The type of video game difficulty depends solely on you and what you feel comfortable with. Some people jump right into the highest difficulty but if you’re new at games or simply starting a game or genre unknown to you, there is no shame in starting at the easiest difficulty.

People are often shamed for playing on easy mode but there is no shame in it. What is the use of playing on hard mode if you’re not enjoying the game like this? The point of video games is to enjoy them.

And if you enjoy them the most on easy setting, who’s to judge?

What Video Game Difficulty Should I Choose?

Why Do Games Have Difficulty Settings?

Most games have difficulty settings because the developers understand that there are people who are new at games. Or maybe they haven’t played a game like this before or that some gamers simply prefer to have a chill experience.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule – look at FromSoftware’s franchise Dark Souls. They pride themselves on the challenging aspect of the game and the set difficulty is how they want the players to experience the game.

Obviously this might drive some new players away until they gain enough gaming experience to take a shot at it.

On the other hand if the game doesn’t allow you to make it more challenging (for example Pokémon), people who like to amp up the difficulty can end up feeling disappointed about the game.

What Are the Difficulty Levels in Video Games?

In the most basic sense there are 3 video game difficulty settings, although they may be named a little bit differently depending on the game.

  • Easy
  • Normal
  • Hard

Some games might utilize difficulties in other ways – for example they have areas (“zones”) which are for more skilled players that have learned how to play the game. It doesn’t mean that a newbie won’t be able to play them but it may be harder to defeat the enemy without the knowledge and the tools of a leveled up character.

Some games might not have these zones but instead sprinkle enemies of various difficulties across the map and you can choose whether you feel up to fighting them.

Hard modes shouldn’t just be buffing the enemy and nerfing the player, it’s not really creative and often seems lazy. Hard mode shouldn’t be a time-consuming grind.

What Difficulty Do Gamers Play The Most?

I think most people tend to stick to normal mode before eventually progressing to a hard mode if they want to. Normal mode is usually what the developers intended the game to be played as.

Why Do Some People Prefer The Hard Mode?

Again, it comes down to preference. There are many reasons people prefer to play the hard mode (or even harder modes). If the game is difficult, the sense of accomplishment when you beat it is great.

Of course a minority of people view it as a badge of honor. It doesn’t matter if they lose a bit of sanity in the process dying million times, only to get that sweet achievment for bragging rights.

Alien: Isolation Difficulty Levels

Alien: Isolation adds more difficulty levels – Novice and Nightmare. Novice is pretty self-explanatory, so I’m going to focus on the Nightmare mode.

In this mode, the Xenomorph is exceptionally intelligent – distractions like the Noisemaker don’t work – the alien will go in the direction it was thrown from. It learns very quickly where you hide, what tactics you use.

Alien: Isolation Nightmare Mode Promotional Poster
Alien: Isolation Nightmare Mode
(click for bigger)

But that is not all – the regular working Joes take much more effort to kill, the resources are limited. The motion detector has a broken screen and provides unreliable information, which makes it more of a hassle as the noise attracts the alien. The map system is offline too, so you’re going blind.

There’s no second chances – once you die, the game is over. I played Alien: Isolation on a Medium (normal) difficulty and feel like it’s a great balance for me. I’m probably not going to replay it on Nightmare mode, because I like second chances. 🙂

Here’s a great video from AI and Games, who provides a detailed break down of the AI’s behavior in the game.

Changing Difficulty Levels In Game

Not many games have the option of changing the difficulty level mid-game, so if you find the game too challenging, you’d have to start the game from scratch. On the opposite side, if you find it too easy, you have to do the same.

Some games which offer this mechanics may suggest to switch difficulty levels if you keep dying or stop progressing. It’s up to you whether you want to switch or not.

That being said, most gamers don’t balk at the first hardship they encounter in game. We like the challenge and as long as we’re having fun without an overwhelming frustration, we enjoy it!

Is It Okay to Play Video Games on Easy Mode?

Yes, it’s more than okay. Don’t let anyone shame you for wanting to play on easy mode, especially if it’s your first time. If you’re enjoying the game like that, that’s awesome! If you want your second playthrough to be on Normal or Hardmode, why not?

However, easy mode needs to be done well. It should still be challenging, not a walking simulator. You should still be able to learn how the game works, how the enemies work.

Different games employ different tactics – you might get more bullets, the enemy has less health, you receive less damage, the enemies might spawn less often.

Many people argue that having easy mode in games ruins the immersion but I don’t find it to be true if the difficulty modes are done well.

I played Resident Evil 7 on easy mode. I have never played any RE title before and I had no trouble with immersion. Quite the contrary, I was sucked in by the underlying story, while still being challenged. Especially in the bullet department.

Next time I replay Resident Evil 7, I’m going to be playing on Normal mode. And I might eventually try it on Hard mode, depending how I feel after normal mode goes. 🙂 I’m going to do same when I play Resident Evil 8.

What Video Game Difficulty Should I Choose?

Even Easy Mode Gets Harder

As you progress in game, it becomes naturally harder than when you first started. It goes for any difficulty level, even the easy mode. You will need to employ every skill you have learned up, use items that you collected on the way up until the point a challenging opponent shows up.

Does Playing Hard Difficulty Make You Better at Video Games?

In general, playing video games has many benefits, so you can get better at video games even if you’re playing on normal or easy modes.

Hard mode will force you to learn more quickly and employ that knowledge to the best of your skill to progress in the game.

What Is an Adaptive Difficulty?

Dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA) is a method which can be used in video games to adjust its difficulty settings in real time. You can also see it under “dynamic game balancing” (DGB).

Many games with no difficulty setting implement DDA. If the game is too easy, it will ramp up the difficulty so you don’t get bored.

If you keep dying too much and the game evaluates that it’s too difficult for yout to progress, it will decrease the difficulty so you don’t get frustrated.

If dynamic difficulty adjustment is done well, the game will keep you entertained from start to finish. You won’t get complacent if it’s a breeze and you won’t rage quit if it’s too difficult.

Games with Adaptive Difficulty

A great example is one of my favorite games I mentioned above, Alien: Isolation. The Xenomporph is controlled via an AI, so it learns your playstyle. It may not spawn at the same places as the last time before you died to it, so you’re kept on your toes throughout the entire game.

I highly recommend playing this game, especially if you are a fan of the Alien franchise.

Some notable games with adaptive difficulty include:

  • Metal Gear Solid V
  • Crash Bandicoot
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Mario Kart
  • Monster Hunter World
  • Homeworld
  • Killing Floor 2
  • Resident Evil 4 (not confirmed)

What Video Game Difficulty Should I Choose?

Conclusion

It’s entirely up to you what video game difficulty you choose. You can watch playthroughs of people playing different levels so you can get an idea what’s the best mode for you.

However, if you choose to play video games on easy mode, don’t be ashamed! If that’s how you enjoy gaming the most, that’s awesome. As long as you’re having fun that’s all that matters.


References:

  • Zohaib M. (2018). Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (DDA) in Computer Games: A Review (link)
  • Hunicke, R. (2005). The case for dynamic difficulty adjustment in games. (link)



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