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Can Video Game Accessibility Go Too Far? 164

A piece at GameSetWatch questions whether modern game companies are taking accessibility a step too far in their rush to attract people who don't typically play video games. This worry was inspired, in part, by the news that Nintendo's New Super Mario Bros. Wii would have the capability to play itself in order to let a human player get past a tricky part. Quoting: "Bigger audiences finishing more games is certainly a worthy goal, and Nintendo has shown that accessibility is the servant of engagement. History has rarely — if ever — dared to disprove the wisdom of Miyamoto's foresight. History has also never disproven, however, the principle that any medium and any message degrades the wider an audience it must reach. Art was never served by generalization, nor language by addressing all denominators. Entertainment for the masses ultimately becomes empty. There must exist an absolute point beyond which greater accessibility means less engagement. Making a game so easy it can play itself for you at the push of a button just might be that point."
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Can Video Game Accessibility Go Too Far?

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  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hardie ( 716254 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:21AM (#28480957)

    "Bigger audiences finishing more games is certainly a worthy goal"

  • by Capeman ( 589717 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:24AM (#28481011)
    In my opinion this eliminates any kind of challenge, if you are stuck, you let the game play itself and that's it, no worries. I remember when I was a kid playing Super Mario Bros on NES, I liked it because it was a challenge, it was difficult and when I was stuck it kept me trying to play more and more to get out of that part instead of letting the game play itself and be bored.
  • Finally! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JPLemme ( 106723 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:29AM (#28481069)
    There's nothing more frustrating (in the gaming world) than playing a game for hours just to unlock a part of the game I already paid for! Slogging through a dozen crappy songs just to unlock Anthrax and Megedeth was no fun at all. I paid for Guitar Hero. If the very first thing I want to do is play Free Bird on Expert then it's my right. (Or at least it should be.)

    A lot of game companies don't seem to understand this, but a lot of gamers are adults with other interests and responsibilities. Spending hours "practicing" so that I can master a video game is not in the cards.
  • Good Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arthurpaliden ( 939626 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:30AM (#28481097)
    Just because the option is there does not mean you have to use it. Nothing is makeing you turn it on. You want the extreem chalenge never use it. However, if because you have a problem pushing the buttons fast enough due to a disability then this feature enables you to enjoy the game.
  • by VinylRecords ( 1292374 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:33AM (#28481149)

    If you want a challenge then pick up Starcraft II (when it comes out) or Virua Fighter 5. Learning to be competitive in either of those games will require hundreds of hours of practicing the games, reading about games, watching tournaments and taking notes, or learning maps or matches. Of course the video game 'journalists' are not willing to learn how to get good at RTS or FGs so they instead complain about a game of low difficulty (like Mario Brothers) being made easier. If you want to play games to be challenged try getting good at Starcraft or Virtua Fighter.

    This new Mario Brothers with its auto-level completion (tm) or whatever is not a hardcore game and it's not even a hardcore genre. If you want more difficult platforming try Ratchet & Clank, God of War, or perhaps even Nintendo's own Mario Galaxy. But don't say it's the end of the world for hard games. I doubt those 'journalists' who complain about games not being hard enough for them haven't touched competitive Starcraft or Virtua Fighter or Counter Strike.

  • by JPLemme ( 106723 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:34AM (#28481163)
    "When I was a kid...I liked it because it was a challenge."

    Exactly. But as an adult life has enough challenges already. Games are the only thing where I even have the option of saying "this is too hard, let's skip it."

    /I'd kill for that power in the rest of my life...
  • by Jellybob ( 597204 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:36AM (#28481199) Journal

    If you want a challenge, don't use it.

    Personally, while I enjoy a challenge, I don't enjoy playing the same level for hours on end, and never getting any further. I'll be using the "I'm bored, please let me play the next bit" button sometimes.

  • Re:Say what now? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:48AM (#28481395) Homepage
    Let me translate:

    Nintendo did something new. I can't praise it without being labeled a 14m3r fanboi, and I can't criticize it because it'll probably turn out make them even more pots of money and then I'll look like a doofus. So I'll just talk around the issue to fill the space between these important messages from our sponsors.

  • by DavidR1991 ( 1047748 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:51AM (#28481449) Homepage

    "Making a game so easy it can play itself for you at the push of a button just might be that point."

    No no and no. If anything, this is the [b]reverse[/b] - it means more difficult sections can be added to the game, without endangering less experienced players (by showing them "how it's done" and letting them skip the harder bits completely if they want to).

    This means each demographic gets what it wants - hardcores get a game with some nice tricky sections, and casual gamers get a fun game where they skim over the bits they find too difficult/tedious.

    The quoted article is just alarmist turd, and skims over the fact this is, effectively, difficulty levels on crack. There's absolutely no difference between this and selecting Easy/Medium/Hard - this is just a clever hybrid.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by subsonic ( 173806 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @09:59AM (#28481609) Journal

    I think TFA cuts to the heart of my problem with Nintendo- their grab for marketshare seems to be at the expense of what makes videogames special. They are making the system and software more and more commodified. The game is a pacifier, rather than engager. And that's the point of games, to engage the player. I would never sit through a ten hour movie, but I've sat in front of Fallout 3 for nights on end, and blinked by dry eyes realizing I had been wandering the wastelands for hours on end.

    The ironic thing is that at least in the past, Nintendo (or its close developer counterparts) have been very adept at balancing challenge and accessibility. Mario Bros. wouldn't have originally been so successful if it was just hard (go play Defender or Robotron if you want an old school ass whooping). This is the lazy approach to game design.

