Video game developers try to cater to their player base as best they can. Multiple difficulty settings for people of various skill levels, a nice guiding system so players don’t get lost and plenty of scripted events so the story gets fed to them in bite sized pieces. This system of making games as casual as possible has been the norm for a number of years, and for a good reason. If you don’t follow this design principle you risk turning away new players who usually have a low attention span and a lot of different gaming options.
But there is a real trend going on of people getting sick and tired of games catering too much to their player base. It comes of as condescending and it’s the video game equivelant of the guided bus tour through Rome. I just want to explore by myself instead of being guided through the tourist center by some weirdo tour guide! Sure I might get lost on my own, but that is what creates a sense of adventure. And it is exactly that sense which many modern games are missing.
There are some real and tangible benefits of making a game less accessible and in this article I will lay out some groundwork to convice you of the benefits of making a game that refuses to adjust to the player. When done just right a game can come off as much more respectable when it seems to believe in what it is trying to do. So when a difficulty level can’t be altered it creates a sense of meaning. Take Dark Souls for example. Its challenging enemies and boss battles serve a purpose that multiple difficuly levels would destroy.
It doesn’t just provide the player a fair challenge but it also conveys some of the story to the player. The level of difficulty tells the player that this is a dark and brutal world without the need of tedious cutscenes. If you allow the player to alter this, they would also remove the sense of purpose. Men like strong games as much as they like strong woman. They refuse to adjust to your needs and you have to take them for who they are.
Making games overly casual also removes the reward players get for their own efforts. With cutscenes and guiding arrows developers make sure that players don’t miss anything, but the impact would be much greater if the player found the story bit or secret on their own. If the game allowed the player to miss it and they found it out of their own volition the player feels proud of his/her accomplishment. This is a power whose profundity exceeds accesibility by far!
What I’m trying to say is that players respect a game that’s not afraid to sacrifice accesibility for depth, and rewards players who dig a little deeper. This may limit your player base, but will create lasting engagement in the long run. Developers take heed!