The year of 2017 has been a year full of great games, I can’t remember of a year that has had as many amazing titles coming out as this one, unfortunately it has also been a year full of controversy in our industry.
One of this controversies is especially dear to me, it has to do with elitism in videogames.
After Dean Takahashi’s video of him playing Cuphead and taking over 2 minutes to figure out how to perform a dash jump during the tutorial, gamers decided that some questions were to be made. If someone like Dean Takahashi that had been writting about videogames for over 18 years couldn’t figure out a basic move during a tutorial, how could he be trusted to review and criticize videogames, and why should we take his opinion into account when buying a game?
The fact that Takahashi was not an isolated case, remember Polygon’s shameful attempt at playing Doom, seemed to give reason behind gamer’s claims that, maybe, gaming journalists weren’t that good playing videogames and that this could affect the way they perceive and evaluate them.
Gaming journalists of course didn’t like the criticism and took it once again out on gamers, instead of showing that gamers were wrong by providing some proof of their competences, gaming journalists attacked them claming that the “Git Gud” mentality was a form elitism and shouting out toxicity among the gaming community.
Not much time after that Rock Paper Shotgun’s John Walker wrote an article advocating for the removal of boss fights in games , and Cuphead’s creators had to deal with an awful lot of winning about the game’s difficulty. Rock, Paper & Shotgun’s Matt Cox wrote an article on why Cuphead’s creators shouldn’t have locked content away from those who play the game in easy mode and Polygon obviously followed into the controversy asking if exclusion was a valid design choice.
I honestly believe that all this decisions are up to the developer and I have no problem with options that make the game easier to less skilled players, but only if this is the desire of the developer.
One of the arguments usually brought up to advocate against difficulty in videogames is that hard videogames keep people away from playing them, and that gamers who defend this only do so because they are elitists and don’t believe others are good enough to share their hobby with them. This is an argument that only someone who has a huge disconnection with the gaming community can defend.
We have been witnessing a continuous decrease in difficulty in modern games, this happens not only because technology allows today for things that were 20 years ago impossible but also because, with the excuse of appealing to a more casual audience, developers have been dumbing down videogames, inserting all sort of helps and tutorials that literally hold the player by the hand until the end of the game.
I was literally shocked when Rise of the Tomb Raider was still telling me how to take down enemies on the final fight of the game. It’s the end game, if I had not mastered how to take down enemies why would I be there in the first place?
Games that really challenge players are becoming rare and the few that come out become huge successes, see the example of Dark Souls. This means that gamers want to be challenged when playing their games, this means that there is a huge part of the gaming community that takes fun in having to work hard to be rewarded with finishing a game, and it is exactly to this kind of gamers that games like Cuphead are targeted to.
Cuphead has seen huge success in sales, and thankfully because the developers really deserved it, and I’m pretty sure that a lot of people got Cuphead because they heard it was difficult and wanted to put themselves to the test.
The idea that the game should have an easy mode that allows you to explore 100% of the game (if you play Cuphead in easy mode the final part of the game is not accessible) is absurd. Finishing a game is a form of reward for hard work and not a right you are entitled to just because you bought it.
The argument that this is some form of elitism is simply moronic, the game doesn’t stop you from playing it if you are not good enough to beat it, the game treats everyone equally and whether you manage to beat it or not is entirely up to you and to how much you dedicate yourself to it.
Now, gaming journalists could obviously not go without insulting gaming communities, John Walker wrote “I know an awful lot of what’s made gaming culture such a miserably toxic environment over the last few years is deeply wrapped up in subjects like this, and those who spread the toxicity are those most likely to be on the side of condemning gaming options that remove challenge, that make the hobby more accessible to the crowds.” in his Skip Boss Fight Button article.
The “accessibility to the crowds” is an old argument used by gaming journalists to justify all sort of bad practices that have lead to state in which the industry finds it acceptable that you can you progress through a AAA game resourcing to micro-transactions .
This a recurrent idea among gaming journalists and other hijackers of the industry, that we need to make games more accessible to non-gamers. I will always fail to understand why we have to make games more appealing to people who are ultimately not interested in playing videogames at all, and why is this so important to them that we need to strip games of everything that has helped define them for the last 4 decades in order to get those people on board. Also, considering how Marvel sales crashed after the company tried to please people who didn’t care for comics at all I’m afraid of what consequences such turn in gaming industry can bring to those who actually care for games, most likely gamers will walk away and the casuals who never cared for games won’t come.
This attitude seems to be deeply rooted in a feeling of entitlement, in which these people believe that they are entitled to get the same as others even though they haven’t worked half as hard for it. Let’s replace videogames with soccer. I’m not good at soccer because I never cared to practice, should I go out to social media and demand that the rules in soccer be changed in order to accommodate for what I can or cannot do? Is it a form of elitism? Or instead should I work hard, hoping to improve myself, in order to play it? I guess the answer is logical, so why is it different when it comes to videogames?
Like I said before, I think difficulty in videogames is a design choice and that developers should be free to make their games as easy or difficult as they want. This is not exclusionary, instead it is a form of motivation to pick up a game and work hard to beat it, the reward is to see the credits rolling up (or down) the screen and being able to brag to friends about it!