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Technical Difficulties: Player choice and how it affects gameplay

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Marchís 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. Iím going to take Obsidianís 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 Iím 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 donĎt 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 gameís 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 playerís 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 Ďdifficultyí 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 arenít always clear and can often descend into confusion. Best wishes to all! :)
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Lord Death of Murder Mountain   
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About Lord Death of Murder Mountainone of us since 2:06 PM on 03.18.2011

Iím Oran, a fifteen year-old gamer and Scottish native. Iíve been gaming for as long as I can remember and my love for the pastime has grown exponentially (HELL YEAH) since early childhood, back when I was allowed to crap in my pants and I wasnĎt mocked for my love of the Pokťmon games. The golden days.

Iím a thoroughly Ďmoderní gamer, and Iím a little ashamed of that. I am most comfortable with games from this generation and the previous, but Iíve played games from past generations, such as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64 and a few of the Castlevania games.

I discovered Destructoid after purchasing Deadly Premonition, the cover of which boasts a 10/10 rating from Jim Sterling. I visited the website to check out the review, and accidentally stumbled upon the Community Blogs. Previously, I had been experimenting with GameSpotís blogging feature but I quickly tired of that and, thusly, the Community Blogs presented a perfect alternative.

Iím hoping to break into gaemz jarnalizm. I feel I have a serviceable command of the English language and I realise that I have plenty of time to hone my mad skillz, blud. I follow the gaming industry with avid interest and I have the ability to formulate convincing arguments; arguments which I take care to support with fact. Iím going to stop whoring myself out now, but if you know of anywhere a budding writer can test his skills -- other than Destructoid itself, of course -- then please let me know. I will love you eternally.

Obligatory list of favourite games (in no particular order):

GB/GBC/GBA

Virtually every Pokťmon game

PC (thanks, bbain!)

Chzo Mythos
L'Abbaye Des Morts
Digital -- A Love Story

PS2

Black
Burnout
Burnout 2
Downhill Domination
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil -- Code Veronica X

Xbox

Destroy All Humans!
Destroy All Humans! 2
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Evil Dead: Regeneration
Fable
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Gun
Hitman: Blood Money
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
The Suffering
Thief: Deadly Shadows
TimeSplitters 2
Tom Clancyís Splinter Cell

Xbox 360

Alan Wake
Armored Core 4
Assassin's Creed
BioShock
Blue Dragon
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Crackdown
Dead Rising
Dead Space
Deadly Premonition
Eternal Sonata
Fable II
Fallout 3
Fallout: New Vegas
Gears of War
Gears of War 2
Grand Theft Auto IV
Half-Life 2
Just Cause 2
Left 4 Dead
Lost Planet
Mirrorís Edge
Portal
Prey
Project Sylpheed
Prototype
Saints Row 2
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion