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Exhuminator
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Exhuminator Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:28 pm

marurun wrote: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?

No one's arguing that optionally harder difficulties shouldn't exist. And no one has said beating a game on its default normal difficulty is merit-less. We're talking about easy modes here, not normal or hard. Even Contra 3 frowns upon lowered difficulties. While SNES Contra 3 does have an "Easy" difficulty mode, IIRC it doesn't let you fight the true final boss in that mode, instead you get this:

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The game is encouraging the player to improve their skills, and will reward them with the true final boss and legitimate ending for doing so. Other versions of Contra III on other platforms cut off after level 3 and 4 on easy mode. You can't even get to the end on easy mode.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Gunstar Green Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:38 pm

I want to clarify I'm not against including easy modes or producing general audience games in any way. I think you can design good easy modes and I think you can have bad easy modes just like any other aspect of game design.

My only contention is the idea that all games should require one. I think it should be left up to the developer to decide what experience they want to provide and at what level (there are games with "easy" difficulty settings that are still plenty hard). We have reviews to help us make informed decisions on what games we spend our time with. I'm sure everyone has that genre or that mechanic or that graphical style or that difficulty or even lack of difficulty that they avoid in gaming.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by samsonlonghair Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:49 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.

Denotation - The term "abelist" means discriminatory or hateful against people with disabilities - be they physical or mental disabilities.

Connotation - The implication of "abelist" is that most of us have lived such privileged lives that we fail to recognize when we are discriminating against people with disabilities.

If the phrase "check your privilege" makes you cringe, you might not care for the term "abelist" very much.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Ack Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:20 pm

samsonlonghair wrote:
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.

Denotation - The term "abelist" means discriminatory or hateful against people with disabilities - be they physical or mental disabilities.

Connotation - The implication of "abelist" is that most of us have lived such privileged lives that we fail to recognize when we are discriminating against people with disabilities.

If the phrase "check your privilege" makes you cringe, you might not care for the term "abelist" very much.

Ah, ok. I suspected that is what it meant but was not sure. Thanks very much, Samson.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Exhuminator Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:20 pm

Gunstar Green wrote:My only contention is the idea that all games should require one.

That's my point of contention as well. I think the idea itself is skillist.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by marurun Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:43 pm

Gunstar Green wrote:I want to clarify I'm not against including easy modes or producing general audience games in any way. I think you can design good easy modes and I think you can have bad easy modes just like any other aspect of game design.

My only contention is the idea that all games should require one. I think it should be left up to the developer to decide what experience they want to provide and at what level (there are games with "easy" difficulty settings that are still plenty hard). We have reviews to help us make informed decisions on what games we spend our time with. I'm sure everyone has that genre or that mechanic or that graphical style or that difficulty or even lack of difficulty that they avoid in gaming.


I agree with this completely. What I don't agree with is the idea that an easy mode hurts those who accomplish hard "normal" modes. That's a very exclusionary view.

If normal mode is pretty hard and you beat it, you still did all that work. You still acquired all those skills. That the game had an easier mode doesn't in any way detract from your accomplishment or your experience. You should be proud of the work you put in and the accomplishment you achieved. Nobody can take that away from you, and someone knocking the difficulty down doesn't change that. I mean, there was the mention that when someone goes on-line and says they beat a game, how are you to know they didn't beat it on easy? But how do you know they beat the game at all? Anyone can make any claim on-line. Modern games offer badges and achievements and whatnot. Have different ones for beating the games on different difficulties. If you beat it on easy, don't give them any badges or achievements. Developers can handle this how they want.

As I have maintained, developers have no obligation to offer easier modes of play, and I would certainly rather they don't than do it badly. But other than some additional investment of time and money to make sure the easier play mode is still somewhat balanced, I see no good reason for most developers not to consider it. If I turn the difficulty down all the way on Doom and beat the game, I still beat the game. And I beat the game on the "I'm too young to die" setting. And that accomplishment is not the same as someone who beats the game on Hurt Me Plenty or on Nightmare.

