Should all video games have a difficulty setting?

Hey, Gamers! So while I’m having a break from Dark Souls because I’m never playing that game again (it’s a joke), I wanted to talk to you all about something slightly controversial: difficulty settings. That is, whether or not difficulty settings should be on every game. I believe, from what my partner has told me, this was first posed by game journalists who were struggling to complete the game to review it, and it turned into an accessibility issue. Well, while I am not a gaming journalist, I do review games and I am disabled. For reference, I have a physical disability involving my feet, I have autism, dyslexia and dyscalculia (as well as several mental illnesses). I’m not saying this for sympathy or anything, I’m telling you what I live with in order for you to better understand where my mindset is. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

I am going to be using Dark Souls as an example as it is one that is very prevalent in my life, and I’ve played Dark Souls the most. I believe the original game was Sekiro, which is technically classed as a SoulsBorne game so that’s a better correlation than, say, Persona 5.

I first came across Dark Souls in, I think, 2018. My partner’s brother borrowed it from his friend, and it seemed like he and his younger brother were obsessed. I didn’t get it, but I wasn’t much of a gamer at the time. I decided to get Josh the Dark Souls trilogy when it was on sale one day after he expressed interest after we moved out. He had started to enjoy Bloodborne, so it seemed fitting. By this point, Persona 5 had come into my life and I think I had finished the Witcher 3 so I had started to consider myself a gamer. But it took a long time for me to even think about playing Dark Souls.

Dark Souls is infamously hard. If you refer to something as a souls-like game, that means it’s hard. It means it’s unforgiving. It’s meant to be that way. It’s meant to be something that you work for, that you struggle with. The achievement of beating Dark Souls is a big one and it’s a big one because it’s an infamously hard game.

That achievement would be completely worthless if there was an easy mode. There would be no struggle, no hard work, no sweat and tears. It’ll be… easy. Worthless. It literally wouldn’t be worth playing. It’s not like there’s a riveting story that’s obvious when you’re playing (not saying the lore isn’t interesting, I’m saying it’s not obvious all the time when you’re playing. I adore SoulsBorne lore and we’ve spent countless hours watching videos on YouTube). The pain and struggle that you feel when playing Dark Souls are what makes the game so iconic and so great.

I understand some people have deadlines to meet, but you’re not playing a game properly if you’re rushing it anyway. My Persona 5 Strikers review came out in August, and I got the game in February. I didn’t want to rush it because I wanted to try to write about everything, and I gave myself time to emotionally process the plot before writing. My advice would just be to play games other than souls-like games to review, if you’re finding them ‘too hard’. There really isn’t such thing as ‘too hard’ for a SoulsBorne game, because that’s the whole point of them. Review other games, leave this to people who actually care enough about the game to write about it (or make YouTube videos, whichever).

So, moving on to the whole ‘inaccessibility’ part of the argument. Now I may sound angry here… because I am. Quite frankly, this is an ableist argument made by people who are trying to prove a point to benefit themselves. There is a very, very clear difference between inaccessibility and difficulty. Just because games are difficult does not mean disabled people cannot play them. A game’s difficulty setting has nothing to do with whether or not a disabled person can play. If someone cannot play a game, they won’t play it. An easy mode won’t make the game more accessible. If anything, it would make them think that they can’t play the game normally.

Here is a list of things that I struggle with in video games due to my disabilities:
Reading both numbers and letters
Retaining information
Being triggered by domestic or sexual violence
Processing the plot

Those are the things I can think of off the top of my head but I guarantee that there are many more things. But I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but I have a gaming blog. That must mean I play games despite having these issues, right? Why? Because society doesn’t cater to disabled people in general, so growing up we just learn to deal with it. We don’t want it to stop us from experiencing things so we just get on with it. Yeah, we struggle and find things hard but we still get to experience things the way that other people do.

Before you use things like inaccessibility to try to strengthen your argument, maybe think about how society itself isn’t very accessible in the first place. We’ve learnt to deal with it, and we don’t like being used as pawns.

So, that’s it for this post, Gamers! This one was a little… touchy. I know this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people but I felt like as a disabled person myself, I had to make sure my voice was heard on the small platform I have. See you next post, Gamers!

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