries about the inclusion of an ‘easy mode’ in all games. The previous piece Difficulty and Design Intent focused on the argument that an easier mode in some games would ruin the experience intended by the game’s developers. The second post Is Art for Everyone? asked if difficult games should be their own genre, and if perhaps these games aren’t for all players. I discussed how this applied to other mediums with difficult texts like film, literature and art.

N.B. I want to make clear that this post is for now putting aside the issue that an easier mode in games would be beneficial to differently abled or disabled players. I want to look at the discussion regarding this in a post on its own – mostly because I would like to research this topic in more detail so as to be more educated on the matter. Therefore, the arguments presented here relate mostly to players who can’t play games due to their skill level, although I am sure there will be some cross-over.

This post was inspired by this article that went up on Game Informer yesterday, which looks at seven games that created higher difficulties by doing more than just reducing health for the player and increasing enemies. So today I want to look at what a difficult mode of a game can/should look like, rather than focusing on the easy mode. Perhaps if more games had sophisticated difficulties then more players would not mind a game that allowed choice. I think the reason many popular difficult games are revered is the obvious love and care that has gone into designing the game’s difficulty. For many games a difficult mode can result in just basic changes that make completing the game feel like a slog, rather than an enjoyable challenge.

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Dead Easy: Is Art for Everyone?

This is the second post in a series of blog entries about the inclusion of an ‘easy mode’ in all games. The previous piece Difficulty and Design Intent focused on the argument that an easier mode in a game like Dark Souls, would ruin the experience intended by the game’s developers. In this I also give a little bit of background to this discussion, so I would recommend it as a starting point to understand the wider conversation I wish to contribute to. 

N.B. I want to make clear that this post is for now putting aside the issue that an easier mode in games would be beneficial to differently abled or disabled players. I want to look at the discussion regarding this in a post on its own – mostly because I would like to research this topic in more detail so as to be more educated on the matter. Therefore, the arguments presented here relate mostly to players who can’t play games due to their skill level, although I am sure there will be some cross-over.

We are incredibly lucky today in that there are hundreds of games out there for us to choose from. From role playing games, to racing, to visual novel to first person shooters – there’s something for everyone. As a gamer you don’t have to like every single genre of game, or even every single game out there. You can pick what appeals to you and play that – just like you can pick what kind of movies, books or films you like. One thing that has occurred to me when considering the idea of whether there should be an easy mode in games is this: maybe a game where difficulty is part of the design, isn’t for everyone. And if this is the case, does it need to be?

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Dead Easy: Difficulty and Design Intent

Recently I’ve been following the debate on Feminist Gaming Matters about the inclusion of easy modes in games.  This is not a new debate – it seems to rear its head every couple of months somewhere. And, as is often the case, the argument focuses quite heavily on Dark Souls, because…well I don’t know. There are hundreds of games out there, many of them difficult, but somehow DS always floats to the fore of these discussions, therefore, I’ll be focusing on it quite heavily here too. I’ll try and make this conversation wider, but a lot of the arguments I want to engage in use SoulsBourne as examples, so of course I’ll discuss them here. 

I would like to highlight that this conversation has two distinct, but interlocking parts to it: making games easy allows players who, for whatever reason want an easier experience e.g. new gamers, younger or older gamers, less skilled players, etc. The second, and more important strand related to making games more accessible for players who are disabled, which could include a number of features, one of which may be an easier level of difficulty. I would like to engage with both of these points, but I will start with the former – the inclusion of a general easy mode for gamers who just wish to have an easier/more relaxing time. 

This ended up being way longer than I expected, so I’ll be splitting my thoughts down into separate blog posts. Look out for more in the future. Feel free to give me your opinions – both on the arguments outlined in this post, and on others you have regarding this topic.

Finally to give some context to this piece, I suggest you also read this editorial on RockPaperShotgun, and this video by Mark Brown.

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