If you play games a lot, there comes a time when killing a mob, winning a race or scoring a goal can get pretty monotonous. If you’re doing the same thing over and over again without any challenge then eventually it feels like there’s little reward for completing it. It’s like doing loads of repetitions with a ridiculously light weight at the gym – dead easy with next to no reward.
If this is starting to sound like your recent experience with gaming, then it’s time to find that motivating factor again that stops you from putting down the controller. Increasing the difficulty setting in games is a great way to make titles more interesting.
Why we choose the easy life
If you’re going into a boss battle, the jeopardy of potentially dying is important to keep you on your toes; it’s a boss battle after all! So why do people limit the difficulty in the first place?
Progress through the game
People often use a lower difficulty because they don’t want to get stuck on a certain part of the game and have to work out how to get past it. With the introduction of gaming achievements and trophies, the industry has focused so much attention on always progressing through a game. There’s no issue with this, but it does mean that we remove a lot of the intricacies of getting to know the game controls and mechanics very well in order to do well.
Losing doesn’t feel nice
Fundamentally though, repeatedly losing or dying isn’t fun. If you had to make a choice between losing all of the time or winning all of the time, we’d all pick the same answer. Fortunately, difficulty settings in games aren’t binary and it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
When we lose, it can feel like we’re being left behind, knowing that someone else has probably just breezed through that section. Games are also geared up to be about finding the next best loot and items too, and taking too long on a certain section of the game is just delaying that gratifying moment you get to equip all your new goodies.
Focus on the story
If you play games for the story-led narrative and cinematic cut scenes, then you might feel that playing a game of low difficulty helps you to hear the story quicker. What you might be missing though is that difficulty can have a tremendous impact on how you think and feel about the characters.
If you increase the difficulty you can increase your enjoyment
So what are the benefits or cranking up that setting to a higher difficulty?
Developers use adversity for character development
When the first Gears of War came out, the cover-based, chainsaw massacre gameplay and story felt fresh. There weren’t a lot of games around like it, and the challenge that the characters were up again felt almost insurmountable. Sure, you could have turned down the difficulty and breezed through it, but that wasn’t the point. The story is apocalyptic. It’s supposed to be hard. The enemies are trying to wipe out our civilisation, they’re not supposed to full over whenever you so much as aim at them.
If you truly want to extract as much enjoyment from the game, then increase the difficulty to really understand what makes the game tick. An encounter with an enemy with the difficulty on easy might feel like any other fight but crank that difficulty up and the only way to win is to understand the nuances of the encounter.
A great example of this is The Witcher 3 combat and potion brewing system. With the difficulty on the easiest setting, you can hack and slash your way through almost any unfriendly mob without an issue. But it’s only once you start to up the difficulty that you really need to start using every weapon in your arsenal to progress in the game. This means spending time to understand how each mechanic can help give you an edge, such as creating potions to make sure you’re the last one standing in your next battle.
Get buzzed when you finally win
If a game is too easy then it doesn’t matter which gear or techniques you use, you’re going to win anyway! This takes all focus away from mechanics and loot, which is the cornerstone of many RPG-style games. Take these away and you’re really just mashing buttons until you come across the next bit of narrative-led content or cutscene.
Having the difficulty set to a level that challenges you makes sure that when you do eventually win, it really means something. Whether it’s the sense of achievement that you get by finally defeating a boss or the excitement of getting gear that genuinely impacts your performance, these small wins actually contribute to your character and make them feel powerful.
Get better value from your games
A simple one this; if you increase the difficulty in a game, it’ll take longer to complete. That’s more hours playing, and being engaged by, a single title – and less spent on trying out other games. This isn’t desirable for everyone, but for those gaming on a budget, turning up the difficulty can be a great way to make your hard-earned cash go even further.
Remember, You Can Always Turn It Back Down!
Rather than starting a game on the easiest difficulty and working up, why not start from the highest difficulty and work down to your level? The benefit is that you’re far less likely to increase the difficulty if you’re finding it easy, so you’ll end up smashing through the game and get less out of the game. If you start off on high, then you can keep notching it down until you get to a level where it’s at just the right setting for your skill level. Then you get the perfect balance story whilst testing your competitive spirit!
It’s understandable that if you’re trying to get back into gaming, you might ease yourself in by lowering the difficulty. Sometimes easy just isn’t interesting. If you really want to get maximum enjoyment from a game, give a harder difficulty setting a go and make your next session something that you can really get your teeth stuck into!
So there you have it…!
If this has inspired you to increase the difficulty in a game you’re playing, then please share our work with others. Additionally, why not tell us all about it on Twitter? Alternatively, find some other ways to rediscover your love of gaming.