An Ode To Easy Mode

I like playing games on easy mode. I prefer playing games on easy mode. Hell, if you have a setting called “story mode,” I’ll sign up right there and then. Why? Because I just want to enjoy the goddamn game.

I just want fifteen minutes of peace in my miserable little life that I can spend pretending to be good at something. When I turn on my Xbox Series X or my Nintendo Switch or my PlayStation 5 or my PlayStation 4 or my PlayStation 3 or my PlayStation 2 or my Sega Saturn (worth it for that runner!), I just want to enjoy myself. And it’s not that I don’t have the time. Man, I don’t even have a fucking life.

I’ve got loved ones, which is pretty unspecific. I’ve got family, although without the definitive article ‘a’, you pretty much know that exclusively means siblings and parents. I even have people in my life I’m close to, albeit I’m mostly lying when I say that.

But all that means I should have the time to learn how to “git gud” at a video game. You can tell it’s fun, because the meme is spelled wrong. I should have time to lock down my favorite loadouts for my favorite character classes in games that I spend dozens of hours mastering to beat on the hardest difficulty setting. I’ve just realized that I don’t fucking care.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t care. The way the internet works, if you say you don’t care about something, it means you don’t like something, which means you hate it, and therefore want it to never exist again. If you like games being hard as nails while you figure out how to Platinum them by beating the hardest boss with the Donkey Konga drums, congratulations. You’ve truly lived. I just want to enjoy myself.

It’s not even that I’m bad at games. I’m not even that bad at hard games. I own all those kooky Souls games you kids love so much. I’ve played through Bloodborne. I’ve met enemies in those games like Miranda the Blighted Bloom and Toad the Wet Sprocket. I can play hard games. My favorite two series as a kid were Castlevania and Mega Man, neither of which exemplified easy living.

It’s just… I want to play through a story as a major participant without having to repeat the same boss battle thirteen times. I want to make story choices without needing to grind for twenty hours. I want to go pew pew and lightning bolt lightning bolt and not worry. If a game involves blowing shit up, I want to blow shit up with ease.

The usual – and very fair – argument for easy mode is accessibility. And make no mistake, accessibility matters. People should be able to play any game they want, and sometimes that means developers need to remember that not every one of their customers is a 15-year-old with perfect sight, hearing, and reflexes. Providing your game with accessibility options is the right thing to do morally and actually expands your audience. That’s all important. It’s also not my point.

Easy modes in games make me want to come back for repeat experiences. They make me want to continue playing through frustrating moments. I may have the time to learn how to be good, but that doesn’t mean I have the energy for it. Mama’s tired, kids. Getting a career was my Dark Souls. Me trying to keep that career alive is the DLC. I don’t want to feel defeated at home when I feel defeated in every other area of my life.

This doesn’t mean I think game developers must add in an easy mode. It’s their art. They can make it the way they want. Every creative choice a developer makes is their own and/or from a publisher that really wants to squeeze out an NFT if they can.

Whatever you call it – easy mode, story mode, ‘I’m Too Young to Die’ – I love being able to play a game and explore a world without throwing my fucking controller across the room. I like an easy mode because it propels me to still see the end of a great story when I hit a wall. It allows me to make narrative choices without having to consider the metagame and min/maxing my character.

I recognize for others, the story is better after overcoming an obstacle that requires a lot of planning and grinding. Also ‘Planning and Grinding’ is the name of my new dance club tycoon game. But what I think I’m saying is, there shouldn’t be a weird shame attached to playing video games on easy mode. There should only be a weird shame attached to playing video games on any difficulty.

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