Easy and Normal mode – an injustice to yourself as a hardcore gamer?

Fellow That VideoGame Blog writer Dan recently posed the question, “What difficulty do you play [games] on?”  This really got me thinking. I know why casual gamers may pick “Normal” or even “Easy,” but what is it that separates the logic of gamers that start out on “Hard?”  Not all gamers who consider themselves hardcore gamers start on “Hard,” so is there a common thinking that makes this choice go one way or another?

I consider myself a hardcore gamer, and as one of the minority that usually start out on “Hard,” I figured I would be as good of a case study as any to find out what the motivation behind this is.

Personally, it depends on how many difficulty options the game has.  If there are three difficulties, such as “Easy,” “Normal,” and “Hard,” then I play on 3/3 difficulty – “Hard.”  I find in most games, “Normal” usually isn’t too challenging for anyone other than an inexperienced or casual gamer.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, see my recent experience with Crysis.  If there are four difficulties, ranging between “Easy,” “Normal,” “Hard,” and “Insane/Nightmare/You are a fool for picking this,” then I will play on the 3/4 difficulty – “Hard.”  I may like a challenge, but I’m not a glutton for unnecessary punishment.  In the case of the 4/4 difficulty level, it is virtually guaranteed that the enemies/artificial intelligence in the game will go beyond the fine line of challenging and into the territory of plain frustrating.

Adjustable difficulty settings usually appear in games that are linear or story driven, and I for one have never had the patience to play through such a game more than once in its entirety (not counting something like Super Mario Bros. that could be beaten in less than 1 hour).  I know a lot of gamers feel the same as I do when I say that there are a lot of games out there that I have never gotten to try, but I wish I had the time to.  Due to this, I can’t live with the thought of wasting my time trying to beat a game for a second time, on a harder difficulty, when I could have just done it the first time around.  This is especially true if it is a story driven game and I already know everything that’s going to happen.  At times, it also makes the game start to be less about the skill to act and react on your toes and more about how good you remember what’s going to happen next.  It’s akin to buying a game with a cheat book, another major “no-no” for me.

Since I consider myself a skilled gamer, I’d like to be challenged by a game and not feel like I am just going through the motions to see the story.  And in a lot of games, I usually don’t care about the story, unless it is truly of award-winning quality.  What I really want to get out of a game, more than just seeing what lies at the end (which is often disappointing), is to feel like I accomplished something that most people can’t.

Over the years, games have become easier and easier to beat in order to cater to the casual masses. Isn’t the reason why we as hardcore gamers play is to have fun?  I pose the question, what is more fun, watching cut scenes and progressing a game’s storyline, or actually experiencing and conquering a challenge that the 8-year-old who was standing in line in front of you when you bought the game has no dream of?  I don’t know about most people, but I’d rather feel like I am playing above the average 8-year-old level.

So I close with saying, playing anything on “Easy,” or even “Normal,” is doing yourself an injustice as a hardcore gamer.

So let’s hear from some of you that don’t consider yourself casual gamers, but would rather start out on “Easy” or “Normal” modes.  Do my reasons not agree with you?  Do you have your own, different line of reasoning why you don’t start on or even try to play “Hard?”