The difficulty selection menu for The Last of Us

Gaming on Easy Mode


How often do you play a videogame on ‘Easy’? And I’m not talking about dropping the difficulty during tough sections of a game.  I mean making a deliberate choice to play a game from beginning to end on Easy.  Most of us would say never.  We have a sense of gamer pride that keeps us from experiencing a game where we always have the upper hand.  It is a badge of honor to say we completed a game on a tough difficulty.

However, I decided to forgo pride and play The Last of Us on the Easy difficulty setting.  An experiment to see if dropping the challenge will affect my outlook on the game.  Will I walk away with a greater appreciation of the story and design–or will I spend the entire time longing for a challenge?  Only time will tell, but I want to hear from you.

Have you ever played a game on Easy?  Do you think there is a time and place to play a game on a lesser difficulty? Or must we always pick a difficulty that meets or exceeds our abilities?



10 thoughts on “Gaming on Easy Mode

  1. As a gamer that cut her teeth on NES and SNES type titles, some styles of game play can be very intimidating. Talk about jumping from game-play styles like Zelda or turn based RPGs into first person shooters and the like can be stressful. I also tend to gravitate toward survival horror or suspense type titles – so there’s that added pressure to not get eaten or something equally as gruesome as well. Sometimes I let that gamer-pride get in my way and I would rather sit out than be glaringly awful. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to play for a bit on easy until I was acclimated. Also – it was nice to forget for a minute that it was on easy and to feel like a bad-ass. :)

    1. I also grew up in the 16-bit era so I know what you mean. I think many of feel that since we were gaming in the beginning we should have the skills to be great at any game we play. But as we get older we learn that isn’t the case. I don’t play any of the call of duty games for the same reason you listed. I didn’t want to be terrible…and there was no way I could admit to losing to a kid 10+ years younger than me.

  2. Most games I’ve played didn’t have the option of adjusting difficulty once I’ve already selected a difficulty in New Game. Either I had to get lucky or restart New Game on Easy. I usually play new games on Normal. You may LOL at me, but I don’t have time to afford that luxury. Play once on Normal and move on to the next game. I prefer to play a long game, look around and explore, collect as many collectibles as I can, complete all side quests, etc. I rarely replay the same game because it gets boring.

    1. I agree with you on that. The only games that I will replay are games like Skyrim, Fallout, and Mass Effect. I’m usually one and done but since I didn’t get far in The Last of Us and it’s been weeks since I played it, I decided to give it a go. I think the worst situation is when you buy a game, play for a while, but never finish.

  3. I almost always play on easy or default (usually normal) difficulties for many of the reasons listed above. I would rather enjoy the game, especially on a first playthrough, than be frustrated by multiple attempts on a harder difficulty. I’m a big fan of games that let you adjust the difficulty during play – for example, I play Skyrim a lot, and usually on Novice difficulty, but if I feel like making it harder one day, especially as I progress to higher levels, I can. Sometimes I’ll play a game on a harder difficulty for an achievement, but even those I usually leave for another time through. It’s not that I CAN’T play the harder difficulties, it’s just that I don’t particularly want to make the effort. I play games to have fun, not to repeatedly fight the same boss over and over until I want to punch myself in the face. Of course, I remember when many games only had one difficulty, and that was all there was, so I certainly won’t skip a game just because I can’t choose an easier difficulty setting. I think the obsession with having to beat a game on the hardest difficulty is overemphasized in gaming culture – of course it’s fun to brag that you beat the game on a hard difficulty, but you should only be doing that if you really want to, not to throw it in the face of others who might not be able to do that, or who might not care either way. Gaming is about fun, and sometimes a challenge can be fun, but challenge has different meanings for different people.

    1. I will have to use the last part of your comment as a quotable in my next post. There was a time when games had one difficulty, my hope is we could go back to something like that and have a game where the difficulty adapts to your play style.

      The question I’ve had to ask myself during this process is “who am I trying to impress?”

  4. Good question to open up debate. I can’t think of a game that I have played through on easy except a games that have benefits for it (achievements in Bit Trip Presents Runner 2 for example, though this is a very different style game than I assume the question is aimed at). I think for me it is a combination of 1) perhaps a little pride, but more so 2) as an experienced gamer I feel like the mode simply isn’t meant for me. I feel like an easy mode is most often meant for someone to learn and build on the skills that are most transferable game to game (perhaps the gamer’s perception of acceleration and velocity in a platformer, or understanding basic concepts of enemy patterns in a shoorter or metroidvania etc). And since these skills are fairly translatable from other games, it doesn’t seem worth it to start where a beginner maybe should. But I do very much appreciate the game design value of having it there. My girlfriend just started trying to play one of my DS Castlevania’s and I wish there was an easy mode… it would lead to a lot less frustration I think.

    That all being said, I can definitely see the value of playing certain games on easy. I was introduced not too long ago to the Core Aesthetics framework (from MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research) first by Extra Credits and then more so by my brother who did a post on it. It breaks games into different Core Aesthetics that try to describe what makes a game “fun”, and “challenge” is one of them. If it is game where challenge is not particularly highlighted as a core aesthetic, or even if it is a game that I personally don’t want challenge to be the focal point, I could quite easily see playing through on easy. And yes, I think taking the spotlight off challenge could aid in obtaining more value from the other core aesthetics.

    Another important distinction is simply the naming convention. I have played through many games on “normal” or something of the like, which may be the easiest of multiple difficulties, and then playing through later on harder difficulties. To me at least, this naming convention gives less of a feel that it is for those who don’t understand the genre and more that it is the foundation point of difficulty (with later difficulties often just playing with the input and output of damage numbers and number of enemies). In my eyes this is often fundamentally different from, say, Mega Man 10 which added an “easy” mode to help people that were struggling with the normal Mega Man standard difficulty.


  5. I typically play on normal, or hard depending on the genre. A good difficulty balance is key to enjoying the game for me. Hard enough that there are some challenges I feel good about overcoming, and forgiving enough that it doesn’t feel like a chore or that its the game’s fault I’m dying.

  6. As a gamer who started out in arcade/birth of home consoles who is now a father, I have to say I start all games on hardest setting. I have done so for many years. The reason: I always want a challenge. I started Last Of Us on hard then started hard +. I’ll probably play survivor and survivor + to get all my trophies. Recently started a pretty awful game, Ride To Hell, on its hardest setting. The game is so broke at times that hard seems unfair but I trudge on.

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