Easy like Sunday morning

I’m stressy. I never used to be a stressy person. My mother used to say sometimes she was amazed I could be bothered to keep breathing in and out, that’s how relaxed I always seemed. “Water off a duck’s back.” she’d shout. “Everything! Like water off a duck’s back.” When I first became a gamer I could be completely absorbed by games for whole nights. A Sunday morning was a sublime, sunlit couch vigil as I allowed a fantasy world to wash over me and I’d float away on my own imagination.  Theses days I’m more spongey. Life does not roll off my back quite so easily. There are no particularly stressful elements to my life. In fact it may be that an increasingly comfortable existence has led to a situation where little things upset the balance. Essentially – my diamond shoes are too tight. During the slow creeping transition from one mental state to the other, over many years, gaming remained a safe haven, a way to take me out of myself. Even when up against a deadline for a review I never associated gaming with hassle. In the last few years though my brow has started to furrow, my teeth press into each other in a clench while playing. The source of my disquiet? Gamerscore, bosses, getting stuck, twitch gaming moments – all the things designed to offer challenge and, dare I use the word, achievement. And so I faced a choice – do I allow gaming to become a source of consternation or do I let go of the challenge?

I’ve chosen to let go.

Leaning B&W s

Many gamers are bemused, confused, bewildered, or, in the most extreme cases, angered by the increasing amount of low or no challenge games being sneaked into what are traditionally hardcore platforms and genres. The chapter skip ability in Alone in the Dark meant should you get remotely stuck, annoyed or bored with a boss battle you could just move on to the next bit. Prince of Persia took a well loved series with an adult fan following  in a completely traditional paltforming genre and turned it into Lego Star Wars, removing the concept of death and having to redo sections completely from the experience. With Nintendo about to launch Demo-Play where games will allow you to set them to play through levels by themselves the concept of non-challenging play reaches its ultimate conclusion.

For me though moderation is the key to everything. I liked Prince of Persia. I welcomed the chapter skip in Alone in the Dark. Games are more than challenge. Games are more than repetition and memorising of button sequences. I don’t want the game to “play itself” and my experience isn’t ‘pointless’. It’s exploration and imagination. On Easy, Batman: Arkham Asylum was a wonderful stroll through a fascinating world, collecting secret little stories hidden in the darkness. I didn’t do the challenge levels, I don’t need those ‘achievements’. I achieved a relaxing treasure hunt, thanks very much. On Easy, Shadow Complex removes an entire game element with the combat becoming merely fly-swatting moments between my puzzling adventure through a beautifully realised warren. I’m taking it easy these days. Easy like Sunday morning.

Elika saves







13 responses to “Easy like Sunday morning”

  1. John.B avatar

    Fair enough, so long as the option is always there for the harder difficulty and that developers never forget the unique experience that challenge gives. In the same way you found the stress free exploration of the world of Batman: AA to be superb there’s equally a place in gaming for the sweat and nerves of the Chernobyl levels of Modern Warfare on veteran.

    My fear is as developers are forced to chase the casual gaming market for money purposes that the challenges will not necessarily die out but become rarer.

    And for the record Demo-Play is too far 😛 What’s the point of a game if you don’t play it?

  2. Duncan avatar

    Demo-Play is where my fear lies, because everyone has always had the scary inclination to copy Nintendo and I don’t want that to become the norm…

    As long as there is a clear divide between having multiple difficulty options on a game (Call of Duty being the best example of the balance), then easy is all the better!

    I sometimes enjoying trying something on easy because I love the experience of the journey, not the method of travel. 🙂

    But if I’m going to let the game do it without me I may as well just go to YouTube…

  3. John.B avatar

    Exactly, I understand people not wanting the frustration factor but just watching the game play itself is a step too far.

  4. asamink avatar

    For me it is all about time. I don’t have too much spare time to dedicate to gaming, so when I do I like to pick quality games and sometimes go for an easy mode. God of War and Devil May Cry are examples where I went for the path of least resistance (I found Devil May Cry was still enough of a challenge for me using automatic mode). If I think it is going to be worth the time I’ll go for “normal”, these will traditionally be the bigger games (Batman, CoD, Killzone 2). I’m not much of a trophy whore, but I like to complete games, so I’ll keep picking those easy modes so I can finish it and move on. If I went for hard mode I’d only get to complete a couple of games a year.

  5. MarkuzR avatar

    First of all… what an awesome photo! Fantastic!!

    Secondly… yeah, I’m a little apathetic when it comes to gaming rigours too. I can quite easily take or leave any of the games I play and never take them through to completion… much to the horror of some of my Achievement Whore friends (you know who you are!).

    For me, gaming is a chance to escape the reality of my life for a few fleeting hours. The last thing I want is to get stressed during that period, so when I got into Trials HD (yes… this IS the hardest game I’ve played, how sad is that!?) then I had to balance up how much time I afford to it as a serious challenge and how much is spent on the basis of fun alone. I think I’m managing that balance quite well, although four hours trying for Gold on my first custom track and then two hours trying on Rook’s custom track would say otherwise 🙂

  6. Duncan avatar


    There’s no shame is saying Trials HD is the hardest game you’ve ever played, that thing is harder than a bag of diamond crafted nails on the streets of Glasgow on a Saturday night!

