Yesterday I stumbled on an article on Talk Amongst Yourselves arguing that all games should have a difficulty setting to allows all kinds of players, read here casual with little time, could complete all the games and not be locked out of experiencing a game because they can’t get through it. The author argues that by doing so, game companies will gain by having more customers for their games and everyone wins. If this sounds familiars it’s because it’s the same old casual vs hardcore debate we’ve been having with MMOs for years.
Once upon a time I might have agreed with him but now I think that’s a load of crap. Games don’t and shouldn’t have to cater to every audience out there. Not only is it very hard and time consuming to adjust a game for multiple difficulty settings but you run the very real risk of killing the experience that you’re trying to deliver with your game. The TAY article author uses Bloodborne and completion numbers as indicators that a large number of players don’t get to complete the game and in a way, wasted their time and money on a game that was too hard for them which, according to the author, probably left them frustrated.
And then he drops the killer argument, if they add an easy mode it doesn’t deprive the others of anything, they just don’t have to use it, so everyone wins! Game sells more, player finish the game, happiness all around!
It’s not about finishing the game
So let’s talk about Bloodborne which is the main focus of the article and ask ourselves what makes it and by extension the Soul’s series such beloved games. It’s not the story, which you can entirely miss, not the combat which is better handled in many other games, the graphics are nice but not the best so what is it? Could it be the difficulty? Are all Bloodborne players masochists who enjoy being killed over and over? Maybe a few but not all of us.
What makes a game like Bloodborne, or any game for that matter, great is the experience it gives the player. With Bloodborne, the experience it aims to deliver is to make you feel like you’re fighting against desperate, even unfair odds. That victory will only achieved through sweat, tears and outsmarting the opposition. It makes uncovering the story feels special because you have to go out of your way to find the clues and use your head to put the pieces together. It’s about learning to enjoy failing, and then trying again.
That is what Bloodborne is about and its difficulty is the core mechanic it uses to deliver that experience. If you lower it, you are essentially killing the experience and you’re just playing a mostly bland action rpg.
So when the reviewer complains about the game being too difficult and not being able to experience the game he’s in fact getting the perfect Bloodborne experience. He might not like it and that’s his choice but not all game have to be for everyone and that’s fine. Just like I didn’t like Undertale experience, I have to admit it was a well done game. Likewise, you can not enjoy Bloodborne but that doesn’t mean the game should change to suit your tastes.