Learning To Love Easy Mode

A couple of months ago, if I started a new game — no matter what it was — I'd start off on a high difficulty. At the very least, I'd go for normal, but only if it was clear that normal would provide a challenge. I reasoned that nowadays "normal" is geared toward a more general audience which may be less familiar with games than I am. And, more importantly, pssh. Of course I can do better than normal!

We've internalised difficulty like that. I hear it all the time: games are getting easier, oh the good ol' days, they're gone, gone! Sometimes, without difficulty, some people start to wonder if what they're experiencing can even be considered a game, like with Dear Esther or Proteus.

But something curious happened recently: I noticed that playing games at high difficulties started to feel grating. I realised that playing normal/high difficulties often makes me feel like I wasn't doing it because I was having "fun" per se, but more because I felt I had something to prove. I'd want the better achievement for a high-difficulty run-through; I'd be able to tell people what I did and sound that much more impressive.

Part of the recent change came from being absolutely torn down by Persona 4: Golden's highest difficulty. I'm at a point where going through one level in a dungeon might take an hour, if I manage to survive and avoid getting one-hit-killed. I'll often pre-emptively kill myself if I didn't do amazing in a skirmish, if I spent too much SP or got knicked enough that it would affect me in the long term.

I felt I had something to prove

I remember doing something similar in Super Meat Boy when I saw that I wasted an errant second on my run: it wasn't good enough. I could do better. Except unlike Super Meat Boy, Persona 4 has me feeling delirious. Oh, have I died for the tenth time in a row without making any progress whatsoever? Have I spent hours in the same place with nothing to show for it? Haha! I don't even feel a thing anymore. Alrighty, back on the horse we go.

In an effort to retain what little of my sanity was left, I decided that any other titles I was playing concurrently to Persona 4 should be played on easy. Despite that decision, hovering between "normal" and "easy" on games like Far Cry 3 and Hitman: Absolution still felt wrong. I hesitated. Thinking back on it now, it reminds me a lot of being at a party and not knowing how to relax and just have a good time.

It wasn't until I started watching videos by popular YouTube user Criken, where he does all sorts of idiotic things, that the joy of easy mode really "clicked". Maybe being sloppy and stupid could be fun. It's not so much about wanting to bulldoze through everything without thinking; games facilitate that at normal difficulties too. It's about having the ability to be creative and silly without penalty.

So now my Agent 47 runs around with "weapons" like radios instead of guns. Turns out, radios can be just as effective as whatever might typically be in a hitman's arsenal. Imagine my glee when I hocked said radio straight at a guard's head, and everyone screams and points their guns at the radio as if they could kill it? Or when I threw a glass bottle at the wall near a cop, they become alarmed and call dispatch about a suspicious sound... only to then stare at a wall for like two minutes?

It's so absurd, and I'm loving it. Compared to trying to stealthily navigate a level — which was what I was doing prior — what I'm doing right now feels way better.

In the case of Far Cry 3, easy mode is helping me muscle through a story that has clearly gone off the rails and is kind of bad, and to my horror, still probably has a few hours left for me to experience. Far Cry 3 is not alone in this regard: all too often, I'll find myself wading through a game that goes on for longer than it needs to. I don't feel that very many games respect my time and easy mode helps alleviate that.

More importantly, I'm moving into a place where I'd like difficulty, but not in the way most games give it to me. Mechanical difficulty is not the only type of difficulty there is.

Mechanical difficulty is not the only type of difficulty there is

I want to play more games where I have a hard time putting the pieces together on what happened, like Thirty Flights of Loving. I want games that challenge my values and force me to make difficult decisions, like the The Walking Dead does. I want games with challenging themes and ideas that make me feel uncomfortable, like with Analogue: A Hate Story. I want to play games where the characterisation of those I interact with is a tangled web of inscrutable desires and motivations, like in Dragon Age 2.

Physically going through the motions of pressing buttons, at this point, is easy. I know how to do that, I've played a ton of games that have refined my skills and reaction time. Until more games give me reasons to make those actions complicated, or messy, I'm plenty happy seeing what a game can offer me when I stop being so serious.


Comments

    I actually tend to play easy more often these days at least with first or third person shooters. Mainly due to me getting bored with them to quickly. Although FC3 is set to the hardest but it is still abysmally easy.

    Please stop submitting these rubbish articles to Kotaku. They are terrible.

    P.S. Some people like a challenge. I'm loving Far Cry 3 on the highest difficulty setting.

