Now Ubi’s opened the door, can we have our “Skip Boss Fight” button?

Ubisoft made a fascinating announcement this week. They revealed that the latest Assassin’s Creed [official site] is to add a “Discovery Tour” mode, removing all the combat and challenges from the game, to let players just freely experience their in-depth recreation of Ancient Egypt. It’s fascinating, to me, because it’s a big deal. And goodness me, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Because games should be delighted to include modes that remove all their difficulty and challenge, and players should cheer when they hear about it.

Oddly enough, a lot of players don’t cheer. In fact, people can get awfully angry about it. Since the announcement I’ve seen on Twitter a combination of people declaring, “Hooray! I’m interested in playing Assassin’s Creed for the first time in years!”, alongside others pointing toward those utterly furious that it demeans their hobby, cheapens games, and most heinous of all, lets in the riff-raff.

I say: BRING ON THE RIFF-RAFF.

I’m not playing dumb here, I’m not being coy. I know an awful lot of what’s made gaming culture such a miserably toxic environment over the last few years is deeply wrapped up in subjects like this, and those who spread the toxicity are those most likely to be on the side of condemning gaming options that remove challenge, that make the hobby more accessible to the crowds. But at the same time, I’m not going to allow that sewage to pollute my opinions, and my delight in expressing those opinions, and I’ve long been arguing that gaming can be a far better place if the industry would only introduce the “Skip Boss Fight” button.

Yes, of course, Skip Boss Fight is a totem for my larger point here, and it’s a title under which I’d include Ubi’s recent announcement (despite their rather awkwardly trying to wrap it all up as wanting to be Edumacational). It’s the spirit such an option captures, and it’s one that I think the industry would do well to breathe deeply into their souls.

This is ground I’ve covered before. And each time there’s been a very similar reaction. In 2009 I suggested it was daft that I’m not able to just skip ahead while playing game, like I could in a film, book, or TV show. Of course that’s daft! I wrote back in 2012 about the idea of being able to skip fights, as a reaction to the despicable response to BioWare’s Jennifer Hepler’s suggesting that game combat should be skippable. Of course it should! Last year I talked about how deeply peculiar is the perceived notion that people have to be GOOD at games for them to be properly enjoyed. Of course they don’t! And in light of this seismic (that shouldn’t be, oh it shouldn’t be) announcement regarding AssCreed Unity, I want to reiterate it once more: let other people play games their way.

The reaction against these thoughts is one of Us and Them, and a desire to keep the Them from getting near the Us. “Them” are all ordinary, inexpert, mediocre, or worst of all, new. While “Us” are expert, experienced, hardcore, elite. But let us reject that silliness immediately, and embrace the idea that welcoming the Outsider in is always how society broadens and blooms. Never mind that there are plenty of people already here who are looking for different and more varied experiences.

Gaming has always been inclusive. The idea that there was this Golden Age when all games were cripplingly hard, and only the Chosen were able to play, is bullshit. In fact, back in these imagined halcyon years was when games invariably came with cheat codes, god modes, all sorts of ways to subvert and play differently. And despite the outright terror that articles like this are harming their precious gaming, that the Outsiders are changing games to what the self-identifying Us perceive as “worse”, we’re currently experiencing a heyday for super-high-difficulty, super-challenging, extremely tough games, like we never have before. Funny, that.

I bought a Nintendo Switch recently, and have been playing Zelda: Breath Of The Wild as much as I possibly can. (Gosh, it really is quite the thing to be able to just pick up your game off the TV screen and play it on the train – I sincerely hope a PC equivalent is happening.) It’s an extraordinary game, vast and intricate and ludicrously alive. But, because it’s a Zelda game – hell, because it’s a Nintendo game – it has boss fights. And I can do them! They’re much easier than the average. I still hate them.

I hate them for me because I find them incongruous to the rest of the game they’re in (there are exceptions, games where a ‘boss’ is in fact a sequence that asks you to employ all you’ve learned so far, the gaming equivalent of a comprehension test, and these work so well, but they’re rare like rubies and it’s almost always just a difficulty spike). But I also hate them for other people, those who aren’t as good at games as I am (I am average good at games), for whom I know these are not boss fights, but end points. They are massive impassable obstacles between them and the fun they could be having afterward.

