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Why Games Should Be Accessible and Why Your Analogies Suck.

If you plan on leaving a comment, please be reasonable. I'm willing to see other points of view, but if you are rude, then I have nothing to say to you.

Jim recently put out a new episode of the Jimquisition explaining that dumbing down games is a bad practice, but inserting balances so that less-skilled gamers can experience everything they paid for is a good thing.

And people seem to hate this opinion. To the point where they've taken to writing blog-length posts on that article that very few people are probably going to read. Is anyone going to read this? Who knows. But at least since I know it's going to be blog length I'm putting it in the goddamn blogs.

Now that my passive-aggressive portion is done with, I'll move on, starting with a real-life example.

My sister doesn't play video games. Why? Because she sucks at them. That's not to say she dislikes video games. She loves to watch people play them, but she is completely incapable of comprehending first-person games (an ex-boyfriend of hers tried to get her to play Skyrim and she couldn't even complete the opening sequence). You know what her favorite video game is? Fable II.

I know what you are probably thinking: But that's a baby game! Molyneux sucks! And believe me, I agree, to a point. I think they dumbed it down a bit too much, but I think they had the right idea, just not executed very well. My sister is perfectly content to stand around hacking balverines for 15 minutes, dying over and over again because she thinks it's fun to get through to the end of the game because she loves the world, the plot, and the characters. By the end, her character has hardly enough experience to get any second tier upgrades and looks like a tree with all her scars. Personally, I would play differently to avoid getting scars and upgrade myself. But here's the thing: without this system in place, my sister would have missed out on what became her favorite game of all time.

Now what if this was Fable II's easy mode? And what if the normal mode had an actual death mechanic? Just some food for thought.

I saw some complaints in the comments section focused on one thing: That the setting of Dark Souls is entirely built on how dangerous it is. Making it any easier would make it not at all enjoyable, or ruin the integrity or... something.

From here, people have tried to compare it to adult books, saying that they shouldn't be dumbed down for readers who just can't understand. First of all, comparing two different mediums of entertainment is not a good practice to begin with. Different industries, different rules. If you want to use an analogy like this, use it to help a valid point that you've already made, but don't make it the crux of your argument. Secondly, and I'm playing along with your book analogies here, what's wrong with adapting a pre-existing work to make it more accessible? As long as the original still exists, you can reach for that if you want to challenge your mind.

But then I guess by that logic, everyone should familiarize themselves with Old English to be able to read Beowulf, since certain eccentricities of the language will be lost in translation. Or maybe Braille shouldn't have been invented. Since blind people can't read, they don't deserve to read. See how far these analogies can take you? The huge difference between books/movies and games that can't be ignored is that books and movies are like big open fields. You may not like spending your time in them--you may not understand spending your time in them--but they are open and available. Video games are like fields with brick walls all over the place. Some people may not be able to get over the walls and they can't see past them. But here's the thing: If you're able to get over those walls and you like what you see, wouldn't you want other people to see it to? Or are you really so elitist that you have to preserve your perfect paradise for yourself? This isn't survival of the fittest. It's entertainment.

Furthermore, if I'm reading a book and can't understand it because I lack the vocabulary, then I can pick up a dictionary, work it out, and come back later. I can't just say "olly olly oxen-free" and make my hand-eye coordination any better. Consumers are smarter than we give them credit for. My sister won't bother to play any first person shooters because she doesn't understand how to move and look around at the same time. It's impossible to make everything accessible to everyone all the time.

You don't deserve the endgame because you toiled through tough bosses. You deserve it because you paid for it. You may deserve a BETTER endgame for working harder... Dishonored is a good example of this... but for people who want the mainstream media to take games seriously, you should probably know that they won't be taken seriously if the average player can't get through them.

Personally, I've been playing Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed recently, and that game is HARD. It's so hard I'm not sure if I'll even be able to complete the campaign... and yeah, I know how to drift and all that jazz. Really, I could care less if I'm not able to finish the game. But what DOES bother me, is that I likely won't be able to get all the characters unless I unlock them through DLC. I read a good argument in this matter: Since it's an IP with so many all-star characters, there should be systems in place to unlock them that don't require the player to go through hell and back. A lot of families are buying this game, and probably won't be able to unlock all the characters. Compare this to the Smash Bros games, in which unlocking characters can be quick and hard--like completing tough Events--or long, but easy--leaving a Versus match up for 24 hours or so.

We need to take into account the people who aren't casual players by choice, but by simple lack of skill.

Dumbing down a difficult game is bad, but OPTIONAL easy modes are nothing to be afraid of. Checks and balances for difficulty outside the normal range of gameplay are fair ways of giving less-skilled players all the content they paid for. Think about how you'd feel if you or a friend bought a $60 you/he/she couldn't get through. And understand the cold hard truth of it all: Being better at a video game doesn't make you a better person than anyone.

If I missed anything, I'll update later. Feel free to disagree, but for Christ's sake, be civil about it. People seem to be really tense around here with all the Game of the Year business going on, and I just want to be reasonable.
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About burningsoupone of us since 7:43 PM on 03.02.2010

My favorite games:
1. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
2. Banjo Tooie
3. Tomba
4. God of War II
5. Pikmin 2
6. Psychonauts
7. Donkey Kong Country 2
8. Katamari Damacy
9. Chibi Robo
10. Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage
11. Conker's Bad Fur Day
12. Plok
13. Super Mario RPG
14. Mega-Man X
15. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
16. Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando
17. Animal Crossing
18. Rocket: Robot on Wheels
19. Silent Hill 2
20. Dead Rising
Steam ID:burningsoup


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