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Talking Point: Playing Games is a Privilege, Not a Right



Talking Point is a weekly series that posits a question concerning the gaming industry. We encourage readers, as well as our writers, to offer their thoughts on the topic. Hence the name: Talking Point. Feel free to join in below.

For the past two weeks or so, a tired debate regarding video game design has been brought back from the dead: should all games be made as accessible as possible, to encourage all kinds of players to join in, or should difficulty be dependent on the type of game being played and/or the discretion of a game’s creators?

This has come in the form of articles voicing opinions about how skill shouldn’t be a factor in enjoying games regardless of genre, or proposing the idea that in order to force inclusivity to a game, games should have a “skip boss” button.

Recently, GoombaStomp’s own, John Websell, wrote a piece about how the Dark Souls-birthed “git gud” crowd represents a bigger problem with gaming. About how this “toxic” attitude by a portion of the gaming community online is linked with the idea of games of certain genres and types being more difficult than others. While I agree with John’s basic premise of why this crowd is not all that great to be around, I highly disagree that it represents anything more than the crowd itself.

Black Dragon Kalameet teaching a git gud class in “Dark Souls”.

The “git gud” meme started out, as most memes of the sort do, as a joke, about how punishing the Souls series is. A sort of celebration.

But, just like the “Glorious PC Master Race” meme – that started out as a self-aware, self-deprecating joke about how seriously some people take their PC building hobby – it eventually manifested as a circle-jerking, tribalistic community; a company of elites looking down on those who might disagree with them, or not act the way to do, regardless of what the nuances of the dissenters’ opinions might be.

However, whether it’s people being mean online, or as John mentioned, people making it annoying to enjoy online gaming with their obnoxious un-fun behaviors, there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with this.

It’s hardly breaking news that some people on the Internet can (and do) act like assholes. But, an important distinction needs to be made in arguments like the one John brings up: it is important not to compile those who oppose a viewpoint as one, binary, collective.

It can be said that “Super Meat Boy” was the start of the challenging game revival in the indie scene.

While the “git gud” crowd does exist, it’s not relevant when talking about game design and whether all games should be made accessible regardless of the vision of the game designer. The issue of how people behave in online games or what they type in in-game chat, forums or comment sections to grieve or otherwise bother other players is its own separate issue.

For example: some kid saying, “leave it to the professionals” on reddit is not representative of everyone who disagrees with the idea of games being universally accessible. The same way any two people can agree on something over entirely different reasons, not all people who think difficulty is up to the discretion of a game’s developers think this way because they perceive themselves to be superior gamers.

Still, it’s most important to understand that you have no “right” to be able to play and enjoy any game you would like to. If a game is designed in such a way that it does not meet your criteria for what you consider enjoyable, well, tough luck (or, if you’d like me to be annoying: git gud).

Game creators do not owe you a good time just because you want to feel included.

Fighting the evils of Hell in “Cuphead”. The recent release of the game has sparked debates about difficulty in games.

Often an argument is brought up that you can skip parts of books or movies as you please, and games should provide you with the same feature.

Ignoring that watching a movie by fast-forwarding, or skipping parts of books, is an option provided by the medium via which content is delivered and not how the work is meant to be experienced, this argument simply misses the point as to what makes most games, well, a game.

It’s antithetical to the central point of what makes challenge in games unique.

If you can’t find enjoyment in spending hours trying to beat all the levels and collect all the green stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2, or if you simply cannot derive pleasure out of the satisfying feeling you get after beating a particularly challenging boss in Bloodborne, or can’t appreciate figuring out basic patterns and telegraphs required to beat all the levels/bosses in games like Mega Man, Contra or Cuphead, then clearly challenging games simply aren’t for you.

The right way to play “Bloodborne”.

A good example, on a very basic level, is chess. You are not owed, and are definitely not entitled to, the ability to win in chess just because it’s difficult or if your opponent is better than you. You are expected to get better via practice and whatever resources you might be able to find. Some people will be inherently great at it, some people will improve very quickly, and some people just won’t or can’t get good enough to ever find it entertaining.

If it’s not something that you would like to spend time being better at, that’s perfectly fine. You can play checkers. Chess just isn’t your game, even if you like the idea of it.

Sports (including e-sports), collectively draw out millions of spectators to events. “Let’s Plays” draw in millions of views, and are widely available all over the internet. If the argument is that you simply want to enjoy the visuals or enjoy the game as an audience rather than a player, then the option is readily available.

Earlier this year, I had a discussion with YCJY about their challenging game, “The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human”, where we also talked about difficulty in video games.

Within a free market, you can choose to give money to and/or enjoy the games that better suit what you might like. There are so many types of video games available today. Simply play something that fits your criteria, instead of expecting a series like Souls to add an easy mode even though the game’s core is based around skill and challenge, which making easier would defeat the point.

Since it is often said that games should be treated like art, well, then asking an artist to change something about their work that goes against their own specific vision of how somebody experiences the game to get the point is very unreasonable and disrespectful.

John is right that the “git gud” crowd, when it takes itself seriously, is not productive.

But, thinking it represents why every video game should be designed to be as accessible as possible to anyone who might want to play, regardless of how the game is meant to be played or was designed by the creators, is not a realistic expectation to have from the world we live in.

Immensely fascinated by the arts and interactive media, Maxwell N's views and opinions are backed by a vast knowledge of and passion for film, music, literature and video game history. His other endeavors and hobbies include fiction writing, creating experimental soundscapes, and photography. A Los Angeles, CA local, he currently lives with his wife and two pet potatoes/parrots in Austin, TX. He can mostly be found hanging around Twitter as @maxn_