It’s 2019, Sekiro Should be Accessible
There have been a lot of hot takes flying around the internet as of late. Specifically, these takes have been focused on FromSoftware’s newest action powerhouse Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. As with nearly all FromSoftware games, Sekiro is an incredibly challenging game. Over the years, the studio has garnered a reputation for creating hard, dense experiences to the point where this core difficulty is now ingrained into their very identity. Many people argue that without the stern difficulty locked into place for every gamer to overcome, it would defeat the very purpose of these games entirely. While there is some validity to those statements, they completely overlook one crucial factor: difficulty is not set on one universal scale.
Whenever the question is posed whether or not Sekiro should have an easy mode or some form of an optional difficulty slider, it’s almost guaranteed there will be a slew of comments telling people who need said mode to “git gud.” That mentality assumes everyone is on equal footing when playing a video game, but in reality, that’s simply not true.
Ignorance is Bliss
There are thousands and thousands of gamers in the world who live with some form of disability, whether it’s physical, cognitive or otherwise, and for those people, the definition of “difficult” is not the same as for someone with no disabilities. While Sekiro on its standard difficulty may be a tough, nail-biting, but ultimately doable test for most people, for someone with disabilities it could be flat out impossible or completely unapproachable. This means if the difficulty could be adjusted so people with disabilities can even experience the game at all, they are likely still facing the same amount of challenge a completely abled person would have. I have seen comments like “There shouldn’t be an easy mode because everyone needs to experience the game how the developers intended. If it’s too hard just ‘git gud.’” This is not only a narrow-minded perspective but an exclusionary one as well.
Lots of gamers with disabilities have spoken out about this issue, and their responses provide insight into why having options to adjust the user experience is so important. In a YouTube video from April 3rd, blind gamer and YouTuber Steve Saylor chimed in on the conversation and outlined his thoughts on the issue. In the video, he talks about how difficulty translates between abled gamers and those with disabilities.
“A lot of games we play that may seem easy for you when it comes to your skill level are extremely difficult,” Saylor said. “And when we get to that point where we do beat the game, or we beat a certain challenge, it’s not because it was easier for us – it was still a challenge, and we still felt the same elation, the same joy of being able to beat that section or game. We still feel the same way, and we want to be able to feel the same way in every game we play.”
Now let’s talk for a second about the impact adding a difficulty slider to a game like Sekiro would have. As I said earlier, it would be an enormous win for the disabled community, allowing many new players to experience the game who would have never been able to before. But what about for everyone else? Well, the answer is simple: it would have no impact on them at all.
The key point here is this feature would be entirely optional. If the argument was to make the games easier in some innate and permanent way, this would be a completely different discussion. But what we are talking about here is not a change to the fundamental design of Sekiro and games like it, just to include the option to adjust what is already there. Upon starting Sekiro up for the first time and jumping in you’d still be faced with the same hair-pulling frustration and eventual sense of accomplishment you’d expect, but for the people who need it, there would be settings built in to adjust the challenge to the level they need. For those who don’t need it, these settings would be invisible and have no bearing on their playthrough in the slightest. Even now. we are already seeing user-created mods pop up for the PC version of Sekiro that enable settings like these, but only time will tell whether or not FromSoftware itself will step up and address the issue.
Exercise Your Demons
The arguments I’ve seen against this point are outlandish. One article I read talked about how adding an easy mode would be “dangerous” because it would tempt that person and other-abled people to use it instead of the standard difficulty. But saying people who need these settings shouldn’t be granted them because it could cause those who don’t need them to be lazy is ridiculous. Being insecure or having a lack of self-control is never a good reason to exclude another group from participating in or enjoying something.
Where things get a little more complicated is when you delve into the conversation about video games as an art form. Essentially, it is up to the discretion of the artist to determine who their art is for and how it should be experienced, and questioning this can be seen as an insult to the artist’s integrity. However, while video games are definitely a form of art, they go far beyond that: they are art, they are a product, and most importantly for this argument, they are a form of entertainment. Video games are designed to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. Though it’s true every game won’t be for every person, that doesn’t mean every game shouldn’t be open and available to every person.
People play games for different reasons, and as such, Sekiro and the rest of FromSoftware games shouldn’t be off limits to people who seek more from games than an arduous challenge. When I played Dark Souls for the first time, one of my favorite aspects of it was the rich lore and deep world building. Yes, it was rewarding to overcome its immense difficulty, but that wasn’t the only reason I enjoyed it. Having the assumption that people won’t play hard games if there is an option to make them easier does those games a disservice by discounting the rest of the experience developers spend so much time creating.
In the end, video games are meant to be fun – they are meant to bring us together, and show us a glimpse into unique worlds, characters, and stories. People should be able to play games however they want, but more importantly, they shouldn’t feel restricted from playing them because of a disability. Ultimately, accessibility benefits everyone.