So picture this: you’re standing at the precipice of Hell itself… Your brother is poised before you. He kicked your ass once before and now all that remains between him and immense demonic power is you. Two half Human and half demon siblings are now standing at the divide between the two worlds their lives are split betwixt. You’ve fought for hours to be here. A challenging ascent through a gothic tower fighting awesome creatures. You’ve defied all the odds. Proven yourself against the most hardened foes around and now all that’s left is to settle the score. When I think of what makes this medium, this *ahem* artform tick, The burning juicy core of it all. It’s moments like this that no other form of media can come close to replicating that spring to mind. The music, the visuals, the story, the characters, the mechanics; everything comes together as you struggle within this virtual world to come out on top. Your heart racing as you attempt to achieve what hours ago seems like an insurmountable task. So when I ponder getting more people into games and especially games like this… that sensation, that out of breath raw emotion they can deliver *is* what I want new people to experience, right? Because that’s something they can’t get anywhere else. Recently with the red-hot rumble that is the challenging run-and-gun Cuphead stirring some bitter emotions amongst the press, that Rock Paper Shotgun article about how we should be able to skip boss fights in games… …and of course the already stockpiled years of Dark Souls think pieces about how it should have an easy mode because its difficulty is too exclusionary. We’ve hit another controversy point where people are once again proposing that games and especially those pesky action titles… …just let you skip through to ever you want to accommodate as many people as possible. And that devs should just let go of not including an easy mode, even if challenge is core to the experience they’re making. “Why don’t games let you skip parts? You can fast-forward movies. Why can’t you fast-forward games?” “You can read any chapter in a book so why can’t you do that in video games?” “If you think there’s something wrong with that you might just be an elitist.” I don’t know… I’m pretty sure if you started skipping parts of a film and then tried to talk to other people about it, they might raise an eyebrow at your credentials in terms of assessing that work. And I wouldn’t cast those skeptics as elitist pricks. But I don’t even really need to debunk these comparisons to fast forward functions in films or skipping chapters or reading abridged versions in the realm of books… Because as a new fresh medium we can make up our own rules. We can take a look at the type of art we’re making and decide what gives it its intrinsic value. Earning the chance to fight Virgil at the end of Devil May Cry 3, struggling against him, using everything you’ve learned to kick his ass. That’s the art! Without going through the game, without learning how to play, without doing this yourself, it wouldn’t be the experience it is and wants to be. These are the things that elevated it and make it special, that make it more than just an action movie, and, yeah, I’m gonna say that if you could just pick any chapter in DMC3 the second you booted it up: that would kind of ruin the impact of that moment of triumph even for the people who would never use such a function. The feeling that playing and succeeding is the only way to be here in this fight is the glue that holds masterpiece moments like this together. When I sit around occasionally, like a bit of a dork, listening to boss battle music… (Don’t rattle me and tell anyone I do that…) (I’m sticking my neck out here for you guys.) …when I’m listening to the tune and remembering the fight, the moment: I’m not remembering something I passively saw. I’m remembering a moment I was there to witness. A place in a situation I made it to and was responsible for catalyzing. Surely that’s the kind of experience that would entice a newcomer to try games as opposed to sitting back and watching the latest Netflix series. …and if that’s not the kind of situation they want to be in when consuming entertainment, then perhaps an action-adventure game is not what they should be looking into. Like, I thought the idea was that games were this next level medium because we were creating worlds and shit, not Disney sightseeing tours where you can skip around and look at the backdrop passively; sit on rollercoasters and get dragged along. I think people trying to get others into games by cutting out the key thing that makes them different are gonna fail. Because what are you selling now that the main feature is optional? What’s The Last of Us without the survival combat? A story you push forward to experience? Now it’s not that different from a zombie movie or show. What’s Mass Effect without the shooting and world exploring? a choose-your-own-adventure novel? Obviously Mass Effect feels more exciting to play than reading some choose-your-own-adventure story book, but I feel like that has something to do right with the attempt to create an approximation of a real world where you’re exerting your will on a place and characters. One you can’t just flick through with little consequence. Doesn’t the fun of negotiating and dealing with alien races depend on there being repercussions for certain actions that may result in combat? Wouldn’t the conversations lose a lot of weigh