I’ve long hated boss fights, as chronicled perennially on these pages, because they’re difficulty spikes as game design. They’re something that should be rooted out by beta testing somehow being given feature status. And yes, for some reason people love them so, but just as many – if not more – can’t stand them. (Dark Souls wouldn’t be a bloody genre if people didn’t love a boss fight, but while it falls just short of selling seven billion copies, it’s inarguable that there are people who do not enjoy boss fights. And when your game is made of boss fights tied together with string, then yes, it’s plainly idiotic for a hater to buy it.) Here’s the magic though: if games had a button that let you skip past these incongruous segments so you could carry on enjoying the great game on the other side, that button could just as easily not be pressed!

The argument against the skip button, the tourist mode, the skippable combat, the fast-forward a level, all these ideas that keep coming up, is always the same. It’s always, “BUT SOMEONE MIGHT PRESS THEM!” It’s not an enormously strong argument, all things considered. It’s one I’d like to try to counter.

Yes, they might.

Goodness me, it’s like Hegelian dialectic in here.

Ok, it’s slightly more nuanced than that, although it’s never actually expressed truthfully. The argument tends to go, “But someone other than me might press them, and then they’d get to see a bit of the game that was meant only for the Deserving Champions!” Because, the real nub of it is, it’s about exclusivity. It’s about keeping the Thems, the riff-raff, the outsider, out. THIS section of the game, this is special to me and only those as great as I am! I DESERVE this bit of the game! Those weaklings do not! Gosh, it’s an ugly way of thinking, isn’t it? And so utterly idiotic too. Because it requires the mental gymnastics of somehow believing that one’s own isolated experience of a game is cheapened, lessened, impacted in any conceivable way, by the isolated experience of someone else playing that game. It is the transference of one’s ego onto the game itself. It’s not a healthy way to go about experiencing life.

The better argument, although it’s a lot less frequently uttered, is, “But I might press the button!” And here things get a lot more tricky. How many’s the time you regretted pressing the ‘hint’ button on your favourite mobile puzzle game? How often have you felt that incredible sense of achievement of having succeeded at a part of a game that challenged you so, which you know – you just know – you’d have skipped three tries back if you’d had the option? Yes, here, there’s a concern. But it’s not a concern about games, it’s a concern about yourself.

So even to use this far more valid worry, that you might spoil your own experiences when offered a tempting shiny red button, is an exercise in unacceptable selfishness. Because that shiny button becomes the thing that allows a multitude more people than you to enjoy their experience of playing this game, and refusing it because of your own inability to self-regulate isn’t a good enough argument!

There are obvious solutions. The most simple being the option to switch off the option of such a button when starting a new game, and impossible to switch on without restarting. Perfect, right? Those without the self control to impulse use it can remove the option, those who just want to enjoy the game differently than you have it on. Done. Then, if that weren’t enough (and it is), there can be reward mechanisms. Skip the boss and you’ll not get the sparkly new sword (that, ironically, will make things a little easier, but don’t think about it!). Or maybe, to embrace the ugly icky attitude, you get a different ending, and those who need to feel better about themselves than others because of their ability to better press some buttons in time with a cartoon get to see the PROPER ENDING. Not the dirty scumbag ending for paupers and the weak! Aren’t you great, with your ending. Imagine how people will stare at you in the streets!

So hooray for Ubisoft! Hooray for taking all the challenge and difficulty from a game for people who prefer games without challenges and difficulty! Hooray for skipping the boring bits to enjoy more of the fun! Hooray for people being allowed to enjoy a game in a different way from you! Hooray for the riff-raff!

487 Comments

Top comments

  1. alexheretic says:

    Unfortunately the people that disagree with this the most will find it impossible to skip this article.
  1. Ericusson says:

    I take my pleasure from playing a game and getting better at it and overcoming it’s difficulties.

    Then again I am totally oblivious and do not understand people watching playthroughs of other people.

    Then again most games are just dumb story wise (assassin creed included really), so why should I put myself through the horror of bad story and storytelling when tv series production are in a golden age.

    Then again I never could play shadow of the beast as a kid and would have liked some cheats to probably get disappointed by what remained a fantasizes mystery at the time.

    Then again human beings tend to be obnoxious shits when it comes to ego trips even and mostly when it is playing a game behind the anonymity of a screen.

    • Ericusson says:

      But anyway there is a logic to the evolution of the media in various directions, but once again we are basing this discussion on a game by Ubisoft on the icon chasing model.

      Which, well … what’s the point of repeating those unending linear collections again ? Might as well skip that all indeed.

  2. tonyhoro says:

    We’ve finally reached a point where some people think that “quality of life” in a game is tied to make the player do whateve he wants in a game without effort.

