Easy-Mode Players Are The Real Gamers (GUEST POST by @Nintendo_Legend)

“Everything ain’t hardcore, you know.” -- Jay-Z.

At the time I am writing this, the current water-cooler topics of discussion include Harry Potter now being 20 years old and the SNES Classic releasing in the fall. Pop culture is a merry-go-round, an exercise in tempting bystanders through a cyclical display of the same bright lights, colorful motifs, and enchanting musical ditties.

Among the spokes on the spinning wheel of gaming topics is the intractable morass of difficulty levels. When Nintendo included an invincible Tanooki suit in Super Mario 3D World as an option for players who die five times in a row on the same stage, some people found this to be quite an objectionable thing, positing that including this item “destroys everything that playing video games is all about,” because the whole point of video games is “challenging yourself, improving your skills, and finally applying those skills you’ve learned to defeat the stage. Failing is an essential part of any video game. You have to fail to get any sense of accomplishment when you finally do win.”

One could wonder if having fun could be a worthy purpose for gaming.

I recommend reading Nadia Oxford’s piece at USGamer on the topic. Also, this Jimquisition video on Zero Difficulty, concerning reaction to an Easy Mode in StarFox Zero. While we’re recommending items on the subject, here’s a Kotaku article by Jason Schreier on the idea that maybe all games should have a ‘very easy’ mode. Here is a meaty piece on Dark Souls and how its identity is closely tied to its difficulty, among other sentiments. Finally, here is a long Twitter thread on (among other things) how even the meaning of the term ‘hardcore’ has shifted over time as the demographics of the hobby have changed.

Honestly, I do not want to rehash the entire discussion. It should be fairly clear, to anyone with common sense, that it is unreasonable to object to a feature being included in a video game that does no harm yet enhances enjoyment for others. Concerning yourself with how others conduct themselves in their gameplay to the extent of whining about it online is asinine, especially when it has zero affect on your own experiences.

Yet, even in recent days, we see the same old behavior dug back up for a new target, the SNES Classic. “Why don’t you just get a Raspberry Pi?” they cry, ignoring the fact that countless thousands within the target audience of the novelty have no clue nor interest in how emulation works, while also ignoring… the simple fact that it is perfectly fine for others to enjoy something you have no interest in. Again, it is a troll viewpoint, not worth covering in too much detail.

Simply: It is silly, at the very least, to care what difficulty level other people play at, or to scoff at how casual they are. Any half-decent human being with four brain cells can recognize that ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ players have equal value, and that worrying how someone else plays a video game is a waste of energy. To be a member of the gaming community yet hate on features that would only serve to include more people is a slimeperson position to take. Yet, I want to go a step further.

I want to say: Easy-Mode Players are the real gamers.

Yes, Easy-Mode Players are the ones who should have the cred, be looked up to, and have their opinions sought after. Why did it take me several paragraphs to reach my premise? … I don’t have an answer for that, ha. Instead, let’s take a not-too-serious look at why Easy-Mode Players are the real gamers.

They Are Different

On a simple, literal level, Easy-Mode Players are different. They take the path less traveled, they march to the beat of a different drummer. They take the scenic route, and do not concern their pride on such matters as violence and speed and competition. They are mold-breakers, and their type is still not thought of as The Default by developers or fellow fans.

Which is fine, mostly. But there is value in recognizing the ideas that a different sort of mind can contribute, and how these voices can help constructively craft the scene. Let them be taken seriously, and be appreciated for their distinct perspective. At times, it may even seem refreshing.

They Appreciate The Craft

Consider motivation: Why would anyone bother playing a game at its hardest difficulty, anyway? Sure they may enjoy the heightened challenge, but why? Does it not always come back to a personal point of pride? Having to conquer the game, having to beat someone else, having to prove something.

Now, consider the Easy-Mode Player, the player who is taking their sweet time to truly soak in the journey, to dive full-bodied into the story and lore that has been crafted for them, to let themselves be immersed and invested in the setting and characterizations. Just as there are connoisseurs in other fields, is there not room for gamers who really take measure of the artform we are so fond of?

Would Easy-Mode Players not more readily support games as an artform, since they are removing their ego from the equation and more readily embracing the total venue of experiences that the hobby can offer?

I am not saying that speedrunning is somehow bad, or there cannot be a healthy place in this world for esports tournaments. However, consider the artistic merit of these pursuits applied to other subjects of study. What would we think of a reader who speed-read a book? Of a viewer who watched a film in fast-forward? What if a listener made music more difficult, trying to listen to a track while punching their own ears underwater?

Should we not treasure the keen insights of those who truly involve themselves with the games in a real way? Those who really do regard gaming as an interactive art form, and see more clearly their narrative capabilities?

All I’m saying is that I bet people who play Easy have a sight for the craft of games that many others lack, and this is probably pretty cool.

They’re Nicer People

Look, um, I admit, this is a gross generalization, and totally unscientific, but -- if you put the hardest-core FPS player next to someone who likes visual novels, I’m just saying, I would wager on the visual-novelist being the kinder person if I had to pick. Kinder human beings are, generally, human beings I would rather associate and communicate with.

Okay, I am beginning to drift away from any legitimate point I could have had. At the end of the day, all I am trying to say is -- let’s celebrate and champion the easy-mode players, because they add a distinctive wrinkle to the community that should be appreciated. Let’s support and affirm one another, rather than… get bent out of shape because now even a baby can play a Super Mario game (I mean seriously, why the hell do you care wh-- never mind, sorry, sorry).

I do want to include a word about accessibility. The idea of having more play options for more people includes the benefit of opening possibilities for those with cognitive differences or bodily challenges. If including these players means a form of play that could be seen as an Easy Mode, can you really feel good about taking issue with that? Or feel malice for letting these players play at all?

