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Playing on Easy…

I play a fair number of computer games. Many of these games have a difficulty setting when you play them: Easy…Normal…Intermediate…Difficult. I usually pick either Easy or Normal.

Am I a “loser”? Fair question, but actually I often ask exactly the opposite question: are people who who play on “difficult” losers?

Maybe “loser” is the wrong word. But here is my experience of the difference between “normal” or “easy” and “difficult” setting. On the higher settings, the game doesn’t become smarter, nor do you see new, cool content that you have to work hard to get to. Instead, you see exactly the same content that someone playing on “easy” does- you just have to die and respawn many, many more times on the difficult setting. So, to an extent, playing on difficult is sort of like hiring someone to follow you around all day poking you with a stick- your day isn’t better, but its a lot more irritating.

Okay, I get the idea that the game is more “challenging” on the difficult settings. But I’ve played many games over the years on difficult setting, and I know I have the skill to complete them if I practice and work at it. But its not “fun” for me to have to struggle harder to get exactly the same reward.

A major reason that I play games is for the sense of participating in a story. Sort of like an interactive book, with more blood and guts and so forth. Completing the story is more important to me than the struggle to complete it.

I wonder what I would do if playing on difficult setting really *did* have a benefit? If I got to see new or more interesting things by accepting the “challenge” of the higher setting, would I just get frustrated and irritated? Possibly…I don’t get much pleasure out of having to practice and practice just to make progress through the game, and probably I’d feel angry to be forced to make that unpleasant effort. I guess I’ll have to wait and see how I react if I ever play such a game.

3 comments to Playing on Easy…

  • Chris

    “I’m not a loser. I just define winning differently.”

    People look for different things in games, which is why there are different types of games. Or at least used to be, gaming seems to be inton one of it’s monothemed cycles. Remember when every game was a 2d scroller martial arts kickbox variant? At the same time people are good at different things…what constitutes a “challenge” to one can be an insurmountable wall to some, and to yet others, boringly easy.

    I personally do not get a big reward from “beating the game”. I’m not really that sort of competitive sort of a person, I am much more of a game “tourist”. Some people like to play around in a boat on a lake and enjoy the view, others have to be “fishing” to do the same thing.

    I’m also a thinker and a craftsman. My reaction times suck. So harder, faster shooters for me are just like making a game that depends on colour perception and then telling the colourblind that they are loosers. ( I’m not big on puzzle games either… I like to find my own solutions to problems, not try and figure out what the game designer was thinking. )

    One anectote on the “loser” theme… My mother was playing the latest game in the Myst saga, and she came to this point where you had to adjust the vibratiuons of these crystals by moving some sliders with the mouse; basically a fancy combination lock. SHe had it figured out, but it was on a timer…. she just couldn’t get teh positions adjusted in the time alotted with the quality of the mouse controls.

    Neither could I

    Neither could anyone in my family after 2 weeks of trying on differnet machines and with different mice.

    Neither could hundreds of other people ( going online and checking the related game sites.)

    All of these people got stuck 1/3 of the way through a puzzle game, because the maker decided to put in a ( hard ) dexterity test. All of these people got deprived of an enjoyable experience they had paid $50 for. Most of these people said they were never going to by another game from the Myst makers.

    Seems to me ticking off your core fan base is a “loser” thing to do.

  • > Seems to me ticking off your core fan base is a β€œloser” thing to do.

    Yeah, I agree. The funny thing is, some people seem to enjoy that kind of frustration. I have to assume they get some sense of accomplishment when they succeed. Having an “easy” and a “difficult” setting is one way to support both modes of play, I suppose. But throwing more enemies at the player seems like a rather narrow way to define challenge.

    Like you, I prefer to see the sights when I play a game. And I guess I’d rather have 10 hours of gameplay where I’m always progressing, versus 20 hours of gameplay where half of what I’m doing is repeating the same thing until I finally perfect a particular move.

  • Chris

    I suppose it’s the way the brain is wired to give out endorhines. I find VLT’s utterly boring, but those that get addicted are those that get hit from beating the machine if they keep at it long enough. Of course the fact that they lost 300 times and paid each time they lost doesn’t seem to counteract teh good feeling they get from that one win. I suspect some of the players that like their games set on super instant death mode are like that in at least some degree.

    But, it’s not all bad. The same mind set is what makes professional musicians and dancers. The willingness to do something over and over and over again for very little obvious short term reward… so that eventually they can be “perfect” is essential. Dancers all have injuries, about half the violin players I’ve talked to have practised till their fingers bled. And they all say it’s worth it to “get it right.”

    Me? I’d rather direct. πŸ˜‰ Do one project, solve the big problems. Do it well enough to be enjoyable and get the point across and move onto something new before I get bored.

    Of course this brings up the larger issue: what is the value of time spent playing a game? If you or I spend 10 hours on the “easy” setting playing game tourist, that can arguably be called time well wasted. Or at least reasonable recreation hours, with no intrinsic value other than relaxation. A dancer or musician or pro athelete even that spends endless hours getting something perfect, well one can argue that is their job, they get paid and we enjoy the product of their labours, that the skill they have perfected is in some way useful…

    But what of someone that spends endless hours geting a particular game move “perfect”? What is the greater value in that to justify the greater expenditure of time over and above simple relaxation? Is the person anybetter for it?

    If you spend most of your waking hours becoming an expert at something that is only useful in a game that will be obsolete within a year or two… now is that being a “loser”? Can you be useless and be a winner? πŸ™‚

    ( Yeah, I know. There are now professional game players out there, pro tournaments and people that watch others play video games. Butunless you are one of those rarest of creatures – the pro gamer – that argument doesn’t really apply. You are a pro golfer, you can justify spending hours a day perfecting your game. If not… πŸ˜‰ )

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