Recently I’ve found myself playing more often on casual difficulty. I remember a time when I never would have even though of such a thing but times have changed and so have the reasons why I choose play games.
So you must be thinking, what a pussy. This guy does a video game podcast and he can’t even play on Normal. That’s what I used to think too. But we all know that difficulty doesn't determine skill and there are certain games where it’s probably better for your enjoyment. Most recently I played Ghostbusters and Tron: Evolution. Not exactly the premier choices in gaming but I do feel they offer something both from a gameplay and design stand point. About a third into each game, I realized I wasn’t going to finish them. The difficultly was frustrating in a bad way and there wasn’t much in terms of story to make me want to keep going.
So it came to the point, put the game down or change the difficulty. For Ghostbusters it became start the game over because there was no opinion to change the difficulty, but that's a different argument altogether. I ended up finishing the game and got half way through Tron. Neither were fantastic games in terms of breaking new ground or polished game mechanics. The point to take away from here is that there's no reason to smash your head over and over again into a brickwall because you're trying to get through it. Games are designed by humans. Sometimes those designs aren't done well or very fairly. Some games are supposed to be enjoyed because of their challenge, others are not. Prinny = YES. Tron: Evolution = NO.
But these aren't the only games I've turned down in order to finish. Halfway through Dragon Age I got to a point where I wasn't really digging the combat. Some of the dungeons were a slow grind but I still wanted to finish the experience. It was the same with the original Mass Effect. In the final encounter I found myself too under leveled to complete the game and with no chance to remedy the situation.
I was glad for the option to change difficult because I honestly cared about the stories in both of those. I was out of my element playing Western RPGs and unfamiliar with certain systems. It allowed me to make up for those shortcomings and continue with the game instead of having to start over again. They've since become not only two of my favorite BioWare games, but two of my favorite experiences of all time. They've also opened me to other Western experiences, which I am thankful for.
So the biggest problem, I think, is not so much what difficult you play at. The problem lies in what the difficulties are labeled as. At one time, it was called Easy, Medium, Hard. They've since been reworded to be less demeaning? Casual, Normal, Hardcore. Maybe this is a question about how we view Casual. I don't like the term Casual because it makes it seem like I only play the occasional game here and there. Casual is for the people who's first console was the Wii and who recently bought a Kinect. Do you feel that way too?
On a side note, when I used to play DDR, it was called Basic, Trick, and Manic. Later it was reworded to Light, Medium, and Heavy. Those always seemed alright to me. But even better they made changes to how the game played. People could pick the Beginner opinion as an extra difficulty. A player was presented some basic steps and couldn't fail when playing at that level. It was a huge step forward for the series.
I can only imagine the numerous people who tried DDR once and vowed never to be embarrassed again. Initially with DDR you put your money in. You didn't understand what any of the symbols, songs, or difficulties meant. You picked a song. And should it be something out of your range, the music and game would just abruptly stop as if someone had just unplugged it. The machine would say something like Sorry, Better Luck Tomorrow and you'd be left standing on the machine looking around like an idiot. So many people must have walked away confused and with a bitter taste in their mouth. It's surprised DDR maintained like it did. It did have a good buddy system, so maybe that's why.