    And of course, people defending this argument will attack who’s against it by stating that gaming environment is ‘toxic’ or that less-skilled players don’t have much openings to get better.

    As some people already said, there are plenty of games that are already crafted for those who lack ability to learn how a game should be played, even though I still think one can get better by simply PLAYING. A game developer shouldn’t be blamed by the lack of patience and resilience of some.

    • Ich Will says:

      No-one’s blaming game devs though – they are making it known what they would like from a game, and putting that information out there for game makers to take or ignore as they wish.

      Then they are getting attacked by the l33t crowd, who’s eggshell egos can’t take it anymore.

      But the question remains, why are some accessibility options accepted by the elite, such as fast travel – coincidently the bits they find boring, but when it comes to the bits other peope find boring, they are a whirlwind of aggression, and crying about….. other people having fun?

      • ArgyleHammer says:

        This really isn’t a fair comment. I see very few l33t players attacking their more casual brethren.

        What I do see is more experienced players stating that games which offer a challenge are a good thing. That having a product that a few people love, while turning off others is okay. Some even go so far as to say that is what makes a game a game.

        Expecting someone to “git gud” is not an attack. It’s a helpful hand, a suggestion that if you take some time with a game you too will be able to enjoy it like they do. If you can’t or don’t have the time, that’s fine too, but don’t try and ruin their fun just so you can have fun. Sure it could be framed better. It could be a real offer to help, perhaps practice with a new player or show them how to get better.

        And that’s really the worry. If games start adding “skip’ability” to games, and begin to focus on skippable game design, then in some people’s mind it follows that less and less games will be made for people that like a challenge — ultimately stealing their fun away.

        • Ich Will says:

          “enjoy it like they do”

          This… this is exactly the problem, computer games are big and complicated and what you enjoy may be for me the boring bit. I may be actually having a fucking excellent time with the game until the bit I really dislike, and that may be the bit that you like. I don’t want to play like you do, I’m already having a blast, thank you very much, but that you refuse to accept that is… troubling.

          (royal you of course, I’m not accusing literally you of doing this)

          As for your worry, how many different ways does this need to be proven false before you stop trouting out the same line? Racing games rewind mode (note games, not sims), fast travel, nintendo’s difficulties – all universally have enabled games to be more hardcore, yet still attract huge audiences, and you get to ignore the ways of playing you don’t want – win win win. I get to ignore fast travel, as it is optional, and enjoy my immersive walk through skyrim, you get to magic jump to the next place on the map. I get to ignore rewinds in racing games, you get to retry that corner after you span, because theres no rubber banding and your race is ruined – but I like that my race is ruined.

          • Ich Will says:

            continued – I like that there is no – or not much rubber banding in the racing genre anymore, and this was only acceptable because of the instant rewinds – I understand that you may be angry if you spin and an hours work has been flushed down the drain, but I got frustrated when I span, and then easily cruised right up to the back of the pack and charged through because of the rubber banding – now we are both happy. What’s the issue?

            And if you have no issue with the optional accessibility options that you like, what’s the problem with others? Because your fear is demonstratably not necessarily going to come true.

          • ArgyleHammer says:

            This is not my fear. I think letting some games become evermore accessible / easy / player controller / whatever-you-want-to-call-it is totally fine. At the limit those products will not be games to me any more, and I don’t imagine I’ll play / watch / move through them, but I’ve no doubt they will exist and make many people happy. That’s fine. It happens all the time and the world keeps on moving.

            What I was objecting to is your statement that gamers which like challenge or object to more and more ways to cater a game “just to you”, were attacking the group of players that do want more customization and control.

            I don’t think they are attacking anyone. I think they are worried that the games they like will be ruined by a focus on making games easier and easier. I think some of that fear is legitimate. There was a time in the early 2000s where I felt strongly that games, especially console, were forever headed in a direction that didn’t appeal to me. Titles were heavily reliant on graphics and cutscenes at the expense of novel and engaging gameplay. It wasn’t until Dark Souls 1 came out that I personally had hope for AAA games again. That along with the increased accessibility to gaming engines and tools, like Unity, and Gamemaker, also ushered in a fantastic wave of indie titles.

            It’s not ludicrous to imagine something similar to happen if most AAA companies focus on making games fantastically easy or accessible.

            I think that is what some people are worried about, I think they are trying to defend what they feel is fun about games, by keeping devs focused on their kind of fun.

            I am not worried about this. I think indie games are here to stay. I think tooling and engines will only get better, cheaper and ironically more accessible :).

