The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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dunpeal2064
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by dunpeal2064 Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:10 am

ElkinFencer10 wrote: Art should not be dependent on inherent difficulty but on expression and message.


I don't think art should necessarily be dependent on difficulty, but I think it can be, and is certainly a valid form of art. To that point, I think its fair for someone that has made art dependent on difficulty to not feel compelled to water it down for greater accessibility.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Erik_Twice Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:18 am

alienjesus wrote: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.

I think it's important because limited lives force the player to learn each area before reliably moving to the next tone. If you have infinite lives you can get lucky and move to a hard section you are not really prepared for yet and just die over and over.

alienjesus wrote: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.

Personally, I think that continues ruin arcade games. They were implemented to make operators more money, not because it was good for the game or the players playing them. In most arcade games, if you die, it's better to start over and work on your basics than to try to make it through a level even harder than the one that just killed you.

Most Japanese arcade games did not allow continuing for a very long time, it was something that really got popular on the West first. A ton of games were changed between regions to add continues, remove checkpoints or increase the difficulty and I think the reason was the short-term thinking of Western arcades compared to the long-term haul of Japanese ones.

There's no big payoff for seeing the end, these games do not have a big story or anything so all you are doing is getting killed in a different environment. The game is in learning how to do things, I think.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by marurun Fri Oct 20, 2017 10:13 am

I think maybe we need to have a discussion about "art" here, since artistic vision has come up. Discussions about art, and whether or not video games are, or can be, art come down to a lot of semantic arguing over what art is. Is art exclusive (high art) or inclusive (low art)? I think the answer is both, however, it is clear that there really is such a thing as high are and low art. High art is generally uncompromising. It can be popular but often is not. Artistic vision could be argued to be the core consideration of high art (though that's kind of a lie). Low art is characterized by marketability, entertainment value, and to a certain extend accessibility. And even these descriptors are unhelpful. Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture would probably be considered high art, but clearly there were financial concerns. He designed for people who could afford to pay him for his work, and he didn't live a pauper's life for his art. Historically great artists and composers had patrons and took commissions all the time, and their works are considered high art only because they have withstood the test of time. Shakespeare's works were originally a kind of low art, aimed squarely at entertainment and the more common person of the time, and yet the quality and universality of his works have lead them to become one of the highest forms of English language drama.

In fact, only in modern times have artists really had the freedom to consider only artistic vision. So let us be clear: almost all art is, in a way, low art. Artistic vision is constantly compromised. In movies it is compromised by producers, financial backers, studio concerns, actors and actresses trying to impose their own visions on their characters, on concerns of ticket sales, international markets, and long tail cult success. In books the compromises come from editors and publishers. Music, from producers and publishers. Games, from all the same things as the others. In fact, artistic vision is often limited by the creator's own skills and abilities. How many times have we heard about something where the creator had a grand vision and had to compromise because they could only do so much? And what's the biggest impediment on artistic vision? Deadlines. So, in short, while there are already innumerable constraints on artistry, as long as there are financial requirements on art-as-entertainment, artistic vision will ALWAYS be compromised, and in many cases severely so. If creators can compromise their visions for those concerns, they should be able to compromise in other ways as well. I have never played a game that I could genuinely say was completely uncompromised in every way.

As for the discussion of challenge levels, I imagine most players are going to play the default challenge level even if there are options for an easier mode or harder mode of play. And if someone actively seeks out easier modes of play and chooses them, why should developers attempt to impose their preferences upon players? If Konami can provide harder levels of play and increasingly harder game loops for shooters, how would an optional easier mode be a compromise? My view is that the default "medium" challenge level should be the developer's idea of how the game "should" be played. And while no developer is obligated to provide harder or easier levels of challenge, and making a harder game is not ableist, (in a way I agree with many of you whom I also disagree with) I think developers who do go the extra mile are predicting and paving the future of gaming. In order for gaming audiences to expand, for more money to be made, you have to get away from the ego cult of "hard" gaming. E-peen gaming is anachronistic, really.

As for ableism, that has more to do with control remapping, accommodations for color blindness, subtitles for dialogue, visual cues to go with audio cues, enhancement of audio cues to ensure that much of the action of the game can be heard as well as seen, and visual options for adjusting brightness and contrast to accommodate a wide range of physical limits.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Ack Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:24 am

Pardon my ignorance on this topic, but I'm afraid I'm unaware of the term "ableist." I believe I'm getting an idea about its meaning from this topic, but could someone please define it? I would greatly appreciate it.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Exhuminator Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:47 am

marurun wrote:E-peen gaming is anachronistic, really.

Boiling down a sense of earned accomplishment to a derogatory term like "e-peen", is short shortsightedly dismissive. I will try to give an example of what I mean:

Let's say a new game comes out called Demon Mountain. Demon Mountain is a mountain climbing simulator, the point of the game is to climb to the top of Demon mountain. As it turns out, Demon Mountain is uncompromisingly difficult. There's no difficulty options, no cheats built in, no way to skip the hard parts. Anybody who plays Demon Mountain immediately realizes how challenging it is. Because on Demon Mountain it's very easy to fall and die, get crushed by a boulder, freeze to death, asphyxiate, and so on. Most gamers eventually quit trying to climb the mountain, because they don't have the patience to preserver. Demon Mountain is freaking hard!