So I think most of this confusion would be eliminated by us thinking of beating a game as the endpoint. Games used to loop endlessly, just giving you a score (at least until the game locked up or became logically impossible). Even in the arcade you can beat a game, even a really hard game, by pumping in quarters, but your score will reflect it. Those arcade games dealt with the idea of quarter-pumping by keeping high score lists. If you have the highest score you didn't just beat the game, you did it in a way that was more difficult and more skillful and more knowledgeable of the game's various systems and mechanics. I really think we need to get back to that way of thinking about games.

How you celebrate your accomplishments is up to you. If you choose to let how someone else decides to tackle something, either via an easy mode or an aim-bot (assuming single-player, here) or some other assistive accommodation, that's your problem, not theirs. If I beat Contra with the 30-lives code and don't specify I used it when I share that I beat Contra, that should have no bearing on the accomplishment of anyone else beating Contra. As soon as you start measuring the value of your own accomplishments against what other people claim as their accomplishments, that's when I think it wanders into unhealthy egotism territory (edited for politeness). If it's a high score competition or on-line play it's essential that everyone is following the same rules or guidelines, because then it's a formal competition. But when we're talking single-player stuff where beating the game is largely the end goal, there are fewer competitive metrics. And if you intend to make it competitive anyway, then the onus is on you to specify your accomplishment. "I beat this game on default difficulty in this time using this character class" or whatever. Because if the game gives you build or customization options, already you're playing a difference experience from someone else, so already your accomplishment isn't apples-to-apples comparable.

People who go to climb tall mountains are usually there to challenge themselves, not to challenge others, and if someone else takes an easy ride to the top, the person who did it knows they did it the easy way, and the person who did it the hard way knows they did it the hard way. And when they share those experiences with others in conversation the details are gonna come up and it's going to be obvious who did things how. But hey, in the end they both did something they wanted to do. They both got the really nice view from the summit. They both had an experience they're unlikely to forget. And it really shouldn't matter to one how the other did it. If it does, maybe they should put their dicks back in their pants and remember what's important in life: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Exhuminator Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:14 pm

marurun wrote:People who go to climb tall mountains are usually there to challenge themselves, not to challenge others, and if someone else takes an easy ride to the top, the person who did it knows they did it the easy way, and the person who did it the hard way knows they did it the hard way. And when they share those experiences with others in conversation the details are gonna come up and it's going to be obvious who did things how.

The thing is, you might not know you have it in you to climb the mountain, unless the only choice is to climb the mountain. You might find yourself surprised that you had the required fortitude within yourself after all. The feeling of elation you'll have after climbing the mountain fair and square, is an important factor of Demon Mountain's central game design. Conversely, if a quick and easy escalator ride is an option, you might just take it when you get frustrated, rather than reaching down deeper in yourself, and evolving your own personal skill. If developing the skill to climb Demon Mountain isn't something you want to bother doing, then just don't play Demon Mountain. It's as simple as that. Uncompromisingly difficult video games have a right to exist.

This is not the first time you and I have had this discussion. I think it's the third time actually. Every time we do, you try to frame the debate about around someone wanting to gloat about their skills, and being dickcrushed if what they are gloating about is suddenly made trivial due to an easier difficulty mode. That is not my point. Never has that been my point. My point is that if someone finds a game to be "too hard", then they should put in the practice necessary to overcome the challenge. Not expect the challenge to just bow down to them instead. Uncompromisingly difficult video games have a right to exist.
marurun wrote:and remember what's important in life: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

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Last edited by Exhuminator on Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Sarge Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:20 pm

I would definitely say Contra III actively encourages the player to play on hard, much like Street Fighter II did. I'm guessing that's the experience the devs might have wanted to portray, but it's really hard to know with 100% certainty. I think Contra III is significantly more fun on Normal than Hard, but looking at what they did later in the series, the brutal difficulty is likely exactly what they were going for.