            In 10 years, I imagine most of the games I enjoy will be the same as today. Small project, made by small groups of people, I think of them as artists. People that have crafted something specifically targeted at a niche of players. Something without compromise. I don’t imagine you’ll care much for those games, it might make you frustrated that you can’t play or enjoy them, but that’s just how it is.

        • BertieDugger says:

          If you can’t or don’t have the time, that’s fine too, but don’t try and ruin their fun just so you can have fun.

          How does my part-time play style ruin anyone else’s fun?

          Why do today’s hardcore gamers get to decide what the right way to play is? I’ve been playing games for decades, why do the “git gud” crowd get to ruin *my* fun?

          • ArgyleHammer says:

            I was attempting to convey the reason why some gamers are worried about features like this and tried to explain that in the second paragraph. The fear (real or not) is that investing in these features will reduce investment in games focused on challenging (or at the very least, audience specific) experiences. An argument has been made that this kind of “distracted development” hurt games in the past — when for a time games focused almost exclusively on visuals and cutscenes rather than gameplay.

            Circling back to “boss skip”. Of course an isolated feature does not take the fun away from one group or giving it to another. And I don’t believe that these features will ruin games or are bad for games as a form of entertainment. But, I do think they water down games as an art form and marginalize designers — a different discussion I suppose.

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        But the question remains, why are some accessibility options accepted by the elite, such as fast travel – coincidently the bits they find boring, but when it comes to the bits other peope find boring, they are a whirlwind of aggression, and crying about….. other people having fun?

        Funny you should bring up fast travel. RPS published a nice critique of fast travel a few years ago that’s worth reading, this part in particular which parallels some of the better arguments being made against “skipping” in this thread:

        In fact, if you look at the links between areas in the first game and the second game you’ll notice the first is a much more finely crafted, in geographical terms, than the second. There is far more “interconnectedness” more “verticality” to use some slightly wanky words. A lot less folk are going to be able to draw a map of Dark Souls 2 from memory, in any case. I suspect this lapse in the sequel is because developers, once they know fast travel is to be included, automatically have to assume players are going to use it. So they concentrate less on the in-between spaces. Wouldn’t you?

        Think about it. Not many people are going to see those spaces, or they are only going to see them once. So focus on the hubs. And leave the rest of the world alone after getting it OK. What’s the point in putting in all these amazingly clever shortcuts – lifts and pits and staircases and pulleys – if people already have a super efficient shortcut: going to a bonfire and selecting their destination on a dropdown menu. But this does not necessarily make for a better game. And it definitely detracts from any sense of journeying.

        link to rockpapershotgun.com

        The gist of it is that developers, limited in time and resources, will prioritize content that they believe more players will experience and appreciate. Now consider how that applies to boss fights, tougher levels, or other things that players would be likelier to skip and you can see how there are legitimate concerns that this would incentivize developers to spend less time on things like balancing and QA.

        • Emeraude says:

          Agreed on that point, and that bit in the comment being addressed:
          But the question remains, why are some accessibility options accepted by the elite, such as fast travel

          feels off to me when fast travel has been decried as a design plight by the hardcore RPG crowd for years now.
          And for good reasons too I would say.

      • bamboozled says:

        Actually that isn’t true; usually when people write articles like these, it’s under the presumption that there aren’t ANY modern/upcoming games out there/coming out which accommodate lesser-skilled players. Simple searching around proves there are games and in some cases even entire genres for those who may be lesser-skilled in a given category of challenge (for example if you’re excellent at puzzles but weak at hand/eye coordination and dexterity, you have near-endlesss amounts of Point n’ Click adventure games and traditional JRPGs to play, etc.).

        That’s where the contention comes in; these editors write these pieces in a bubble, as if they’re on some ethical/progressive high ground when it comes to the medium being more inclusive, ignoring solid examples both current and past which already satisfy/satisfied much of what they’re writing about :/

  3. Yglorba says:

    One thing I especially liked about the original System Shock was that it didn’t just have difficulty settings, it had multiple difficulty settings, one for each major aspect of the game. You could individually adjust the combat, puzzles, time limit, and story. I feel that more games would benefit from that.

    An additional problem is that difficulty settings are often irritatingly enigmatic. When I’m starting up an RPG-ish game, say, will cranking up the difficulty turn it into a grind, either in terms of grinding for money / XP or in terms of grinding off huge amounts of inflated enemy HP? Will it mean that I have less customization options, or more? Will it add depth to enemies and introduce new / interesting challenges at high difficulties? And how difficult is the “baseline” game, anyway? (Compounding this, lots of games don’t let you adjust the difficulty after you start, so if you discover the game is too easy / too hard, there’s nothing to do but start over.)

