Easy, Medium, Hard: The Dilemma

Ever since I was a kid I’ve noticed that most video games which allow you to choose a difficulty only have three to choose from: Easy, medium, and hard. Very few have had more that that and it got me thinking, why not have more difficulties to choose from all the time? I hear gamers complaining about games being to easy or too hard these days and I think it’s due to the lack of selection that most games have when it comes to difficulty choice. I’ve noticed that recently some games are giving more difficulty options to players, but not all games (or even most games) are doing that. So what gives and why should you care? I’ll tell you why, it affects nearly everyone, including you.

I’m still too afraid to play Demons Souls…

Most games have the typical three difficulty choices, and then maybe one especially hard one that appears as soon as the game is completed. I just don’t think that’s enough in today’s gaming world. There is such a variety of gamers out there that it seems unfair to make them all choose such bland, black and white difficulties. Everyone knows that when there are three choices, it’s always too easy, normal, and tough. The problem is that sometimes too easy is just that, too easy. Or it’s not easy enough. Normal is usually a good middle ground so there isn’t much that is wrong with that one, but tough is another story. People like a challenge, and when you complete a game and it felt too easy and you want more, what do you do when hard is all there is? There is nothing you can do but accept it. You shouldn’t have to though. Casual and hardcore gamers alike want more. Something that isn’t so easy your cat could play it and not die but not too hard, or something that is the ultimate test of how much you care to die over and over again to complete a game.

Wow, that sure looks tough.

Here’s what I propose happens: There should be at least five separate difficulty settings. Very easy, easy, normal, hard, and very hard should be the norm. I’d also like to see a large difference between all these settings. Very easy and easy shouldn’t be the same, and neither should hard and very hard. Every gamer should have a variety of difficulties to pick from that differ from one another in a big way. It would make for much more customization, if you will, when it comes to how you play the game. This would also satisfy the hardcore gamers and casuals alike. I would personally love to have more of a choice. I tend to stay in the middle and go for normal, just because I don’t care for a huge challenge or for no challenge at all. I wouldn’t mind making things a little tougher though, and I think if more difficulty options are put into place I could do that with ease.

These are just my opinions and ideas, what matters is that the games are played and liked (or disliked). I just wouldn’t mind seeing more choices when it comes to difficulty. What do you think about difficulty settings? Would you want them to change at all or are you just fine with how they are now?

14 thoughts on “Easy, Medium, Hard: The Dilemma

  1. I would like to see more difficulty options…but I tend to stay in the lower end of the difficulty. (Easy or Normal) I rarely try hard because I know on some games I just can’t beat it or I don’t really like a hard challenge. Like God of War 2 I tried hard and I wasn’t ready for it but I liked the fact they had more than the 3 difficulties to choose from. But I probably should try giving myself a challenge sometimes in games. Seeing more difficulty options would really be cool instead of having the normal 3.

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    • Some games are really hard, I can agree with that. And I hate beating myself up for not finishing a game either or getting a headache because I’m stressing out. As you can see, I think more that 3 options should be available too 🙂

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  2. Usually if a game has a really cool story or plotline, I’ll want to play it on an easier difficulty so I can follow what’s going on without wanting to smash the controller into my face and losing sight of the plot flow.

    I actually think that Trophies/Achievements have kinda invalidated the relevance of difficulty in modern gaming. Personally, I’ll fire up a game like Uncharted 3 and immediately set it to the highest difficulty so I retroactively unlock all the trophies for lesser difficulty (and any that may only apply to playing on HARD mode), so it ends up more about me catering to my laziness than actually enjoying the game. Other factors like respawning and the fact that most games don’t keep track of lives anymore so theoretically you can keep trying again and again kind of spoil gamers so there’s no real incentive to better your skill other than to keep from being overly frustrated. When I think back to playing Mega Man 2 on my NES on “Difficult” mode or Castlevania, I remember dying a LOT but getting better in the process so not only was it ridiculously satisfying to beat those parts of the game, I carried that enhanced skill set with me into later parts of the game and applied and grew them as well.

    Well, THAT was a mouthful. Also, cheese. 🙂

    — Evo out.

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    • Thanks for the input! You make a good point with how newer gamers are spoiled. Back in the day you only had a few lives then you had to start over, and there were no difficulty settings. If something was hard you just had to do it and get over it. Achievements/trophies do help, but the thing is that if a game is too hard, it sucks to not get those things because it’s too difficult. But it does help to push people forward.
      >_> Cheese… lol

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  3. Depending on the game, I will choose the equivalent of normal or easy, no matter what the trophy/achievement situation is. I don’t think anyone can deny that they like earning trophies but rarely do I let that get in the way of how I play a game and what level of difficulty I am “comfortable with.” I’ve just never been the type.
    With that being said, lately I’ve been playing Doom II and I guess they had it right with their 5 levels of difficulty.

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  4. I’m quite satisfied with the way it is. Three options are enough to start with. And as you said many games offer an even harder option after beating the game which is fine.
    Usually I start at normal difficulty unless it’s a kind of game I already quite goog at, then it’s the hard option.
    I also agree to JoshuaEvo on the achievements. These things can offer challenges no difficulty option is able to give. And sure it sucks not getting them, but that’s the challenge. As you said the game has to offer something for everyone and if all trophies could be collected by casusal games there’s no more challenge.
    There should be a very easy option for games who just want to enjoy the plot, world and character rather than enjoying a good challenge. But for the games I came across that’s well done with the easy mode.
    Other than that there games especially tailored for special games groups. Like there are lots of casual games out there and games like Dark Souls which is the El Dorado for hardcore gamers.
    To put it in a nutshell: For me the three options paired with good trophies are enough.

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  5. I used to like playing through games from easy to medium to hard. I was fine with having only three choices, and usually by the end of the hard playthrough I felt accomplished enough. I do agree though that with most modern games, when only the three basic difficulties are given, easy and normal are usually too similar and hard is super crazy tough. I almost always start a new game on easy or normal because I want to enjoy the story as much as the gameplay. Having more difficulty options is fine with me, as long as, you say, the delineations between the choices are made clear. asidekick’s note about DOOM II is on the nose — they did get the 5 choices right. Though I’ll admit I only ever got up to Ultra-Violence (the hardest, Nightmare!, was way to much for me), the differences between the difficulties was noticeable and made for a fresh playthrough each time.

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    • Agreed. I think that if games continue to have only 3 choices, the need to be way more clear. You’re so right that easy and normal are too similar while hard is way too hard. It at least needs to be done right if it’s going to stay the way it is.

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  6. A lot of games have as many difficulties–which you probably know–but some games just don’t need them; one-set difficulty for games like RPGs. I will admit that making the game harder gives a game feel like a fresh new challenge sometimes.

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  7. I like the system that Bioware set up for Mass Effect 3 where there were difficulties combined with various level of story interplay. Some games I play more for the story, and I don’t want to get caught up too much in battles. Other games I just play for the game portion, and on those games it is nice to have multiple levels of difficulty. My gaming skills typically lie between easy and normal, so I would love it if there were a step in between!

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