Have you ever thought about what an enormous privilege it is to grow up in an era where playing video games is a popular pastime? It wasn't very long ago when simply finding enough to eat kept us locked to the land for twenty hours a day, rain or shine. And when we weren't pulling turnips from the dirt, we battled disease, fought in far-off wars for faceless lords, or popped out babies at a rate that'd make a queen ant salute in tearful solidarity.
That's why video games should always be respected as an outlet of artistic expression, but people determined to defend the pastime's honor through angry words and actions should dial things back a bit. Yes, video games are great. Yes, they inspire us to read, draw, and create. Yes, for many of us they were a form of escapism when our peers were attending parties we could only dream of being invited to. But they're not worth getting furious over on any level, especially now that actual threats to the medium's growth, like Jack Thompson, have been driven back to their caves.
The sooner we stop guarding the games industry like it's one of the hapless maidens we're called on to rescue within said games, the sooner we'll resist all temptation to perform harmful gatekeeping. For instance, maybe we won't fly into a frothy rage whenever a game developer includes some manner of "Easy Mode" or cheat or skip in a game.
When Nintendo first unveiled the White Tanooki suit for Super Mario 3D Land – a wholly optional invincibility cheat that pops up as a suggestion after you lose five lives – self-proclaimed hardcore gamers acted as if the world was coming to an end. "Mario games were hard when we were kids, and that's how they liked it," they barked while rubbing at their newly-applied Konami Code tattoos.
The latest backlash against gamers who refuse to "git gud" was sparked over news that the upcoming NiER Automata has an auto-mode for anyone who wants to use it. The argument was re-kindled yesterday when Bayonetta series designer Hideki Kamiya said over Twitter that putting anything similar in a Bayonetta game would be "nuts" (never mind that Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 have selectable difficulties).
Is there a single good reason to get angry over a game's inclusion of optional Easy Modes, or a single good reason to get angry at people who ask for them? Even if you take pride in your game-playing skills and are conscious of the number of hours it took to commit every twitch and button-press to muscle memory, how are those skills threatened by a White Tanooki suit? Nobody is asking for an "Everyone's a Winner!" bracket at EVO or MOBA competitions. It's just that no sane artist, no matter how skilled, would protest the sale of art supplies to amateurs. No sane film aficionado would call for subtitles to be eliminated from movies ("How can you really appreciate a film if you can't hear the dialogue?").
Video games already have accessibility problems. Subtitles aren't mandatory even though they should be, bad font choices make text illegible, God help you if you're colorblind, and control options for left-handed gamers often amount to "lol" and "eff off." Getting angry over people wanting (and needing) an Easy Mode is an extension of these problems.
People have mobility issues. They have slow reflexes. They have arthritis, coordination problems, or suffer from motion sickness. More commonly, they have kids. They have 80-hour-a-week jobs. They have chores and sick parents to take care of.
All these people have every right to play video games, and they have every right to choose how stressed out they want to be when facing down a marauding Frost Troll in Skyrim. Maybe they want to enjoy a life-or-death struggle. Maybe they'd rather sit back and survive long enough to thoroughly enjoy a game's story, music, and graphics. It's up to them to make the choice, though.
To re-iterate one more time: Video games are for everyone. And while it's ultimately your right to keep crusading under the "Hardcore" banner, don't forget to hide your childhood Game Genie behind some Blu-rays when your fellow soldiers come visiting.
[EDIT, November 6: A Platinum Games employee reached out to clarify that Kamiya actually meant that making a game for one type of gamer would be "nuts," and that Bayonetta 2 won Able Gamers' "Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year" award.]
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