      Look at this guy everyone. Typical, cynical internet brat who's ignorant beyond your wildest dreams. Notice him beating his chest at his video game prowess, his toughness in Far Cry 3 will not be matched. Even his bewildering final sentence: "P.S. Some people like a challenge. I'm loving Far Cry 3 on the highest difficulty setting." He uses the word "some" indicating his acknowledgement that an alternate viewpoint exists despite seemingly reluctant to let anything contrary to his own to exist. He's one of those kids who thinks he owns the internet and everyone in it. Scary thing is, he just might.

        While all your above points are obviously very valid, it's worth saying that Far Cry 3 on Hard really is something everyone should experience. It's a way more compelling experience, where you have to think about each shot and move you make. The only parts that get frustrating are the ones where the game forces you into open combat in confined areas, usually story missions.

      Really? I thoroughly enjoyed the article, It is quite opinionated but that's what a lot of media articles are, so that we can find out if something is worth trying.

      "P.S. Some people like a challenge. I'm loving Far Cry 3 on the highest difficulty setting." You realise this is basically normal difficulty in most fps. Seriously not even a challenge at all..

      Last edited 29/12/12 11:17 am

      I enjoyed the article (and I've beaten FC3 on the hardest setting - who gives a shit?) ... idiot. Go beat your chest somewhere else.

      I'm reading this three and a half months later.

      FYI, you're still wrong.

    So, basically, you don't want to play games, you want to watch them?

      Yes, that is EXACTLY what she's saying. Some people...

        Look, I can agree with Patricia that I'd enjoy a more cerebral challenge and feel more rewarded by it, but despite her denials to the contrary she is still saying in relation to Far Cry 3 that she is simply choosing Easy Mode to power through a game she doesn't like. Why not just play something else that you do enjoy? Usually my opinion is that if you like the story but despise the gameplay you can just as easily watch it on YouTube, but in this instance she specifically points out she hates the story too. If you hate the story, don't enjoy the gameplay, why are you playing?

      No, she wants to enjoy the games without having to repeat parts over and over, because she likes having fun in them

        yep I just want to enjoy a game! I do like a challenge too, but I find most games idea of 'hard' is just turning up how much damage enemies can absorb + turning up their damage and reflexes.

        I much rather have more enemies, than 'tougher' enemies...
        E.G., Shoot five enemies, once each in the head, rather than one enemy five times in the head.

        Please, explain how "In the case of Far Cry 3, easy mode is helping me muscle through a story that has clearly gone off the rails and is kind of bad, and to my horror, still probably has a few hours left for me to experience." means she is having FUN.

          Because the gameplay is good...

      So if someone doesn't have the twitchy reflexes to play a game on hard or normal modes they're no longer playing? Does that mean when I sit down to play a game I'm not playing it, but just watching it? All that button pressing, decisions making, puzzle solving doesn't actually do anything?

        How are these related? The need for twitchy reflexes is hardly a common feature of games that focus on decision making and puzzle solving. She is specifically referring to 'dumbing down' games that she doesn't really enjoy playing in order for her to put another notch on her bedpost.

          Sounds to me like she's changing to "easy mode" because it's fun.

          Twitchy reflexes seem to be a requirement in most modern day games. Long gone are the days of turn based games.

    I like to play through a game on easy so I can soak in the story with out having to worry about all my stats and junk. If I play through the game again, and if there's incentive to, I will play it on the hardest difficulty. Eg. The Kingdom Hearts Series

      Me too! I played Halo4 on easy so Master Chief never died and I had complete immersion.

      Yep, this is exactly me. I much prefer the easier modes on the first run through of a game. I just enjoy it more when I'm not repeating sections over and over again.

      Although, with any Kingdom Hearts games that I play now, I just go straight to Proud Mode, since it's much easier to unlock the lovely secret endings.

      Yep, that's how I do it too (although with normal not easy). Hard mode tends to just ruin the pace of the game. Most games flow best played on an easy/normal difficulty setting. Even when you play flawlessly on hard it still throws that off.

      +1

      If the game grabs me on the first play through I'll have a crack on a harder setting, but the length of games now days means a once off play through where you take it all in is enough.

    I pretty much play all my games through on normal. It usually provides enough of a challenge to me while still allowing me to properly experience and get into the story. Easy is usually just, well, too easy, and I don't get any enjoyment out of it. Hard mode depends on the game. But I almost always play through on normal, then if I feel like it I'll crank it up or tone it down on a second playthrough, but I rarely play through games more than once.

