The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Exhuminator
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Exhuminator Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:32 pm

1) Do you think difficult games are inherently ableist or otherwise exclusionary?

I do not think these games are designed to intentionally exclude anyone. Rather they are designed to attract gamers who inherently seek challenging games, for the sake of being challenged.

2) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to disabled gamers?

Not anymore than a movie should have to provide a braille synopsis, or a novel should come with built in Cliff's Notes, or an album should have to provide an extensive spectrogram. There are many genres of gaming which can cater to someone with physical disability. It should not fall on a hardcore action game developer's shoulders to accommodate every possible player. Instead of the developer putting in a "Press A to Win" mode, rather the player can watch a Let's Play to experience content tourism.

3) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to people not as skilled in games?

No. That makes about as much sense as abolishing the Special Olympics, because ethically the normal Olympics should just make its events more accessible. :roll: I've never seen someone complain when an easy game doesn't include harder modes. No one has a problem with easy games being allowed to exist. It's hardly fair then that people decry hard games, and say uncompromisingly hard games shouldn't be allowed to exist. It's that hypocrisy itself that's immoral.

4) Do you think the inclusion of the suggested variants (Skipping levels/bosses/infinite lifes, etc.) takes away from the artistic goals of games?

Yes.

5) Do you think the same applies to difficult movies (Eg. Baraka) or a difficult book (Don Quixote) or, say, Picasso's art? Is all art inherently exclusionary or ableist?

Not all art. Some art is meant to be easily digested potboiler. But some art is meant to challenge its beholder. If the art is purposely meant to challenge the beholder, that doesn't mean the artist wished to intentionally exclude the beholder. Rather the artist wants the beholder to experience the art on the same level its creator envisioned it to exist upon. To experience the art from a diluted or watered down standpoint, not only alters the intended perception, but also changes the art itself.

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A personal anecdote. I beat Demon's Souls for the first time this year. The game was hard as hell, especially since I wasn't using magic. There were times I didn't know if I could even beat it. I seriously questioned my own skill, and occasionally felt demoralized. However, I kept coming back. I was determined to "git gud". And eventually I did, eventually I beat Demon's Souls. The feeling of elation of having overcome such immense challenge lead to an emotional reward which was purely euphoric. If I had instead skipped the hard bosses, and just lackadaisically screwed around to the credits, I would not have felt that same feeling. I am absolutely sure FromSoftware inherently designed Demon's Souls to provide the experience I had. That was the point of Demon's Souls. If Demon's Souls had been optionally much easier, its point would have been lost. The artistic purpose itself would have been moot.
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alienjesus
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by alienjesus Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:50 am

Exhuminator wrote:3) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to people not as skilled in games?

No. That makes about as much sense as abolishing the Special Olympics, because ethically the normal Olympics should just make its events more accessible. :roll: I've never seen someone complain when an easy game doesn't include harder modes. No one has a problem with easy games being allowed to exist. It's hardly fair then that people decry hard games, and say uncompromisingly hard games shouldn't be allowed to exist. It's that hypocrisy itself that's immoral.



You could make an argument for fact that the Paralympics are there to accommodate people who cannot manage to participate in the Olympics games. In effect, they are the equivalent of an 'accessible mode' for disabled athletes. Having them doesn't detract from the Olympics at all, and in fact just serves to encourage more people to participate in the world of sports. I'd say it's a solid argument for why accommodation and inclusion is a good thing, and why having more accessible difficulty modes wouldn't detract from the 'main' event of the game.

samsonlonghair wrote:This is some white knight nonsense right here. :roll:

I currently work professionally as a job coach for people with disabilities. You know what? They'll surprise you. They don't see themselves as victims, and they don't expect the whole world to slow down to hold their hands. They are some of the most resilient, resourceful people I have ever met.

This reminds me... I once worked up the nerve to ask Luke how a man with one hand plays video games. You know what he said? "Like a boss!"

Don't be too surprised if you find out that someone who tells you to "git good scrub" has a disability that you didn't know about. Some people with disabilities are REALLY flipping good at video games.


