When Did Difficulty Become a Con in Video Games?

Posted 2013/08/22 by Jeff R. in Gaming


Recently I had a very long discussion with a friend of mine who happens to be a game developer. We started discussing the downward trend in video game difficulty and why certain reviewers point out extreme difficulty as a negative.

In the words of Angry Video Game Nerd, “There’s a difference between hard and just fucking impossible”. Truer words have never been said, but I feel that most of the games I’ve had to struggle with in my life were also very beatable. I grew up in the 90’s SNES and Arcade era so difficult games have often smacked me in the face pretty much my entire childhood. Unfortunately for the last couple of years I’ve been challenged less and less. It’s not the fact that I’m becoming some God at video games, it’s the fact that a lot of games are just really not that challenging anymore. It’s getting to the point where game companies are making their “Hardest modes” beatable.

Isn’t the challenge of a game worthwhile? I always hear so many people complain about paying $60 for a 4-6 hour campaign. I feel like if I’m struggling to beat a game, then the developer of that game did their job correctly.

There have been games trying to break this cycle of “noobifying games”, over the past few years so not all hope is lost, but the problem is certain people like to complain about a game being too hard, therefore it sucks. Let’s get into some examples.


Demon’s Souls was the first game to really piss me off (in a good way) this gen. Demon’s Souls pushed me to a point of rage, but it felt good to rage about a game. During that time it had been so long since a game felt challenging. The game was specifically designed to be a challenge. The developers didn’t just decide to make a game that hard for no reason, but to make players feel rewarded for the struggles they endure in game. I had long forgotten about the difficult road to beating a boss that challenged me and the satisfaction that overcame my being once the task was accomplished.


Unfortunately for Demon’s Souls there are people out there that will say that the difficulty is a negative factor and a reason not to play the game. I don’t know what era of gaming most people grew up in, but didn’t games back in the day seem so much harder? I can honestly say I have never legitimately beat Mario Bros. Those pipes that let you level skip, yeah I took those like pretty much everyone else who played the game. If the original Mario Bros. released today, how many people would complain about it’s difficulty. How many people would even try to beat the game? This brings me to my next example.


One of the more recent games I’ve played with traces of Mario blood is Super Ubie Land. Super Ubie Land is a platformer that recently released via PC and is heading to the Wii U, PS4, and PS Vita in 2014. I’ve spent a significant amount of time playing this game and it is hard. The game was purposely made to look cute and cuddly, while at the same time, bring a challenge to players foolish enough to think it’s a cake walk platformer. It’s definitely a love letter to the games of old and a message to the industry at the same time. Developers should not be afraid to add a challenge to any of their games in the future. I believe a healthy flow of challenging games stimulate our brains more and provide a more satisfying experience in the long run.

The argument usually pops up that games are meant to be fun and that a difficult experience turns people away. If that’s the case, how does a person get good at anything they do in life? Pretty much every challenge a person faces in life has a difficulty factor. You can quit and give up, or you can take each failure and use it as a learning experience until you come out on top. That is what attracts me to challenging games. Never giving up and learning from previous failures are that factors that lead to victory. I would rather die 1000 times in a game than be labeled a quitter.

In conclusion, I feel that challenging games are more of a plus than a negative. No game should lose points on being too difficult, if anything it should be the other way around. I’m tired of these bad boy shooters with 6 hour campaigns that can be beaten by anyone. Give me a game like Hotline Miami that sends people crying to their mommas.

Let us know how you feel about difficulty in video games in the comments below. Do you agree? Disagree? Take the podium below my friends.

About the Author

Jeff R.

Challenge me, when you’re ready to duel a God!