Why Hard Mode?
“Why would you want to play a game on hard?”
I looked over at my friend, quirking one eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Well, this.” She gestured towards the television, Dragon Age inquiring what sort of difficulty she wanted to take on. “It doesn’t change the story any, and I don’t want to get killed over and over.” As this was declared, the easiest difficulty was selected and confirmed.
I shrugged. “Some people feel like it’s not enough of a challenge, and want it to be something they work towards. Plus, there are the trophies that only unlock from those higher difficulties.”
“Yes, but it’s not an accomplishment. It’s the same game. Doesn’t make sense to me.”
It was just a brief conversation, but it did cause me to sit down and think: Why do people like playing games on harder difficulties?
I’ll admit, I’m lazy: Unless I’m getting destroyed or I want to get a specific goal, I’ll just play on the Normal difficulty, what the game developers have programmed to be for standard gameplay. I have enough skill to where I can get through a game at this level without showing off too much. I don’t turn the crank up unless there’s a reason, such as the extra cutscenes for doing Proud mode in Kingdom Hearts. So what drives a person to do that?
I understand about wanting it to be more of a challenge; there are some games that I’ve sauntered through with no problem and I wish they had been more resilient to my progress. I have fired up a few games on higher difficulties, and watched my hopes get dashed as my skills were not enough to cut the mustard against the buffed up baddies. It feels like games fall across the entire spectrum.
After careful thought, it seems to come down to what you wish to get out of your games. I play for the experience, the ability to immerse myself in a fantasy world and go along with the protagonists through their story. My skills are put to the test, yes, but there is always a way for me to triumph over the opposition and reach the conclusion of my journey. I desire the balance of story and challenge, which is why Normal is my go-to level. Those who desire more struggle crank the games up to Nightmare, while those who just wish to enjoy the story choose Safety as their preferred level. There is no right or wrong way to play.
I will state, though, this is usually seen in games from around the N64/Playstation era forward. Going back to older games, such as Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog, there are no options for difficulty. The stage will not be changed to give you more platforms to jump across, enemies can’t be bumped up or down in terms of their damage scale, and there is no variation in the frequency of powerups. Some modern games replicate the solitary difficulty, such as Monster Hunter or Dark Souls, and I have cut my teeth on them, taking my lumps but challenging them anyway.
Still, if given the choice, I don’t choose to punish myself. Unless there’s a shiny at the end. Cause I like being bribed.