A Simple Question: Difficulty Settings

Gamers play games for different reasons.  Some play for the stories and experience. Some play for the achievements.  Some play to just have fun and get away from the world for a while.  And some play for the challenge.  Games come in all varieties, and the game’s difficulty is one of the ways that developers can try to create an experience that everyone can enjoy.  Some games will scale that difficulty based on how you play (with no actual setting to choose), some will let you change the difficulty while you play, while others will ask you the question that always makes me cringe: What difficulty do you want to play at? Easy, Normal, Hard.  The question is loaded from the start.. Are you a wuss that wants to blow through the game?  Do you want to play it like everyone else? Or do you want to throw your controller through the screen?  Let’s not even get into the fact that you have no idea how a game plays when you’re first making this decision; that’s a whole other article.  What I do want to know is..

What difficulty setting do you usually play a game on for your first playthrough?

(You may need to refresh the page to see the poll)


As I imagine you may play different genres at different difficulty levels, pick the genre you play the most, and pick your average. The poll is over-simplified; I’m aware there are often multiple “hard” settings, but often those secondary settings appear after beating the game once on a lower level.  I tend to play on the Hard setting for a variety of reasons: 1) there’s usually more achievements associated with playing on a harder setting, 2) I’ve been playing games a long time, and find myself getting bored when I play on lower settings, and 3) I’m not a wuss.  Don’t get me wrong, I will play a game on Easy from time to time, especially when I want to play it more casually, and enjoy the story more than the action (usually on a second playthrough), but nothing beats the rush of clearing a level on Hard that was kicking your ass multiple times.

I personally feel as though the difficulty selection is a lazy medium that really doesn’t apply to most of today’s games.  It was a necessity many years ago when storage space was at a premium, and you couldn’t waste code coming up with algorithms to determine how the player is playing, and adjust accordingly. It was an easy way for programmers to offer a varied experience without eating up a lot more resources.  But now?

What do you think?  Should developers just do away with the difficulty selector entirely? Do you prefer variable difficulty that adjusts to how you play?  Do you like ensuring a consistent game experience by picking a difficulty level? Let us know in the comments!

View previous ASQ: Game Instruction Manuals – View next ASQ: Staying Alive

A Simple Question (ASQ) is a weekly segment for Platform Nation.  Give a response and let the world know what you think; there is no right or wrong answer here. If you have a suggestion for a question, hit me up on twitter @vttym.

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  • Most times, I play through on Normal. I’m in it for the experience and story, not the challenge. Life has enough challenges. When I play, I want to have fun and chill out.