  • by vortoxin ( 213064 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:05AM (#28481677)

    It is how I look at most games. I like a challenge, but I do not want to have to allocate project management, tons of research, and bringing my A game every time I play it. This is just a new easy mode, same as a cheat for God mode, or turning down difficulty a ton like a combat slider in Oblivion.

    I want to be involved in the game story, get some enjoyment out of it, and not miss some part of the game because a different minority wants me to suffer through a game to get the best items or game play experience just because they had to.

    I give Progress Quest as an example of the game will play itself, you will watch it, and you will be amused as an example of this. [] It has a following, so maybe there is some truth in the matter.

  • by Logical Zebra ( 1423045 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:08AM (#28481719)

    How is this different from the difficulty slider in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? If I get to a part that is particularly pissing me off, I drop the slider all the way down to easy and kill those pesky Dremoras with one swipe of my Sword of the Divine Crusader.

    There are those of us that do not want to be overly frustrated with video games; we simply want to have fun. While I enjoy a bit of a challenge, it's nice to know that if I fail at something 5, 10, or 25 times, I can just click a button and make it easier (or skip it).

  • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:09AM (#28481741)
    The difficulty of some boss battles is one of the things that pisses me off about the FF games. I've heard good things about The World Ends With You. I should definitely look into it.
  • by macshit ( 157376 ) <> on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:13AM (#28481819) Homepage

    Personally, while I enjoy a challenge, I don't enjoy playing the same level for hours on end, and never getting any further. I'll be using the "I'm bored, please let me play the next bit" button sometimes.

    Exactly. There was one of the Metroid Prime games where I got to one of the bosses and I had a bitch of a time fighting it. Never did beat it. I spent several hours going through the same routine ... my ass wiped all over the floor, lather, rinse, repeat. I eventually just gave up. It's a shame too, cos I really liked the game. But putting one part in there that I couldn't get passed ruined the experience for me.


    I gave up Metroid Prime 3 after attempting the same stupid boss like 50 times. No doubt it was my fault -- I just suck too much, and I'm not very good with the Wii controller -- but I play games for fun, not to brag how hard-core I am. I know it feels great to finally get past a hard bit after having honed your skills through endless attempts, but sometimes enough is enough.

    Of course there are alternative approaches:

    1. Dumb down the game generally. Seems obviously worse, because it takes away the choice from the player, and you know the same people bitching in this story would go insane if they did that.
    2. Traditional (chosen at game start) difficulty levels. This gives the player some choice, but it's generally quite a clumsy approach, as it's very hard for a player to estimate beforehand what the appropriate difficulty level is.
    3. Dynamically switchable difficulty levels. This is better but no doubt this also would result in bitching by the "no challenge" crowd.

    Anyway, I'm glad they're doing something, because I like games, but I'm not always very good at them!

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:48AM (#28482513)

    Well, most DVD players also have a "Fast Forward" button so you can skip all the dialogue thingie and just get to the next action scene, so games certainly aren't alone in that respect. I'd still consider that to be intelectually lazy, however.

  • by JPLemme ( 106723 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @10:53AM (#28482619)
    The purpose of a video game (for most people) is to have fun. I'd hardly call skipping the parts that aren't fun "intellectually lazy". It's more like "pragmatically efficient".
  • Online play (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alain_delon ( 1361705 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @11:17AM (#28483097)
    This is more symptomatic of the rising ubiquity of on-line play than the degradation of the medium. In the past, beating the game was the only verifiable accomplishment and source for bragging rights. These days, with XBox achievements, PS3 trophies and whatnot - there is much more fine structure to what you accomplish in a game. It is fine if there is a self-play option for the first-time gamers, as long as there are hard modes and special challenges for experienced gamers to show off their skills with.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @02:37PM (#28486293) Homepage
    Is it a game if you watch someone else play? In my quake days, I used to go into spectator mode and watch the top player for the purpose of picking up new tricks or figuring out his play patterns (or just resting/chatting). There are also times I've watched a chess game play out in "Computer versus Computer" mode. I felt I was still involved in the game because I was learning how to play better for the next match. Nintendo's feature isn't any different than those two scenarios
  • by JPLemme ( 106723 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @03:52PM (#28487259)
    First of all, I think your argument has more or less merit depending on the artwork in question. For something like The Lord of the Rings, perhaps you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't slow down and experience the whole thing. But if you're watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture, fast-forwarding is simply efficient. (I thought it dragged in fast forward.) Your argument presumes that all parts of all artwork are equally worthy, but I don't think this is always true.

    Second, there's a time for thinking and a time for not thinking. It wasn't until my third child that I realized why America's Funniest Videos is on at 8:00 on Friday. It has no plot to remember, no characters to keep track of, no storyline that lasts more than 30 seconds, and it mostly consists of sledding accidents and people getting hit in the crotch. There has never been a show that demands less from its audience. (So as to retain some shred of credibility, I don't watch AFV (my kids do). But I've seen enough of it to appreciate its utter simplicity.)

    Third, in this particular case we're not always talking about skipping something because it's boring or because you want to get to the good bit. If I need to spend hours "practicing" a game to get past a difficult mission then it's the game that's flawed. Demanding that I pay $50 for the right to play a game is one thing. Demanding that I spend 50 hours of toy guitar practice before I can play all the songs on the disk, or demanding that I play 50 boring quest or racing missions before I can unlock Las Venturas and play virtual video poker is...poor customer service? Poor game design?

    The fundamental argument is the right of the artist to control how you experience his art vs the right of the consumer to experience the art on his terms. By your logic, it would be lazy to skip songs on a CD to get to the song you actually want to hear. Certain artists may agree because they carefully wrote and sequenced the songs to achieve a certain effect. But ultimately I believe that I should be the one to make the decision.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.