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Gavin

mainstream video games becoming dumbed down

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It's a trend that has pros and cons.

Take the Grand Theft Auto series for example. Think about how tricky and frustrating some of the missions from earlier games like Vice City and San Andreas were. Then think about how easy GTA5 is. GTA5's difficulty has definitely been dumbed down to appeal to a wider audience and there is a bit of "hand holding" at times that make some parts of the game so easy it ruins what should have felt like a challenge.

Which makes me wonder if I should make my levels easier to appeal to more players? My CheeseT1 set for CC1 had levels so difficult even I felt the difficulty actually ruined the fun and some levels in that pack I've only ever solved once because they just took so many attempts. But if a level is too easy and can be solved first attempt with little problem then it has little appeal and little replay value.

Getting the fun:difficulty ratio balance just right can take a lot of practice.

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The problem is, one size does not fit all (the inverse is a fallacy into which the game industry, and society in general, unfortunately have fallen over the past several decades). And a wider audience is not necessarily a good target for creativity.

Some people want easier levels, that are still fun to explore and aesthetically pleasing, but don't require enormous amounts of thinking/skill. Other people want a challenge, and are willing to exert as much effort and determination as necessary to overcome the challenge. There's no reason there can't be both kinds of levels, to satisfy both kinds of players.

I think it's important to remember that you're not the only creator out there. Other people are also designing levels, in many different styles and difficulty-levels. There's enough variety to cover everyone's preferred play-style. So instead of focusing on what other people may or may not want to play, I would simply create what I want to play -- and those with similar tastes will enjoy my levels, and those with somewhat differing tastes may still enjoy them as a break from other kinds of levels.

To clarify, I am not saying that the fun:difficulty balance is not important. But I think what other players find fun/difficult is a bad metric to measure that balance. If you enjoy making/solving hard levels, then that's probably the right balance for you.

Don't try to be something you're not (especially as a creative artist).

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