Seriously, though, screw those snipers.
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by marurun Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:40 pm

Exhuminator wrote:The thing is, you might not know you have it in you to climb the mountain, unless the only choice is to climb the mountain. You might find yourself surprised that you had the required fortitude within yourself after all.

I am not a challenge-seeker. I accept certain challenges when they are necessary, and I know I can develop requisite skills in most cases. But I don't have a burning need to challenge myself constantly in that particular way. I usually don't find those challenges inherently fun. Just trying to get through the workday and navigate the needs of my wife and myself and my son every day is enough challenge for me most days.

Exhuminator wrote:If developing the skill to climb Demon Mountain isn't something you want to bother doing, then just don't play Demon Mountain. It's as simple as that.

If that's the way the developers of Demon Mountain want it to be, that's fine. That's their right. I've never argued it's not. But I think the industry is a stronger industry when fewer developers want that.

Exhuminator wrote:Uncompromisingly difficult video games have a right to exist.

I have never argued they don't.

Exhuminator wrote:This is not the first time you and I have had this discussion. I think it's the third time actually. Every time we do, you try to frame the debate about around someone wanting to gloat about their skills, and being dickcrushed if what they are gloating about is suddenly made trivial due to an easier difficulty mode. That is not my point. Never has that been my point. My point is that if someone finds a game to be "too hard", then they should put in the practice necessary to overcome the challenge. Not expect the challenge to just bow down to them instead.

This makes sense for a lot of things, but not games. And when you're talking about entertainment, ego is the only way I can find to make sense this view. I can understand the view that there doesn't HAVE to be an easier mode (not synonymous with trivial, BTW) and that developers shouldn't be required to provide one. I don't understand the view that there SHOULDN'T be one, the idea that offering one somehow devalues the entire thing by its mere presence. It is a bridge too far. I think this discussion reflects our politics too much. Maybe you think I'm coming at this from the view that people are entitled to an easier experience, a way to get all the benefits without as much skill. And I'm not making that claim. I think developers SHOULD design the games they want to design, but I think "hard gaming" as a function of exclusivity is silly, and I'm not interested in that. And if Demon Mountain is so hard that people have to summon the skill and resolve to beat it, doesn't that suggest a certain inherent exclusivity to the accomplishment? Isn't exclusivity an implicit part of that challenge? It may not be as straight-forward or rude-intentioned as, "Hah, you gaming peons! I am in the top 10% of gamers!" But even if "hard game" enthusiasts aren't going around rubbing their accomplishments in other folks' faces, the exclusivity of the challenge is an inherent part of the appeal. But that also makes it inherently exclusionary as well. And my views on gaming is that the field should trend inclusionary rather than exclusionary.

So, I guess I have to apologize, then, that I can't find another way to view this issue. I'm sorry if you think I'm miscasting your views or position on this. And at this point I'm not sure how much more I can say about it. I do want to thank you for making me think, though. Expressing views like this does require a lot of thought, because I have to try to understand your position and explain my own in a way that I hope it will be understood. But I also still don't agree with you. :mrgreen:

Uhhhh... and in a wild attempt to bring this around to the original topic, I don't think "hard" games are ableist as a result of being hard. Difficulty writ large might be exclusionary, but not necessarily ableist. Although if you designed a platformer deliberately so that jump was on the left bumper and attack was the Select button, that would be a kind of difficulty that would be ableist (and really dumb).
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Re: Are Cuphead and other difficult games ableist?

by Exhuminator Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:09 pm

You make some good points, and I realize now that I have not expressed with enough clarity why I think uncompromising difficulty can be essential to a game's experience. There is another angle to this I have not explained yet, but will describe later. Right now I am on a phone, and will be until Sunday evening. Typing long replies on a phone drives me nuts, so when I'm back to my laptop Sunday evening, I will try to present my case from a different point of view.
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