Eventually some gamers build up enough experience, which translates to learned skill, to be able to climb to the top of Demon Mountain. Now when they say, "I've beaten Demon Mountain", that means something. It means something to them for having survived the hellish trials to climb to the top. It means something to those who never survived the climb, because they know how hard Demon Mountain is. Therefore having beaten Demon Mountain becomes a badge of meritorious pride. Just as we might respect the work of a skilled speed runner, or a no-hit runner, so can one also respect the skill of a talented Demon Mountain climber.

But then, six months later, Demon Mountain's publisher releases new DLC. It's called The Escalator. The Escalator DLC adds a mountain long escalator to the entirety of Demon Mountain. This means that at any point, if you're frustrated, you can just hop on the escalator, and ride past the parts of the mountain giving you trouble. After The Escalator DLC releases, suddenly tons of people are claiming to have beaten Demon Mountain. But now that no longer means anything thanks to The Escalator DLC. Anybody can "climb" Demon Mountain now. As a side effect, the original Demon Mountain climbers, who climbed the mountain before The Escalator DLC, take offense to the publisher having diluted the experience's core difficulty. That is because the difficulty was the whole point in the first place. Demon Mountain made its namesake on the difficulty. It used to be impressive to have been able to beat Demon Mountain. But thanks to its compromised difficulty, now Demon Mountain is just another game. No big deal.

That's just like beating Etrian Odyssey games used to mean something, but ever since Atlus allowed difficulty changes since EO4, the EO games can be a joke to beat. Yes this translated into more sales of EO games, because casual RPG players can enjoy them now. But I personally know quite a few EO fans who've dropped the series, because it's just not what it started as anymore. Modern EO is no longer an uncompromising bastion of old school hard dungeon crawling. And really, how disgustingly patronizing is the white tanooki suit in recent Marios? What is that even teaching kids? Oh don't worry about becoming better at something, if it's too hard, just let someone else handle your problems! Honestly I think this "no gamer left behind" mentality is plain toxic. Someone shouldn't seek out to lower the difficulty bar of a challenge, they should work to raise their own skills above it. The feeling of pride in having done so, is worth more than the smugness of having easily finished a game.

Thankfully FromSoftware realizes the Demon Mountain parable, and haven't weakened the core of their immensely popular Souls series via adjustable difficulties. FromSoftware understands that the challenge is the point of an inherently challenging experience. And their tribulations attract gamers all around the world who wish to test their mettle. This uncompromising vision translated into the most financially successful series FromSoftware has yet had. FromSoftware understands that not every game has to be for everybody. And that is OK! I am HORRIBLE at rhythm games. If you put me on a DDR arcade machine, I would make an unbelievable fool of myself. You would cringe so hard your face would hurt. But not once have I ever thought that DDR should include a "tap your toe to win" mode. It's my responsibility to "git gud", not Konami's.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by alienjesus Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:53 am

I guess I just don't give a shit.

I beat Tyson in punch out, but if they were to release punch-out now with a lower difficulty level, it wouldn't upset me that other people were beating Tyson with less effort. It doesn't take away from my own achievement. It only denies social gratification from boasting to others.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by marurun Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:59 am

Ex, we've had the difficulty discussion before. But here's another angle on it. Look at Sarge's happiness at beating Contra 3 in hard mode. He said it was like playing a different game in many ways. Does someone beating Contra 3 on normal take away from his accomplishment of beating Contra 3 on hard? Not in the least. My e-peen reference isn't meant to detract from the accomplishment of defeating challenges that require skill and effort, but rather to a particular cultural attitude toward exclusivity where difficulty is concerned: the idea of the ultra-hard game that separates the men from the boys, so to speak. That's e-peen.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Exhuminator Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:02 pm

alienjesus wrote:I beat Tyson in punch out, but if they were to release punch-out now with a lower difficulty level, it wouldn't upset me that other people were beating Tyson with less effort. It doesn't take away from my own achievement. It only denies social gratification from boasting to others.

That's fine. But Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! became notable due to its difficulty. If Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! had been optionally easy since its inception, the chances of the game having maintained enough notoriety to become as popular wasn't likely. That is to say, the identity of the original Punch-Out!! was made on its uncompromising difficulty.

Also there's more to a game being difficult than mere "social gratification", if anything the personal gratification of having beat it is worth more.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Gunstar Green Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:13 pm

ElkinFencer10 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?[/b]
Skipping levels and bosses, yes. Infinite lives, no. Art should not be dependent on inherent difficulty but on expression and message.


I think "lives" have largely become an atrophied game design element anyway outside of specific niches (shmups, retro throwbacks, mobile games that want you to buy more lives if that even counts). Even most of the "hard" games we're discussing here don't have a lives system or a game over state. I mean I guess you could count each of Cuphead's HP as serving the same purpose as a life. I guess it would be more accurate for me to say game overs and continues have atrophied.

---

On the Cuphead thing I stand with the developer's intention. They said they made the game they wanted to make and they are under no moral obligation to make it any differently.

I guess my ultimate opinion is should games be accessible? Sure. Do they have to be? No.

I don't really agree that it's about e-peen, sure that's what it's going to be for some people but for others like Ex it's simply surmounting an obstacle that refused to budge and feeling a personal level of a achievement in doing so. Ultimately these type of games and the uncompromising experience they offer have a following. If they didn't they wouldn't exist and nobody would buy them and we wouldn't be debating this.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Erik_Twice Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:16 pm

Ack wrote:Pardon my ignorance on this topic, but I'm afraid I'm unaware of the term "ableist." I believe I'm getting an idea about its meaning from this topic, but could someone please define it? I would greatly appreciate it.

It's discrimination against disabled people but with a wording similar to racist/homophobic.
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