Anyone who’s ever had the displeasure of listening to someone relentlessly argue that you just need to “get good” to enjoy a video game (usually a Souls/Borne game), I feel your pain.
At face value, the idea of getting better is inherently what skill-based games are all about, and I don’t outright balk at that sentiment of rising to the occasion. After all, there are tons skills that most people aren’t born with, skills one must learn and master to achieve success in whatever endeavor they are struggling with. The drive to improve is not exclusive to video games.
On the other hand, just saying “get good” to someone who is struggling with a certain aspect of a game — usually combat, but not always — does them no great service. In fact, you’re basically calling them an idiot.
I mean, yeah, no fucking duh. I suck. I should get better. No shit.
But for plenty of players — myself included, now that I’m getting older –there are certain things that just are not going to come through brute force and practice. Whether it’s perhaps a dexterity issue or something else, sometimes taking the time to “get good” is not going to cut it.
I was never great at games like Devil May Cry, Dark Souls, Killer is Dead, or even a large swath of fighting games. I just don’t have the timing for that stuff. I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried.
This was one of the things that turned me off to 2018’s God of War. That first boss fight just felt like a slog, and I wasn’t going to punish myself or mash buttons hoping to spam my way to victory.
This issue reared its head again with Ghost of Tsushima, a game I’d been anticipating for quite some time. I found myself really struggling with the combat in the opening hours, as the game’s combat system is very much dependent on parrying in order to succeed.
I remember thinking, “If it’s this bad at the outset, there’s no way I’ll be able to handle the later sections, which will surely be more gruelling.”
I was faced with a minor dilemma:
1. Torture myself in the hopes that I do, in fact, just miraculously “get good,” risking the chance that I might end up not seeing the game the whole way through.
But then a little birdy whispered in my ear. There was a third option. One that I would initially consider anathema. One that would fly in the very face of everything that I — a self-respecting, medium-difficulty-level gamer — hold to be acceptable.
And sure, I balked at first. But then I said to myself, “Who am I hurting if I play a video game on easy?” Lord knows any ounce of self-respect I had went out the window years ago, so my ego was safe. But on top of that, the developers included an easy mode specifically for people like me. Surely if they felt that this was some sort of a compromise to their vision they wouldn’t have shipped the game with that option (or added even more options later).
Besides, you can switch the difficultly level mid-game. So theoretically, if I play on an easier difficulty for a while and do manage to “get good,” I can always dial it back up if I feel like it’s no longer challenging enough.
My mind exploded. Shattered. Pieces hit the walls. I just had a video-game breakthrough. And let me tell you, I am absolutely loving Ghost of Tsushima as a result. This easier setting doesn’t completely remove all of the challenge of combat, but it lets me play at a more leisurely pace while still feeling like a badass samurai-killing machine.
And just like that, I too learned to love the easy mode. Or rather, I came to terms with my insecurities and learned that, not only is it okay to play a game on easy, it is idiotic to have ever thought otherwise.