Gatekeeping: Gaming’s Ugly Not-So-Secret

Games are for everyone, no matter what the press says

I’m a big fan of a challenge. But not only is everybody challenged at different levels, some people just don’t want a challenge at all, and that’s ok

It’s been great to see gaming grow as a hobby over the recent decades. Since the shunned gamer geek image of yesteryear, the past-time has truly leaked into the mainstream over the past years. It’s estimated in fact that around 40% of households in the UK had a gaming console of some sort within 2019. Unfortunately, with the rise of gaming popularity over the years, we’ve also seen the ugly rise of gaming gatekeeping.

This has been showcased this week by one of the hobby’s big online publications, Kotaku. With the release of the recent Final Fantasy FVII remake, the news outlet also came out with an article which had the simple headline “Final Fantasy VII Remake’s easy mode is way too easy”. The article went on to essentially say that there was no challenge for this completely optional game mode, and it was more akin to a narrative adventure. Apparently this is a problem worth writing a whole article about. This is, sadly, the sort of gatekeeping tripe which is not only hurting gaming journalism, but showcasing some gaming’s ugly, and some may say toxic side.

It’s important to mention that since the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the article, the headline has been rewritten, to instead make out that the article is simply about the difference in difficulty being too great. We can see here with the original tweet which can’t be edited, that this wasn’t the original aim.

The original article headline

We’ve seen this type of behaviour a lot in recent years. Typically from the type of gamer who longs to settle down with a girl who loves gaming just as much as they do, as long as they are able to answer a 35 point quiz on cult gaming, character origins and the exact length of Mario’s inside leg. As the popularity of gaming has grown, so has the need for certain sections of society to simply prove that they are better than the casual gamers who we should really be welcoming with open arms.

Easy modes have a big place in gaming, and it’s important to remember that while they remain optional they really have no effect on hardcore “hard mode only” gamers who are looking for a challenge. I myself am a big fan of a challenge, and generally play titles on the hardest modes as a first port of call. However it must be recognised that while some of us do crave it, it’s not always wanted, and for some gamers it’s not always possible.

Where harder modes are available, it becomes clearer that those who have a problem, don’t have it with the difficulty itself. Rather, it seems that the problem stems from exclusivity, and more pointedly, not being a part of an exclusive club any longer.

I’m a sucker for the pride that can come from completing a particularly challenging title. Back in 2007 I spent over a week playing the same 30 seconds of Call of Duty 4 over and over again. After a lengthy slog on veteran difficulty I finally attained the Mile High Club achievement. For me, this was a great moment, and it pains me to think that some users would like to take these challenges or experiences away from other gamers.

The altered headline, after much criticism from the public

We’re all challenged at different levels. Even within entirely able gamers there are many different levels of gaming ability, the reason many games have difficulty options in the first place. Where harder modes exist, and easy modes are entirely optional (as they are in the case of the Final Fantasy VII remake) complaining that there’s an easy mode which “might as well be a visual novel” simply boils down to complaining that a title is accessible to others.

If easy modes really upset you, don’t play them. Nobody is forcing you to “suffer through” something which simply makes games accessible to others who can’t or simply do not want to face these challenges. Play the hardest mode you can and share how happy you are to make it through. Welcome new gamers into our club, and stop shutting the door, or telling people they are not real gamers unless they 100% a title on monster difficulty.

Ultimately. Grow up. If easy mode is too easy for you, then it wasn’t made for you. You are not the only one here, and if left only to the whims of hardcore gamers, the industry would absolutely crumble.

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