    I actually yesterday changed the difficulty in Far Cry 3 for my second playthough to see the extent of the changes it would bring and normal seems to be the hardest.
    The Medusa boat mission near the start for example, first playthough on normal there were 3 targets around the boat and 2 guards with each so to an extent I had to plan each one to not alert anyone, but on both hard and easy there is still 3 targets but only 1 guard with each and that 1 guard for each was the one working so it was way too easy to dispatch them.
    I was actually able to just run through and mow them down quick enough before a flare went up where as even with those extra 3 guards I could not do it because 1 would manage to get a flare off.

    Anyone else experience this? Does changing the difficulty after after starting new do nothing and now am stuck on easy?

    I try Normal difficulty always. A recent game where I switched to Easy was Bayonetta. I just wanted to see what the game was about and not feel frustrated.
    I don't like overly difficult option, as it just gets frustrating and I don't feel like I achieve anything but frustration and swearing :p
    In saying that, I still found Bayonetta difficult on Easy mode.
    But really, I take it on the game by game basis. If Normal is doable for me, I stay on Normal. If it's becoming too difficult, I switch down to Easy.
    And don't get me started on permadeath - I absolutely hate permadeath! It's why I can't play Fire Emblem. Whenever I've tried to play Fire Emblem, it just degenerates into a frustrating rage quit hehe (so I'm really looking forward to the next Fire Emblem where I can turn it off and actually enjoy the game).

    I love playing Halo games on easy, makes me feel like a bad ass.

      Damn straight!

    I have actually always played the CoD campaigns through first on Veteran and then Speed Run through them again afterwards on 'Easy mode' for the remaining Trophies, I find the Veteran mode actually allows me to take the story at a better more realistic pace (as tedious as the camping may be sometimes as 1-2 bullets near kills you). I also admit FPS Campaigns on easy is alot of fun. FUK DA STEALTH *Guns Blazin* ;)

      I usually did the cod campaigns on veteran too, and it's not too bad if you take your time
      unless theres infinite respawn, which can be insanely frustrating.

      with black ops 2, im stuck in one of the early missions at a checkpoint behind a rock where if i even move an inch i instantly die. literally NO POSSIBLE way to do anything. i spent over half an hour on it before giving up and never touching it since.

    Persona 4's higher difficulties are designed for New Game+ playthroughs, going in at those difficulties completely fresh isn't challenging, it's crazy.

    If the point of the game is to be immersive, then obviously difficulty doesn't matter (ie. Dear Esther, To The Moon). On the other hand, games that are meant to challenge probably shouldn't, or don't even have an easy mode (ie Dark Souls, Megaman).

    Its up to the individual as to what they enjoy. Me, personally, I enjoy an immersive experience, so I usually tone difficulty down, as dying over and over can break that immersion. However, upon a second playthrough, I'll tone the difficulty up to enjoy the challenge.

    WHY ISN'T ANYONE ASKING WHY THE FIRST PICTURE HAS A F INSTEAD OF A W

      Because ASDF has been replaced with EASY. There are also two E's in the picture.

      It's obviously not a QWERTY keyboard. It's the little-known variant called a QFERTY keyboard.

    Frankly, I play on Normal. Not because of any reason but because I believe the programers designed the game around it.

    I play Fallout3 on Normal because every weapon in the game is usable this way. If I play Very Hard then most of the weapons are useless. It limits options. I like to use weapons and armour that aren't the best, just because I want to.

      Yeah, my first playthrough of a game will always be on normal because I figure that's the difficulty the developers intended for the game and everything will be balanced well around it.

      Hell yes. I want to wear a duster and cowboy hat while I tool around in New Vegas, not be forced to wear power armor everywhere I go.

    I think you should make a distinction over the type of difficulty. Some games don't do it well, like skyrim, which has such imprecise combat that diffulty just makes you rely on potions more.However, some games become much more involved on higher difficulties. Mass effect 2 and 3, are great examples of this. On insanity they force you to use your party and be strategic with power usage, it really adds depth to the game, instead of being a simple shooter like it is on the easier difficulty settings

      Yes, my Mass Effect play-through was a similar experience; I never even needed to use my medigels until I played in Insanity mode, then I went through them like Coca Cola!

    Lords of shadow (shame pile responsibility) keeps railing me on normal. Thinking easy mode might be the way to go

    The problem with modern-day games, I believe, is that what they're offering is more ingrained in the overall experience (storytelling, atmosphere, etc.) that it provides rather than the game elements. If something like Dark Souls had an easy mode, because of its lack of in-your-face storytelling, character development, and the like, it would become a hollow experience. A rare few games are only good because they're challenging.

    I liked the article because it's sort of the dilemma I am having at the moment with a lot of new games.