Whilst this is true, you also have to understand that whilst some people can achieve the same things with their disability, this isn't going to be true of all people. Disabilities vary in severity and just because one disabled person can rock hard games like a boss doesn't mean we shouldn't allow for other people with disabilities to participate via accessibility options and modes.

And this can be far more than just difficulty anyway. I have a friend who is visually impaired, and there are games he can't play because there's no brightness option. The games are too dark, and the contrast is too low and he can't see them, even with his TV settings adjusted.

marurun wrote:All visions are available for compromise. Movies can have closed captions to aid the deaf, and in fact audio description is becoming much more common to allow the blind to enjoy movies in a manner similar to audio drama. And there are blind gamers who play Overwatch. Blizzard’s audio team actual clarified audio in the game to improve audio feedback so that blind gamers could have a better game experience.

Accommodating disabilities and varied skill levels cannot be seen as compromising artistic vision if it is an optional mode after the fact. No movie director is going to protest closed captions or descriptive audio (if they do they are an asshole). And federal law requires captions on broadcasts, just as it requires accommodations at businesses that serve the public. Big websites now also have to have accommodations for the blind. Target was sued over it. Museums have descriptive audio to provide access to the blind to visual arts. So far, games are one medium that’s been given a free pass. So while I can understand some developers being unable to provide a robust assistive experience, those who otherwise can but use artistic vision as the primary reason not to will slowly become dinosaurs.


This is also true - video games won't get a free pass forever, and at some point I can see these requirements becoming law in certain territories. I think it would benefit companies to start thinking about these options now so they're not caught out later.



Let's be clear. I think the title of the thread is misleading. I don't think difficult games are inherently ableist. I like hard games. I just don't think adding accessibility and difficilty options compromises on an artistic vision inherently by existing. If someone changes their main game difficulty to accommodate, then sure, I'll agree with the argument. But adding an easy mode or a 'limited button' mode or something to that affect as an option doesn't hurt the people who want to experience the game as intended, and allows those who are restriucted in their access to a game to enjoy it too. I literally don't see how having the best of both worlds can be a bad thing.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by dunpeal2064 Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:12 am

alienjesus wrote: I literally don't see how having the best of both worlds can be a bad thing.


Not that I disagree with your point, but I think there is a case to be made that the majority of players will take the path of least resistance, and not dig deeper into a game to find its intended difficulty, unless it is the only choice.

I feel like this is why Dark Souls was able to bring "omg hard games are cool" back into the spotlight, compared to something like Devil May Cry, which straight invited you to EZ mode if you sucked too much. When that game came out, I didn't know of a single person that played through it on a non-ez difficulty.

Now, maybe that is the fault of the average gamer. Ideally we could have both worlds. But if I as a developer know that everyone is going to take the path of least resistance, and I want the average person to have a certain experience, I am more likely to not offer lower difficulties.

Just a thought. As someone who likes hard games, easier modes never bother me. But I also happily seek out the higher difficulty modes and such, which I think is less common.

There is also a case to be made that, maybe, a game is just bad if it lacks difficulty. Cuphead is a run 'n gun, a sort of game which is about its challenge, the care put into its enemy placement, bullet patterns, AI behaviors. If you strip the game of that, you just have art assets and music, which can already be experienced via a lets play or something.

Again, not saying this is always the case, but if adding an easier option actually lowers the quality of my game, I would be adverse to do so. A shmup with no bullets would be awfully boring! :lol:
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alienjesus
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by alienjesus Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:26 am

dunpeal2064 wrote:
alienjesus wrote:
There is also a case to be made that, maybe, a game is just bad if it lacks difficulty. Cuphead is a run 'n gun, a sort of game which is about its challenge, the care put into its enemy placement, bullet patterns, AI behaviors. If you strip the game of that, you just have art assets and music, which can already be experienced via a lets play or something.