  7. MarkuzR avatar

    That IS hard 😀 (That’s what she said!)

  8. Kirsten avatar

    See, here’s the thing. Developers aren’t ever going to forget about the hardcore challenge seekers because they ARE hardcore challenge seekers. This idea that after 30 years of diamond hard twitch gaming a little more open minded options means that it’ll all swing dramatically the other way is a nonsense.

    Demo-Play again only offers the option of watching bits of gameplay when you are stuck or offering tips were needed. The fact that the core gameplay value of New Mario Bros will be hitting platforms with exacting accuracy over and over or be punished by doing whole sections over again shows that zero has changed in gaming. It’s 99% developed based on challenge and overcoming frustration.

    I think you challenge seekers will contiued to be catered to by almost ALL the games. A little give to other demographics will only be good for gaming. Don’t be greedy!

  9. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    Many moons ago, when I was a young lad playing games, there was only one difficulty. You played the game and you died and learnt from it.

    Games today have difficulty settings, which means everyone can play the same game but at their own level of challenge. Personally, I always go for the normal/medium setting first.

    Each to their own. Games are supposed to be enjoyed, so whatever difficulty of whatever game you choose to play, just make sure you’re having fun.

  10. Kate avatar

    I totally agree. Most of the time these days, I don’t want a challenge. I just want to be able to play the fecking game! I don’t want to be struggling and dying all the time. I struggle and die enough at work!

  11. Uzi avatar

    Ditto. CliffyB was one of the first I heard (read) to opine that gaming shouldn’t be work, and his philosophy was to offer little rewards throughout the story. I don’t know if that carried into Gears of War, as I never succumbed to the massive peer pressure to play that series.

    Sometimes a game offers a story that I would REALLY like to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean I want to PLAY the game. (I gave Prince of Persia a shot, but put it down and haven’t picked it up, again. Still, I would like to see the story play out.) Nintendo’s idea might be geared for someone like me.

    What about having the game provide you with a walkthrough-preview, so that you don’t have to go to YouTube or GameTrailers?

    I hated the stealth levels in Rainbow Six 1 and Rogue Spear on the PC. I never got past them without a cheat code or mod. I ADORED No One Lives Forever, as it provided gameplay where you could dodge in and out of stealth and action at will. This allowed me to get in a few stealth kills and set up an ambush before things went loud. It had only one 100% stealth level and I had to resort to a cheat code for that one, too.

    Now, this should not be taken to mean that I’m not a stealthy guy in real-life(at least when I was younger), but stealth isn’t so easy in a 1st-person game. It has typically translated as well as the sort of acrobatics that have only recently become fluid in Mirror’s Edge.

    Probably one of the most challenging-yet-rewarding gaming experiences of mine was learning to fly the helicopters in Battlefield 2. After 20 hours total flight time I was able to make the bird do whatever I wanted. I could even fly it through the jagged tunnel on the bottom of the dam. The almost constant reward was seeing my skill increase with each passing hour. In my narrow scope of gaming experience, I can’t think of another game that comes close to that, unless it is Guitar Hero. The crowning moment was becoming the mouse in a helicopter dogfight (unheard of!) that lasted a couple of minutes, thanks to my abilities. The “cat” was just as skilled, however, and was shooting at me the whole time as I alternately tried to turn my guns around on him (no time! he’s on my tail!) and flee for my life. I skimmed over hilltops, circled left and right, did a loop de’loop under and over the bridge. I tried everything. I don’t remember how it ended, either with me getting repairs or my bird getting battered to nothingness (probably the latter), but it was personally “epic”.

    Getting really good at something can take a long time in real-life. For this to be so in a game means that the game has to be incredibly replayable and enjoyable. It’s my observation that the industry isn’t fond of replayable games unless that replayability takes the form of sequels.

    I guess I like difficulty if I am able to spread that difficulty out over time. For me, difficult right now usually means off right now. I don’t tolerate “difficult” in people (I’m difficult enough on my own), either. Need it be said that I spend a lot of my personal time alone?

    My days are numbered. Let them be easy days.


    Oh, Kirsten, your L96 sniper rifle is available in an Airsoft version…

    Lovely new gamerpic (here), too.

  12. Duncan avatar

    “because everyone has always had the scary inclination to copy Nintendo and I don’t want that to become the norm…”

    I just had to come back here and claim that I damn well called it. ;):


  13. MrCuddleswick avatar

    I don’t see the concept of ‘demo-play’ as a bad thing. I think it’s fair to say that games companies are often told by more casual gamers that they find games too hard. The likes of Nintendo will just be meeting new demand with these new features.

    Like Kirsten said, the ‘hardcore’ will still be catered for.

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