    Often, when I’m choosing a difficulty level, I care more about what type of difficulty it affects rather than just hard / easy – I want to know which setting I’m going to find the most fun. It can be hard to figure that out when there’s so little information, and irritating to discover I missed the mark and then can’t change it during play.

  4. Dogshevik says:

    Why act surprised? Many AAA titles these days can hardly be called interactive anyways.

    Just get your lingo straight. Games, walking simulators, cutscene dia-shows. Have websites, communities etc for each and call it a day.
    Problem solved, you are welcome.

  5. drucifer says:

    It’s time developers brought back God Mode for us crap gamers. You can keep your accomplishments & trophies. (Thank you GTA V)

  6. Chris Evans says:

    Great article John, I feel the pressure to play games the “right” way at times, even though I don’t often talk about what I’m playing until I write about it. The gaming community is so very toxic, and this is just one of the many problems it has. I applaud Ubi for taking this decision with Origins, I just wish more developers followed suit.

    So, here are a few of my guilty admissions:

    I couldn’t complete Half-Life on the PC. I managed to do it on the easier PS2 version.

    I enabled God Mode in Doom 3. I was too panicky with the jump scares and impending death, that I didn’t enjoy it. Playing the game and being invincible? Perfect.

    I’ve spent many a career in Football Manager cheating in some small way. In-game editors, pre-game editors. Reloading saves after a bad result to get what I wanted. Taking charge of other teams who are playing my real side, playing around with the formation to guarantee a 20-0 scoreline.

    Most recently, as I alluded to in my F1 2017 review on The Reticule, I am going back to playing racing games in a way that allows me to enjoy them. Flashbacks? Yes. Assists? Why not.

    So yes, well done Ubi. Let’s see a similar thing from the next From Sofware game. I love Bloodborne…apart from the bosses.

  7. Lykanthrocide says:

    I can see where John is coming from on some level.

    On others, not so much.

    There seems to be a conflation in the article with tedium and difficulty. These are not the same things. If a boss is too difficult for too long, it can get tedious and discourage someone from playing the game. Under this circumstance, any normal person would do with the game what they do with other projects when they become stressful: set it aside, do something else for awhile, then come back and try again. The sense of accomplishment that comes with defeating a difficult boss or solving a guessery-breaking puzzle is part of what makes video games so satisfying. Egoraptor did a video on Mega Man that illustrates this point pretty well.

    Despite what John might think, video games these days really are very easy compared to games from 30 years ago. Console games in the 80s were still in competition with arcades. They were either direct ports and still designed to wolf down quarters, or they were made intentionally difficult in order to justify the $50-$60 price tag. (Then there’s the garbage-dump’s-worth of games that were just poorly designed; again, see Egoraptor on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). There were cheats for these games. They made the game substantially easier. Too easy, in fact, and, as a result, not much fun because there wasn’t enough to explore. Later, in the 90s when developers understood the medium better and began to produce masterpieces like Final Fantasy VI and Super Metroid, gaming hit a kind of equilibrium in difficulty. Games were still hard, but they were fair. If you lost a life in a well-designed game (like Mega Man X), it was your own fault.

    Tedium, on the other hand, comes in when a game gives you something to do as “busy work”. Try level grinding in a FamiCom-era RPG, and you’ll know what I mean by tedium. I play Famicom RPGs on my PSP. I prefer to do it that way, because I can use cheats more easily and can quadruple the game’s speed to power through what would be hours of gameplay. Why? Because I hate level grinding. Does this mean that I suck at RPGs? No, because FamiCom-era RPGs are artificially difficult and require little if any skill from the player.

    It’s on this level that I kind of understand where John is coming from. If it’s for games that don’t require skill or that don’t so intricately blend gameplay and narrative elements as to be unable to deprive the player of both if one is dumbed down, then, yes, fine, have your skip button.

    Now, though, we have games that encourage exploration and others that both provide a challenge and encourage exploration. We have games that intricately marry narrative elements with gameplay. Game designers who produce games centered on exploration would do well to design their games so as to make boss fights relatively easy if their style of art/craft is going to be worth playing and holistic. Yume Nikki is all about exploration and there isn’t a single boss. It’s amazing and anyone interested in the medium should play it. There shouldn’t be bosses in games like Yume Nikki. Games like Final Fantasy VI and UNDERTALE, however, use the traditional trope of a boss fight in interesting ways to convey important information—pertaining both to narrative elements and to gameplay—to the player. Imagine taking the first fight—a boss fight—out of UNDERTALE. Imagine skipping the fight with Kefka at the end of Final Fantasy VI. The entire experiences of these games would be different (and not nearly as impactful) given what the game attempts to convey.

