Storytelling Breakdown Blog Entry 018

Let’s Talk: Just Turn The Difficulty Down – By Stephen Stachofsky.

I’ve covered everything now from movies, to D&D, to music. I am now about to rant a little on video games. I have been gaming for a long time. I remember playing the first Call of Duty, and thinking that the old Medal of Honor games were better. I remember playing Mario Kart Double Dash on the Nintendo GameCube, I remember having an original PlayStation in my house. Video games have provided some of the best stories I have experianced. Characters like Revan (the Knights of the Old Republic), Ezio Auditore (Assassin’s Creed II), and Shepard (Mass Effect) have become some of my most beloved characters in any media. 

I have always loved video games for many different reasons. Stress releaf, entertainment, good storytelling, and a healthy level of challenge are all reasons for me to play video games. I have always gravitated towards games with unique, new, and compelling stories. Game franchises like, the Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, the Kingdom Hearts, Mass Effect, Morrowind, and a ton of Star Wars games have graced my shelves for years. I also had a ton of first-person shooter (FPS) games. Here is where I am going to start ranting. I am going to focus on predominantly single player experiences, and I am going to start with one sentence: 

Play the game on easy.

You’ll thank yourself later.

Video Games, I believe, started out as an attempt to put the player into the movie. The point was to have the player experience the story of the movie as they move through it, to make them an active contributor in the action. Regardless of whether you believe that this is why video games were made, it’s the way I have always felt about them. So with that belief held firmly in the front of my mind, I find a particular modern gaming trend rather frightening. There is a trend that I see in gaming, to make games as difficult as humanly possible, or more so. Games like Darksouls, Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Forza (Hyper-realistic driving is really hard), but even most FPS type games are just plain hard. 

Not hard and entertaining, but just really hard, nigh impossible. 

So all of these games have difficulty ratings at the beginning, and throughout the game you can mess with the difficulty in the settings. I am about to repeat something very controversial amongst gamers, just pick the easy setting. Games that you play in the single player mode are meant for entertainment and storytelling. They are meant for entertainment. Sometimes they are thought provoking. But they should not be designed in such a way that the game makes players want to throw their controllers into their TV screen or out the window. I am in the middle of playthroughs on both Fallen Order and Witcher 3, neither of which I have played before. I have some pride, I have been playing games for my whole life, and so I knew that I would be fine running through these games on the “Normal” setting. 

I was very wrong. 

They are surprisingly difficult. That, or I am really out of practice. Now in the past two years I have gotten married, had a son, bought a house, gotten a dog, bought a car, and a whole bunch of other life stuff. Far gone are the days of 24 hour power marathons.

So, the question became, why was I getting so frustrated with these games which should be playable? Part of the problem was because I can only play for short bursts. I don’t get into a groove for these games before I have to change a diaper, walk a dog, or any number of other things. So then I tried playing at night after the dog and child had gone to bed. Well… I’m getting old. I literally fall asleep in my chair by 11pm most nights I try to stay up. I’m lucky if I make it to midnight. I’ll also point out that the story based games don’t get played when my friends are on Destiny 2. I’m a fiend for that particular loot-shoot. Finally, as I was getting ready to give up on video games outside of easy stuff like the Lego games (which get really hard) and my shooters which I am still fairly good at, my wife said to me, “well, can’t you turn the difficulty down?”

I was floored. I was so frustrated. At the time I was playing Fallen Order and I failed to consider the simplest answer. 

Turn down the difficulty.

The most important question was to consider why I didn’t consider this option myself? Is playing the videogame on an easier setting less fulfilling? Or less “Manly”? Or does it somehow make me an inferior gamer? Why was I so opposed to doing it? I think the answer is simply pride. For whatever reason my own pride kept me from turning the difficulty down. I used to take pride, as many other gamers do, in completing the game on higher difficulties. But now, with so many other things going on in my life, I just don’t have the energy to be frustrated with my games. Getting mad is exhausting and stress inducing, which is contrary to why I play the games in the first place. I play videogames now because I love the stories and I use them to destress. If I’m mad that I can’t make it through a piece of the game, there is no reason for me to waste energy being mad about it. Thanks to the wisdom of my wife I am now totally down to just turn the difficulty down.

Play your games the way you want, and share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Be sure to check out the podcast and other blogs on storytellingbreakdown.com. 

From all of us at the Storytelling Breakdown team, thanks for reading. 

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