March’s Monthly Musing is all to do with game difficulty. As a new user, I wanted to write a little something on this subject with a fresh twist and an appropriately lengthy, intellectual-sounding title. This twist on the subject is an element I planned to crowbar into this blog post at some point: the element of player choice, and, as the title indicates, how it affects the difficulty of any given game. I’m going to take Obsidian’s stellar action-RPG, Fallout: New Vegas, as an example of how choice can distract the player from wildly uneven difficulty levels and even convince the player to embrace them.
Above - Fallout: New Vegas' Hardcore Mode
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that an element of free reign helps to distract the player from many negative elements of any given game, including gameplay which is slightly too easy or slightly too hard. In many games which are too easy - like Fallout: New Vegas - the player subconsciously pats him/herself on the back for making the right choices to deal with any given situation in-game without recognising that the game itself is too easy for these choices to even matter in the long run, and inwardly kicks him/herself for making the wrong choices - even though these choices also don‘t really matter. In a difficult game which hands the player the reins from the start, the player takes the burden of responsibility and feels unable to blame the game’s mechanics because he/she is the one in charge: each individual player has made his/her individual choices and, as such, every death in-game becomes a reflection on that player’s skill.
In conclusion, I believe that, in games such as New Vegas, the player determines the difficulty in many more aspects than simply adjusting the default difficulty settings in the menu and this helps to detract from the set ‘difficulty’ level of any game. You could go for the easiest route, like myself, and choose a sniper class with which to play through the game, or you could create a really punishing class just to push the game to its limits and test out your own skill. The choice, truly, is yours.
P.S - feel free to make a comment, positive, negative or incomprehensible below. Additionally, if you require clarification, please leave a question or query at the bottom of the page. I recognise that my arguments aren’t always clear and can often descend into confusion. Best wishes to all! :)
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Lord Death of Murder Mountain