I know some people find children annoying, as another example, but what objection can you truly have to a setting that finally lets a child enjoy a game? Feel free to tackle the issues of appropriate choices on a title-by-title basis, but the overall idea remains: Gaming inclusion beats gaming exclusion, and it is not a difficult debate.

Communities work better when people act more like friends and less like enemies. This seems like a simple-enough idea to me, but we have a bit of work to do yet. So, let’s do the work. Let’s stop turning our noses at folks for playing walking simulators, stop trying to push people into playing in ways they don’t really want to play, and conduct ourselves upliftingly toward those who slide the difficulty scale all the way down.

Here’s to you, Easy-Mode Players. I think you’re the real gamers.

     Guest post written by Eric Bailey [ @Nintendo_Legend
          Admin of [ skirmishfrogs.com ] [ @SkirmishFrogs ]

     For Eric Bailey's last Guest Post click [ HERE ]


  1. I feel like you've not made your point very eloquently.

    Your launch pad for the discussion is regarding a "mercy feature" in Mario. While mercy features have their place depending on the type of game and genre (and arguably Mario is one of them!), there's also an unavoidable lowering of the tension.

    And this is why a lot of games, rather then trying to alter the core feature set in a "please everyone" way, use difficulty settings.

    Very few people object to having the option of an "Easy" or "Normal" or what have you mode, *many* will object to the features being diminished or removed entirely in an attempt to have your cake and eat it.

    To use a frequent example, an Easy Mode in Dark Souls would be fine! Removing the death penalties from Dark Souls in general would not be.

    As to your specific bullet points...

    "They Are Different"

    You're painting this as black and white when it's really not. Between hardcore speedrunners and "Easy-Mode-Players" theres a wide spectrum of people who enjoy the scenic route while appreciating the difficulty presented by not-Easy! So, no, they're not different.

    "They Appreciate The Craft"

    You fall at the first hurdle here. There are, and always will be, people who wear difficulty settings as a badge of pride, sure. There's also plenty of people who enjoy the struggle without needing to boast about it. To quote Theodore Roosevelt... "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…"

    Which doesn't serve to invalidate the point of difficulty settings. Some people's Normal is another person's Hard and vice versa! But to paint the sole motivation for playing with difficulty as arrogant pride is really narrow minded, in my opinion.

    "They're Nicer People"

    "Look, um, I admit, this is a gross generalization, and totally unscientific, but --" is really as far as this sentence should have gotten before being scrapped. It *is* a gross generalization, and one, if you'll forgive me for the turnabout, trying to treat the classification as a badge of pride.

    It's fair to say we've all met nasty people, and really whether they're "hardcore video gamers", "casual Facebook game players" or total agnostics to video games in general has no real correlation.

    I won't harp on about your last paragraphs, but I will throw some words back at you: "Communities work better when people act more like friends and less like enemies.". By villianizing anyone who isn't a "Easy-Mode Player" you polarize those you attempt to sway.

    You have some good points to make regarding this topic, but you ended up blending them with a ton of apple and oranges (Easy Mode vs Core Feature Changing) and generalization of the community.

    As a result, you end up going off message, from inclusion to elitism!

  2. Great critiques! I'm glad to have drawn these trains of thought from your station.

    Two quick responses --

    "there's also an unavoidable lowering of the tension." -- Do you mean, in a general sense, the very appearance of the item signals a drop in tension overall? That's an interesting bit, I'll think on that. I had someone on Twitter say that such things "break immersion" and... I'm still okay with them being there (and optional), but it's a consideration for me now, I'll say that much.

    "You're painting this as black and white when it's really not." -- this is just kinda a funny critique to me, because I'm saying "this is how Easy-Mode Players differ from the Hardcore Crowd," and you're saying "but there's players in-between!" I'm not arguing that there aren't! I'm likely somewhere in that in-between area, in fact. If you don't *like* me painting black-and-white, I guess I get that (and "hey, painting in broad strokes lowers the critical impact of your point" is something I can hear, too), but... like I said, just funny to me. "Stop comparing apples and oranges, you can't do that!"

    Harp away further, if you wish -- I basically don't really disagree with you at all, and respect your own disagreements in turn. I wrote this knowing the Trolly, Unfair bits would grate on some people (I mean, even that TITLE is so baity, right?) and just hoped the overall benefit would outweigh the consequence. Perhaps it does not!

    Thanks for your feedback. I'll strive for a smoother Op-Ed style in the future. :D

    1. "Do you mean, in a general sense, the very appearance of the item signals a drop in tension overall?"

      It obviously varies from person to person, but the obvious comparison is a horror movie: You can see the protagonist, and you can see the monster sneaking up on them, you want to help them, to tell them to *just look behind themselves*, but you can't, and then, as the music rises to a crescendo...

      The monster has a foam sword and does nothing more then menace the protagonist while they look nonplussed.

      Then tension of the scene is gone, and quite likely you'll never take the movie seriously past that point.

      You can argue that that kind of tension isn't for a Mario game, but at the same time, the "tension" of being able to lose makes your victory all the sweeter. You've overcome the odds, etc etc.

      Different strokes for different folks, of course, but its a very good reason to avoid something like the invincible tanuki suit.

      "you're saying "but there's players in-between!" I'm not arguing that there aren't! I'm likely somewhere in that in-between area, in fact."

      Then there's a little dissonance between your title and your point! To call Easy-Mode Players the Real Gamers automatically pits them against not only the hardcore, but also the "inbetweeners" who are equally disqualified by it!

      Sure, it's a bit of a trolly title, as you say, and I realize you're satirizing the "Casual Gamers aren't Real Gamers" point, but as you say, it lowers the critical impact of your point :)

      Hope this clarifies my points a bit! :)