Is it Wrong to make a Game too Challenging (or too Opaque)?
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
I watched some videos the other day about the videogame Cuphead, a game that is very difficult to play successfully. One gameplay video showed that you needed really fast and precise reactions. The question was whether it's wrong to create a game that's too challenging for some or many people.
Maybe it's my age (66), but I cannot imagine someone saying such a thing about a game. No matter what the game, some possibly small or possibly large number of people won't be able to play successfully. I suspect it's part of Rampant Egalitarianism, which is behind most of Political Correctness, that requires everything to be reduced to the lowest common denominator so that no one is ever left out no matter how incompetent or lazy or simply unfortunate they may be.
On the other hand, I've advocated for many years that video games include an "autopilot", so that when it IS too hard, the player can let the game play the game through that difficult patch, in order to let the player experience the entire game. Simple. But the outrage from hard-core players against my suggestion in the past has been remarkably irrational and often virulent.
The equivalent in tabletop games may be the impetus to make games highly transparent, that is, make a game so that by the time someone has finished playing it once they know, or at least think they know, how to play well. (That usually means, make it a shallow game rather than a deep one.) Then they typically play the game one to three times and move on to the next game. When you make a highly transparent game you can rarely put significant depth into the game, so we have a sea of shallow games that mostly don't deserve to be played even three times. But making the game transparent and shallow means a lot more people can play without becoming "uncomfortable." The entire situation where the majority of tabletop games are puzzles turned into parallel competitions is a way of making the games more comfortable for everyone.
It's the Age of Comfort after all, young people are taught that they should never be uncomfortable, and those who are "different" are made to conform to a supposed majority. A lot of people are evidently uncomfortable with the notion that Cuphead is too hard for them to "beat". I haven't played it but after watching an extended play by a YouTuber, I know I wouldn't have a prayer - yet that doesn't bother me. Why would it?
Not everyone can play basketball or football at a high level, not everyone can be good at chess. It's the natural order of things. Each person is different and has different strengths and weaknesses, and if playing a video game that is heavily Athleticware doesn't work for them, it doesn't diminish them or harm them. Only when rampant egalitarianism rears its ugly head would the question ever arise of whether a game was "too hard."