Again, not saying this is always the case, but if adding an easier option actually lowers the quality of my game, I would be adverse to do so. A shmup with no bullets would be awfully boring! :lol:


But there are plenty of situations where shmups can be played on easier difficulties and still be fun and challenging. Ikaruga is challenging on any of it's three difficulty levels, and honestly, the purest Ikaruga experience is probably hard difficulty, rather than normal!
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by dunpeal2064 Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:32 am

alienjesus wrote:But there are plenty of situations where shmups can be played on easier difficulties and still be fun and challenging. Ikaruga is challenging on any of it's three difficulty levels, and honestly, the purest Ikaruga experience is probably hard difficulty, rather than normal!


That is absolutely true! I actually often go to Ikaruga as one of the better "choose your difficulty" shmups, as it seems they put equal effort into each mode. So, great call there! :)

But, I think it is more common that a shooter gets released, has infinite credits, is played through once with no resistance, appreciated for its visuals and such, and then put down. If I had put as much work into the game as some devs do, I would be sad to see this, and I would not blame a dev for trying to avoid this by not making it an option.

*Of course there is a middle ground. Gradius V/Shiki II limiting credits and giving you more as you go still offers an easier time, while still demanding some level of precision and appreciation for the game's design.

I just got back and am talking about shmups again. I'm sorry, it wasn't intentional! :V
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by PartridgeSenpai Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:45 am

dunpeal2064 wrote:Again, not saying this is always the case, but if adding an easier option actually lowers the quality of my game, I would be adverse to do so. A shmup with no bullets would be awfully boring! :lol:


At first I really didn't get what you mean here, but I think I thought of an example of how difficulties can be done badly. A common theory I heard for why Mega Man 10 was nowhere near as good as 9 is because they diversified the design to accommodate difficulty modes and extra characters. They designed it around its difficulty modes instead of making a good game first and adding handicaps later. There is such a way a game can be designed that difficulty modes can take away from what "could have been," although this is in the large minority of cases, I believe.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by dunpeal2064 Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:53 am

A very specific thing, I think, can describe what I am trying to say there.

Contra 3, that sniper on Stage 3. Anyone who has played the game knows this guy. He is evil, he kills runs. Its because he is threatening that he is important, and memorable. If I as a designer wanted this enemy to be important, he needs to be threatening. If there was an option to be able to take 5 hits per life in Contra 3, you'd probably care very little about this guy, if you noticed him at all!

Now, of course this is super narrow, but often games like run 'n guns, shmups, etc, are designed around this. They use they threat of death to make things stand out, to create memorable moments. It is why you care about how many enemies are about to run in, and what type they are, and what attack pattern they might use. A lot of things become moot with a lack of threat.

Now, not all games suffer when this threat is removed. But I think Cuphead, Dark Souls, and many other games would indeed suffer without the threat of death, as it is as much a part of the experience of the game as the visuals and the fun of killing things, if not moreso.

Again, though, this is just why I wouldn't blame a dev for making a decision like this, not that I think its necessarily the way things should be. Ideally you would just have the majority play as intended, and those that can't have an easier option, even if it lowers the quality. But, that usually isn't how it ends up going, due to that whole path of least resistance thing
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Erik_Twice Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:48 am

Gunstar Green wrote:The main issue is games being an interactive medium. You're never going to get 100% inclusiveness without making the games play themselves which as I said, you can already do by just watching someone else play them.

I do think there are a lot of common sense things that games should be doing that not all games do such as including color-blind modes for color-based mechanics.

This is what I think too.

PartridgeSenpai wrote:Frankly I absolutely do believe it's ableist, or at the very least elitist, for a consumer to assert that a game they like should not be made more accessible if it in no way affects that consumer's experience. The classic example is an easy mode in Dark Souls. It in no way, shape, or form inhibits your ability to play through it as it was always "intended" to be if there's an easier option for people who don't have the time to get good enough at the game.

But it does affect the player's experience. An easy Dark Souls is a bad Dark Souls. Its difficult is part of its artistic statement and the game as it exists today cannot be replicated at an easier difficulty level. Same with Ghosts'n Goblins or Gradius.

I also belive that people do have the time to get good enough at these game, they just chose not to. Players exclude themselves by not being willing to invest effort and time in these games. And if they truly don't have the time, I believe they should not play them, just like they should not read a long book if they don't have the time for them.

