Accessibility shouldn’t be a Punishment

This is something I think about a lot, as someone who generally doesn’t play games for the challenge. It doesn’t mean I can’t or necessarily have the inability to, but a combination of various factors such as:

  • I need to focus on something relaxing/engaging without the stress
  • I’m not feeling well, but really want to continue the story of a game or progressing in general
  • This is a type of content I struggle with or just do not enjoy doing to the point of it being a huge detriment to my enjoyment when I truly do adore everything else.

Too often getting a Hint can penalize you. Using a certain power-up or mode can make you ineligible to finish or unlock certain endings. Assist mode may help, but your save file will always have a mark saying you had to use it. It’s essentially giving you a permanent demerit for something that only you will see anyway. The most frustrating part is games will advertise this accessibility and yet have that demerit on that you needed help and it’s just… permanently there. You can’t unlock everything and you are permanently prevented from accessing everything.

Sometimes, you can rectify it quickly by replaying the one section or level maybe you needed the extra help with, but other times you literally would have to restart from the very beginning or even wipe your save and as someone who doesn’t even replay things I enjoy, I’m not going to replay something in a way I wouldn’t even enjoy it just to have that proper ending or to not see some stupid mark on my save file saying how I didn’t play it the way the game wanted me to.

And that’s what gets me. If you want your game just for people who enjoy that challenge, who want that difficulty, fine! Cool! That’s great. But DON’T add those modes then. You can’t say you want your game to also appeal to others and set it up for that just to mark them in some way to say they aren’t good enough for the real thing or even lessen their rewards. A lot of the times, these are single player games or at least, there’s no big high score table linked to it (and honestly, high score stuff shouldn’t be linked to collectibles– most people interested in high scores are doing it for the challenge itself, not some in-game collectible and it’s obnoxious when they are stuck to these types of things, but I digress), so forcing these people who, for whatever reason, maybe can’t do the game or level or challenge at its normal difficulty or maybe made several mistakes along the way to be constantly reminded they weren’t good enough is just really obnoxious.

I don’t really know what started with calling people out for wanting to be able to play a game that makes it more comfortable for them. Nobody judges people who play hardcore or randomizer modes in games, but playing a game easier?? Limiting survival stats? Starting off with more money (Or heck, with Sims, giving yourself infinite)? You’re apparently ruining the game and not getting the full enjoyment value. People get enjoyment their own ways! Unless they do this and start complaining about the game being too short, which what did you expect then, there is no reason to judge people for wanting to play in a way that fits them better, whether it be a personal thing, a skill thing, or even just general life stuff that makes it hard to devote as much time to a game. If it doesn’t have an actual effect on other people and only applies to the person playing, I just don’t see the problem and why it has to constantly be such a fake compromise.

Either let the game actually be accessible to people who may have more trouble or don’t. Stop pretending you really want them to if you’re going to make them feel bad about it or force them to do it without that accessibility.

I especially want to give a big shout-out to Finji who I feel is one of a few companies that really went all out with just how accessible they COULD make their game. Chicory and Tunic both have quite a bit of fighting in them, and yet you can make yourself near immortal if you want. Heck, in Chicory, you can skip bosses altogether. And that doesn’t stop you from earning 100%. That doesn’t stop you from finding all the collectibles and secrets. It doesn’t hurt you at all and so if it’s something that you struggle with or stresses you out, you can actually pick those options with no caveats. You’re not permanently marked as someone who used easy mode. You’re just playing the game in a way that works for you and that’s so refreshing. I haven’t gotten Tunic yet, but knowing they have those options too has made me plan to even though it’s a game I would normally struggle with quite a bit due to those battles.

When it comes down to it, I just wish everyone shared this message.

Not everything has to be a competition and someone having an easier time doesn’t take away others’ accomplishments. I hope in the future when more people consider Accessibility and Assist modes, they’re not taking away from your game. They’re just opening the door for more people to enjoy them when they normally wouldn’t be able to do so. And maybe one day, they will be able to work towards playing it the “normal” way, but they shouldn’t have to be penalized first to get there.

In a similar sense, if your game is relatively calm and relaxing and accessible until the last stage or a final area (whether optional or not), it runs under this same problem. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a challenge mode for people who want that, but I am saying that it absolutely doesn’t have to be the only option. A lot of people who want that challenge will DO it for that challenge alone. Just look how popular Pokemon Nuzlockes are.

But there is some silly idea that people who play more relaxing or casual don’t actually want to experience everything and that isn’t true. They just want to experience it in a way that is still fun and/or possible for them. And I wish people would realize letting everyone be able to have that chance is entirely possible without taking away their challenge mode which for most of the people doing that is rewarding in itself.