    Specifically Hitman: Absolution which I am playing on HARD 3/5 on the difficulty scale and I feel as if it's more of a chore to play and is so excruciatingly frustrating. That being said, I got myself to that factory thing on the other side of the caves, now I can't be bothered going any further for the time being.

    Far Cry 3 on the other hand is far too easy on the highest difficulty settings. I'm not chest beating but I believe the game still remains 'fun' on the 'hardest setting' where as some games just plain dont.

    I noticed a few years ago when I was playing the second S.T.A.L.K.E.R game and it cost so much money to merely repair weapons or upgrade them. The kind of looting that would take 10's of hours to gather enough funds. Add that to the stupid awesome accuracy of the enemies and playing it on the highest setting seemed like it was a purist thing and you're not really getting what the guys who made the game are trying to get across.

    I think I shall work on my pride and start tackling new games at Normal difficulty from now on...

    yeah this article hit home with me.
    i think this will become more prvelant as we gamers all get older.
    i can no longer stand games that require the traditional grind and filler gameplay.
    i love a challenge, one of my favorite acomplishments was finishing ikaruga with no continues but where as a game like that is freaking hard because its designed that way and it feels rewarding i dont feel that games like halo for example are more rewarding at higher difficulties.
    all of a sudden these open areas where you can stuff around in a warthog get you killed if you play slightly recklessly (the only way to play halo imo) and areas where you need to repeat the same task that took 5 mins on normal now can take 30mins or more and get boring.

    i do tend to play normal now almost exclusively mainly because second run throughs on games is an extrordinarily rare occurance. and if i want a challenge a play a game like trials, smups or super meat boy. games that are stupidly hard but that are designed around it and have instant retrys ( i despise hard games that take more than a few seconds to try again)

    I understand completely. While I usually go for hard/hardest modes they are increasingly becoming 'cheap' and not really hard. COD is a perfect example of this. Veteran isn't really hard, it's just annoying cheap. Forcing you to just repeat sections hoping to get that bit of luck when you find yourself in a tight spot (not the weapons you prefer/low ammo).

    I do thoroughly enjoy playing sports games and action games (just finished Darksiders 2, thanks steam sale) on the hardest difficulty because they feel more rewarding when you play well, even though I'm pretty sure that's just in my head.

      I notice that with CoD last time i played it probably MW2 ^.^ the veteran mode isnt hard it is more or less you need to shoot before the enemy shoots at you ^.^ cheap nasty hard difficulty!

    I used to play games on the hardest setting. Then I'd drop them to normal. Then I'd drop them to hard.

    Then I'd start on normal and drop to easy.

    Now I just play on easy most of the time. If a game warrants a second playthrough, I will try a harder difficulty. I was able to 1000/1000 The Darkness 2 because I could New Game+ my way on Don difficulty after earning all the upgrades on Easy.

    These days I just don't have the time to devote to becoming that good at a game or toiling against the frustration. I'd rather blaze through, have some fun, enjoy the story (assuming it has a good story) and that's it. I know full well that playing harder games is more rewarding, but I'm not looking to be rewarded as a hardcore gamer, I just want to have fun.

    Last edited 29/12/12 5:05 pm

    Who'd have thought you could have fun playing a game? Personally I always start on Normal (or whatever seems like normal when they have bizarre difficulty level names) and go upwards if I'm up for a challenge or down if I just want to advance in the game. Sometimes the game just gets in the way of a good story.

    I got farcry3 the other day playing through it on warrior, have to say I'm finding it really easy and have noticed a lot of games lately have been becoming easier. I'm not sure if its the genre, industry r myself just getting better, but in the ned I don't care i enjoy games on the hardest difficulty for one reason only, more realism and have to finish with, that it is not for everyone just play games on what ever difficulty you find fun and enjoy the game and don't be a bitch ^.^

    Personally I find easy mode boring most of the time. Especially in games like Far Cry 3 where it's fairly easy on even the hardest difficulty. So I tend to choose hard by default. I need to be fighting to live or I'm not that interested, even if there is a great story-line.
    But I'm not choosing it for something to prove, it's not like I go around telling everybody I finished * on hard (except in this post, obviously). I just like a challenge.
    Not that I have a problem with anyone choosing easy, it's there for a reason, you should go for whatever is the most fun

    It all depends on what you want from a game. The thing is, you can always do a "proper" run on your desired difficulty, but then you can always start again on an easier one for "silly" styled gameplay. With multiple saves, you can do this concurrently.
    Everyone needs to stop thinking things are one or the other. Do what you feel you want to do.

    Doesn't anybody remeber god mode? playing games in god mode was some of the funnest times I had with a game. Bring it back I says.

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