Gunstar Green wrote:I think rants aimed at games like Dark Souls and Cuphead for their difficulty boil down to the Fear of Missing Out.

Very sharp thought, I didn't think about it until now but you are probably right.

samsonlonghair wrote:This is some white knight nonsense right here. :roll:

Being honest, I think it's a smokescreen of sorts. The debate surrounding difficulty and Cuphead predates these concerns, the ableism angle has come later.

Personally, I think that Cuphead being easy or not has very little impact, if any, on disabled gamers. The average AAA game, despite their low difficulty is much harder on disabled gamers because of their huge number of buttons and lack of remapping.

In fact, now that you mention Luke, I remember him saying that retro games were easier for him to play than modern titles because of that.

alienjesus wrote:Let's be clear. I think the title of the thread is misleading.

I don't think it's misleading. It's something that several game critics have stated, either directly or covertly. Ms Holly argues in this article that Cuphead is ableist because it's hard and would not be if it had an easy mode and/or skippable sections.

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My answers

Erik_Twice wrote:1) Do you think difficult games are inherently ableist or otherwise exclusionary?

No. A lack of game literacy might be exclusionary, but the games themselves are not.

2) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to disabled gamers?

If the design is not compromised during the process, I think it's a good thing to do. I really think there's no excuse for configurable controls.

3) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to people not as skilled in games?

No. The answer to a lack of game literacy is to promote that literacy, not to water down the game themselves.

4) Do you think the inclusion of the suggested variants (Skipping levels/bosses/infinite lifes, etc.) takes away from the artistic goals of games?

Yes, it's like skipping chapters in a book or reading the cliff notes on Wikipedia instead of reading through.

Edit: 5) Do you think the same applies to difficult movies (Eg. Baraka) or a difficult book (Don Quixote) or, say, Picasso's art? Is all art inherently exclusionary or ableist?
[/quote]
No. A lack of artistic literacy might be exclusionary, but art itself isn't.
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alienjesus
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by alienjesus Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:55 am

Erik_Twice wrote:[4) Do you think the inclusion of the suggested variants (Skipping levels/bosses/infinite lifes, etc.) takes away from the artistic goals of games?

Yes, it's like skipping chapters in a book or reading the cliff notes on Wikipedia instead of reading through.


I can see your argument against skipping levels, but I don't see how infinite lives takes away from anything if they set you back to the start of the level. Yes, they save you the time of going through over and over again, but they still require you to develop a mastery of each level in order to progress.

Perhaps if there are infinite lives that let you continue from right where you die, but it's noteworthy that some of the hardest games in the arcades allowed for this simply by putting in more money. I suspect that the 'artistic vision' of those arcade games was likely 'compromised' by being made to be harder than they were intended to get more money out of people. In fact, considering that some old cabinets let you change the settings for difficulty, lives, continues per credits, points for extends etc, then even the old-school difficult games of the era likely were modified in some way or another from their intended set-up.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by ElkinFencer10 Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:01 am

1) Do you think difficult games are inherently ableist or otherwise exclusionary?
Exclusionary? Sure. Ableist? No, that's a bit...extreme.

2) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to disabled gamers?
In a perfect world, yeah, sure, that would be great, but I don't think I'd say they have a moral obligation anymore than authors have a moral obligation to write in every language as well as braile.

3) Do you think games have a moral obligation to offer modes accessible to people not as skilled in games?
No. I think it's a good thing to have and way easier to add different difficulty levels or handicaps than it would be to add features to meet various handicaps, but even as a shitty fucking less skilled gamer, I don't think there's an obligation.

4) Do you think the inclusion of the suggested variants (Skipping levels/bosses/infinite lifes, etc.) takes away from the artistic goals of games?
Skipping levels and bosses, yes. Infinite lives, no. Art should not be dependent on inherent difficulty but on expression and message.

5) Do you think the same applies to difficult movies (Eg. Baraka) or a difficult book (Don Quixote) or, say, Picasso's art? Is all art inherently exclusionary or ableist?
Definitely not.
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