An Ode to Gaming in Easy Mode

Playing in easy mode is somewhat of a shameful thing in the gaming community. It’s for the weak, it’s for the unskilled, it’s for your little sibling when your mom forces you to hand over the controller. It’s definitely not for you, right?

But maybe easy mode shouldn’t be such a disgraceful notion. I think you, as a respectable human being, should be able to play in easy mode without fear of shame, if that is what your heart so desires. I’m here to inform you of the joys of letting go and playing a game on its lowest difficulty setting.

It’s less stressful

Did you throw your controller at the wall in frustration while fighting Lady Comstock in Bioshock Infinite? Did you pull your hair out while being mobbed by the infected in The Last of Us? How much of your life have you given to Dark Souls’ Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, only to walk away disappointed and at your wit’s end? In easy mode, (or games that just aren’t Dark Souls), you spend way less time getting mad, because you can breeze through sections you would normally get stuck on. Kick back and enjoy the ride, because no one wants to come home from a long day at work or school just to get more stressed from something that was supposed to help you wind down.

It takes less time

Let’s be honest with ourselves—we can’t stay up gaming until 4 AM like we used to now that we have real responsibilities. With easy mode, it’s less frustrating to try wrangle with complex combat systems, and it also takes significantly less time. Most games take at least 10 hours to play, and when free time is precious, you want to get through as much of a game as you can by blazing through difficult sections with ease. And of course, when you’re spending less time on each game, you get to play more of them!

You feel invincible

Difficulty settings exist to make games more accessible to people of different skill levels, as well as to cater to those who want different experiences out of games. Many players enjoy a real challenge from games, and knowing all of the intricacies of the combat system so well they could kill the final boss with their eyes closed. But some players don’t like spending the time or effort perfecting every block, flurry, and parry, and dying constantly can be disheartening. When you play in easy mode, what you lose in tactical stealth takedowns and long, strategic encounters, you gain in the childlike joy of running out guns blazing with reckless abandon. So many games exist as a way for us to escape into a world where we can be the awesome superhero, and sometimes the best way to fully take advantage of that is to ratchet down the difficulty, stockpile all the ammo you can find, and run headlong into the enemy feeling like a god.

You can focus on the story

Story is often what I enjoy most about games. When a game is too hard or you keep dying, it can be a real distraction from the narrative. For my first time through a story-heavy game, I always opt for the easiest setting. Dying in a game pulls me out of the action for a second, replacing my immersion in the game world with a stare-down at my couch-ridden reflection in the blackness of a loading screen. On easy mode, the game remains uninterrupted by my limited prowess, and I therefore remain absorbed in the virtual world I want to be a part of.

I’m not here to tell anyone how to play their favorite games. The beauty of this medium is that it can provide so many different types of experiences to so many different types of players. However, I think there is a stigma around easy mode that needs to be addressed. Being bad at video games shouldn’t be a shameful thing. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty terrible at them myself. People who play like me may not find the most optimized and efficient way to do a dungeon crawl, but we have fun. And as cliché as it sounds, isn’t that what games are about the first place? (And it’s not like we don’t have mad respect for the people who do rock it on the top difficulty settings. I mean, whose play-throughs do you think we’re looking up?)

At the end of the day, all play styles and skill levels are a valid and important part of gaming culture, but I’m going to leave “gitting gud” to the other guys.

Images: FromSoftware, Naughty Dog

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