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access_time May 17, 2013 at 8:45 AM in Culture by Joe Roche

Gaming Dad – Dumbing It Down


I have a confession to make…

I have begun playing games on the easiest setting available.

(Insert ridicule here)

If you’re still hanging with me I will try to explain, though I bet most of you with children have already figured out where this is going.

Ever since my son was born my personal entertainment time has been cut to essentially zero. Often before I fire up the 360 or PS3 I have the following debate with myself – “should I play a game, or go to bed?” and more often than not, go to bed wins that debate every time.


Recently I took some time to flip through my back catalogue of games that I have begun but haven’t finished and would like to revisit – now that’s not a very pithy name, and I’d agree that we should probably workshop the title, but basically I’ve got a room full of games that I need to finish and not nearly enough time to finish said games.

I realized something had to change – either I had to just be comfortable with the fact that many great (and some terrible) games would come and go and I would never have the opportunity to experience them, or I had to decrease the difficulty level so that I can plow through all the games that piqued my interest. I took the path of least resistance, and I dummied things down a bit.

I’m not going to try and defend my position, I understand if some of you disdainfully shake your head in my general direction for the rest of time, but allow me to at least put forth the best excuse that I can formulate in my brain.


At one point in my life, video games were about the challenge. The “story” behind Super Mario World is not necessary to enjoy the game. In fact, during my childhood I’m not sure I can recall ever playing a game because of the story unless that game contained the words “Final” and “Fantasy.” So there is little incentive to play Mario (or Sonic if you prefer) on easy mode, because you’re robbing yourself of the only real joy in the game – overcoming the obstacles and the puzzles. However, when I fire up Bioshock Infinite tonight, I’m not necessarily going to cheat myself out of enjoyment because I’m more capable of blasting the dumb AI Fink guards in the face with a shotgun when they run up behind me and don’t shoot. If anything, blasting my way through wave upon wave of Columbia sky police adds a level of enjoyment that I had not anticipated.

The fact remains that when I look at the pile of unfinished, unstarted or unopened games in my office almost across the board they are games that I picked up for the story. I want to play through Dishonored, and if that means cheating myself out of some difficult battles or some tactical espionage enjoyment then so be it – because if I cut a handful of hours out of my playtime by reducing the difficulty that means I’m going to be able to complete the game, and get some time in on another game during hours that would typically have been left for frustrating death/rebirth scenarios.


There are games that I still play with difficult ratchet up – mainly sports game, or games that once completed I decide to return to in order to enjoy. There is also that rare game where difficulty is an integral part to the story – playing Dead Island on the easiest level is akin to not playing Dead Island, so there is a choice to be made there as well.

Here’s the thing – I don’t apologize for playing games on the easiest difficulty setting and I don’t really feel bad for it. There are a ton of great games out there, great stories being told and amazing worlds to explore, difficulty levels add a dimension to a game but there are times when battles or gun fights in a game distract from what I really want to experience, namely – the world around me.

So go ahead and tell me I have to turn in my gamer card – but as a parent who is trying to shoehorn his hobby into an ever decreasing amount of free/personal gaming time I’ll happily dummy things down a bit if it means I get to explore, adventure and enjoy more of the best games on the market today.


  • Ramon Aranda May 17, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    Sometimes I feel like playing on Easy too, just so I can run through more games.

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