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About Digital Art / Professional Official Beta Tester Dustin CooperMale/United States Recent Activity
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CatCouch
Dustin Cooper
Artist | Professional | Digital Art
United States
I am a graduate from the Art Institute with a Bachelor of science in Game Art and Design.

I hide cats in a lot of my work. Good luck finding them.~
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Challenge/Difficulty in Video Games

Thu Oct 5, 2017, 4:36 PM
Challenging games.

If you've been following game news recently you may have noticed that challenge in games has become a hot button issue. Questions have been asked like is challenge exclusionary? Is challenging gameplay or complicated game mechanics keeping less skilled players from completing games?  Should games allow players to skip content they find too difficult?

I see value in allowing players the ability to turn off certain combat options or bypass boss battles so they can explore an open world game without trouble. Exploring a world or experiencing a story without roadblocks certainly has appeal to those with time constraints or disabilities.

Some Mario games allow you to let the game play itself so you can watch the AI complete a level you couldn't. That can both help bypass frustration and be a learning tool.

The game Cuphead seems to be the catalyst for this current debate. Recently, a game journalist posted some footage of him playing embarrassingly poorly and it caused a controversy over whether those who cover games should have the skill to complete and understand them.

It's a game designed to be challenging, that's for sure. Is that acceptable or is it excluding those who won't be skilled enough to complete it?

It's an interesting question, one that I do see merit to discussing. After reading a few articles on the subject it seems that there is a split between some of the journalists who cover games and the audience for a game like this.

I was quite dismayed, though not surprised, to see this debate framed as "gamers are elitist" and "games are a miserably toxic environment".

The discussion around this quickly turn to games like Dark Souls. I believe Dark Souls games are successful because of the challenge and all the gameplay balancing that entails. Adding a skip boss button is quite antithetical to the themes of the game, at least it is in my eyes. Challenge is the appeal.

There seems to be a belief that challenging games are a barrier that is supposed to keep the outsiders out, as opposed to celebrating player skill and determination with a sense of accomplishment for the hard work one puts in.

I even saw one comment that likened this to being anti-immigrant (CmdrCrunchy's comment) by stating gamer snobs want to keep casuals out of gaming which is only one step away from anti-immigration. That one made me laugh~

It seems to highlight part of the problem though, some bring politics into it believing gamers are an enemy, a right winged group that's exclusionary. Some believe this is a left wing push towards the participation trophy crowd.  Each of those sides escalate up until their accusing each other of being racist or social justice warriors. It's at some level, a culture war. It's "us vs them".

It seems we've lost the ability to accept not everything is made for everyone. Framing challenge in games as a exclusionary choice, like it's a form of discrimination, seems like a real stretch. I do believe narrative based games could benefit from a mode that allows one to bypass obstacles just to experience the story or explore at one's own pace. I don't believe it's the developers responsibility to add these features in for games built around skill, though.

What do you think about challenge in games?
Do you think games should be more accessible?
Do you think politics is playing too big of a roll in these debates?
Do you think those who cover games should be competent at them?
Do you like skill based games?



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Commission Info!

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