When I was in college one of the longest debates I ever had with my roommates was over my use of easiest difficult setting in Madden 2005. I played games against the CPU at the easiest possible level and would destroy most teams, with blowout scores of 70-0 being common. My roommates begged me to play at a higher difficulty level but I usually stuck to the easiest mode because I knew I could win.
As I got older I started to experiment with different difficulty modes but for the most part I stuck with the lowest setting in most games (especially sports games) because it was empowering to be able to crush an opponent. However, I recently began to play a full season in Madden 13 and I was surprised when beating opponents soundly every game started to become tiresome.
I enjoyed it at first for sure, but as I went from 6-0 to 7-0 to 11-0 to 16-0 and so on, I began to feel like it was just a chore to get through each game. It was a foregone conclusion that I was going to win and I needed to just run out the clock to get to the next game.
Why do I bring this up? Because I am beginning to see that my roommates had a point. Without a challenge (without the possibility of defeat) the game stagnates and is no longer as much fun. But with that said, I think easy mode still has a place even for gamers whose skills are far beyond that level of challenge.
When I am playing a game for the first time (be it a shooter, a rpg, or whatever) I like to get a feel for the story and the characters by playing at an easy or medium setting first so that the story doesn’t get chopped up by too many deaths in the middle. Having to replay portions of a game over and over gets tiresome and can damage the storytelling of even a moderately intricate storyline.
After I beat the game on an easier setting I tend to go back and up the challenge to see how well I can do and what kinds of achievements or trophies I can unlock. It was satisfying to beat Halo 3 on Legendary but it took forever to achieve. The difficulty can be both frustrating and rewarding so there is definitely an argument to be made for trying out the most difficult portions of games.
However, even my sports gaming experience benefits from the occasional rookie mode romp. As much as I realized that Madden was no fun on rookie after a while, sometimes you just need to let off some steam and beat an opponent soundly. I am a fan of the New York Giants so I know the ups and downs of emotion very well and after the Giants screw up a game in real life (so a lot of the time) I like to take to Madden and just obliterate a rival as the Giants. Does this change reality? Of course not, but I feel bit better so why not?
Some may see that as a cop out but gaming is primarily about having fun so whatever is fun should work for you right? I think that even the most skilled players can benefit from some hassle-free gaming at easier levels of play. MLG guys might not want to get too used to that but for most people it wouldn’t actually have any real negative effects.
Gaming at the easiest level can be fun sometimes but I think the true lesson here is that moderation is the key. If you only stress yourself out at the highest level, you’re not having fun but if you breeze through easy mode all the time, the fun of the challenge is not there.
Thank you for bearing with me on this little offshoot and let me know in the comments below what you think of difficulty modes and how you usually play.