then, if combat was skippable? Challenge in a tangible world to interact with; one that doesn’t also let you mess with it on your first visit like a DVD menu; These are facets of an experience other mediums can’t offer. Shouldn’t you entice new people with what the medium can do differently, rather than by trying to make it more like everything else? There’s this slight whiff of insecurity I get when people and journalists try to play this angle: that all games should let you skip content and have super easy modes. Like the rest of culture just won’t accept us, unless we bend over backwards and childproof every product. And I get that if you’re a games journalist, you want to feel like what you write is important to loads of people and you want everyone to be involved. “Please accept the thing I care about is normal.” “I’ll make sure it’s like everything else, so you’ll think is normal.” I, on the other hand, am not insecure enough to want validation from users of other mediums. We should be able to create in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of what we can do in this medium without compromising for people who don’t really want the types of experiences we can do so beautifully. …That we can basically exclusively provide here. …and that of course does mean there can be games that are easy and made for chilling out. Hey, maybe even some games could let you skip around if that’s the mood and kind of experience they’re tailoring. But the idea that every game should opt into these standards is ludicrous. And that’s what you’re really asking for right? If you look at Dark Souls a game made with difficulty at its core… …and want it to have an easy mode or skip button. Not every game is for everyone. Why is it bad if a game comes along and part of the appeal and the mystique of the title is how hard it is to beat? and it does become a bit of a badge of honor and impressive feat to reach the end. Why is that not part of the artistry of what’s being made; instead of “damn elitist man-baby mentality” “That’s keeping the masses from taking us seriously”. On the flip side of this of course I think that accessibility for disabled or physically impaired players should be a priority for developers. Customizable control schemes: I bang on about this all the time! They should be a standard. and I think if possible most games should allow for different input methods. A player with a disability in my opinion should be able to construct any custom method they need to interface with the title. and that doesn’t really have to affect the content of the game itself. Of course games can be too hard for the wrong reasons or there might be really annoying chunks of gameplay in there… But it’s up to us as videogame analyzers to be able to differentiate and debate about when it’s done right or wrong. Not to give developers a get-out-of-jail-free card if they make a bad segment. “Just make it all skippable!” “Jak 1, but instead of some of the missions being optional they all are!” Difficulty isn’t some arbitrary counter devs jack up at the end of development to decide who gets excluded. A good game uses it to incentivize digging into the mechanics, learning how to play and get maximum enjoyment and… satisfaction out of the work and of course sometimes it even helps set a tone. What if a developer goes to painstaking lengths to create a challenging game that despite being really hard eases you into things, Teaches you really well and ends up making you become a badass? I guess they don’t have to bother if every game has a super easy mode and a skip button. One game I think was negatively affected by basically letting you continue from where you died with no progress penalty was… Wonderful 101, a game with great mechanics, and hype moments, but one that lost a lot of its excitement during the raw gameplay for me. The fact that I basically couldn’t die lessened the reward of the epic climaxes the game presented me with. Even if say I did most of a boss fight myself; dying just before the end and just getting to beat it anyway made it lose a lot of its impact. and I don’t think this approach helps the game when its critical appraisal came around and reviewers were just able to fumble through until the credits and could beat the game without even knowing what the basic counter move did. Ultimately I don’t think every game owes you all its content immediately just because you paid for it. When you buy a certain game of a certain type… I think what you’re paying for is the access into this challenge. Access into this test of spirit that can have a real impact on you through the use of, well… …like every other medium combined! Plus that element of challenge and reward; our X Factor. I’m not saying that games that focus on limited gameplay can’t be good, but I don’t think EVERY title should be forced to include a mode to play like them. Gameplay is at the core of these video game things. ‘Interfacing with mechanics’, that was the idea they had day 1, Without it, it’s like watching a movie by reading the script; it counts out the moments that make some of the best works we have here truly shine; and I think this push to make that element, the best part, optional and everything… is really reductive and selling us all short. Anyway, no matter where you stand on this I hope I’ve provided an interesting perspective. If you like what you see feel free to back my ass on Patreon. 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