    Maybe that’s what I’m getting at here. Video games are, and always have been, experiences. If you haven’t experienced a section of a game, you’re missing out on its wonder or its challenge or its bizarreness. If you haven’t fought and beaten a boss that challenges you, you’re missing out on the satisfaction of accomplishment that video games (and, really, any game) can and should give you.

    There’s a whole book on this subject by a great ludologist. It’s called The Art of Failure and it’s by Jesper Juul. The author of this article should take a look at it sometime. He may learn something.

    Tl;dr: Certain games don’t that don’t focus on human’s competitive nature should lighten up on the difficulty. Fine. Others are designed to be more ludological. One type of game shouldn’t be forced to satisfy the desires of the players who only play one type of game (i.e. easy games). Read The Art of Failure.

  8. Unsheep says:

    It’s a great idea; let developers show off their gameworlds.

    If you make a luxuriously detailed and atmospheric gameworld, why not let people just wander around in it with no pressure. It’s one of the great things about open-world games after all, but taken one step further in this case.

    I think we could all come up with a list of games we wish we could just walk around in and really explore, after finishing them.

  9. iainl says:

    I’m awesome at games, OBVIOUSLY.

    But ever since we’ve had Boss Fights in games, we’ve had rubbish, boring, irritating boss fights. The attitude of every now and a game we’re going to make things “exciting” by giving one enemy a really large health bar and/or require you to use a completely different set of skills to those required to deal with every other enemy is more often rubbish than not.

    But it doesn’t have to even just be boss fights! Those saying the option to skip shouldn’t exist seem to be arguing in some perfect world where every game is awesome all the time. But why -shouldn’t- I be able to just play the bits of this 7/10 FPS where I shoot my way through crowds of cannon fodder, and leave the Godawful bouncy platforming section where every error drops me back to the bottom of a pit?

    Or on the three hand, why can’t I play through all the full-tilt running sections of Mirror’s Edge without stopping to do the fiddly bit where you fight the other runner again, or that bloody server room?

  10. cooldood says:

    You know in a way I agree, this article was painful to read but thankfully I had a “skip article” button AKA the end key.

  11. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I don’t really care about the AC series and it makes sense in games like Deus Ex, Fallout, Elder Scrolls where you have persuasion and roleplaying. Those bosses are usually badly designed bullet sponges anyway and you can savescam or trap them behind a door and such cheesy things.
    I would advise against skipping in games where bosses are a central part of the experience (action usually) like say Mega Man or Dark Souls (which has “optional bosses”).
    Of course I played “Breath” as intended and killed the bosses but I thought they were skippable aside from Ganon?

  12. ggggggggggg says:

    hey john! have you seen this? link to danbo.vg

  13. baud001 says:

    On one hand, what Ubi is doing is good. I would have enjoyed a lot the possibility to explore without having to fight the few AssCreed games I’ve played. I remember a few games (like ME 3) having a very easy difficulty for player to enjoy the “story” (it was pretty meh, but the combat was right on higher difficulties). Also more people playing games is good.

    But your tone is so righterous and hollier than thou that it undermines the whole point.

  14. endosymbiosis says:

    While I have nothing against increasing the accessibility of games, I do think there is an argument to be made for creative freedom. Yes, people enjoy things in different ways, yes, other forms of media like movies and books allow you to skip forwards or backwards as you choose. But I’ll hazard a guess that the creators of those movies and books wouldn’t appreciate viewers choosing to do so, and I’d imagine that any journalist or reviewer that chose to do so wouldn’t be taken seriously.

    For me, the interactivity of games is the sole thing that differentiates them as a medium, as it provides ways for developers to immerse players into the experience they want to provide. For some developers, the goal may just be to “make a fun game that everyone can enjoy”, and in that case, there’s absolutely no reason not to add a “fast forward” or even a “rewind” feature. Other developers may have a different aim, however. I know it’s been beaten to death, but the devs of Dark Souls have specifically stated that the goal of their games are to provide a rewarding experience to gamers by challenging them. That is their vision for their game, so to claim that they “should” have an easy button is no more or less entitled than the people who claim that NO games should have one.

    In my opinion, creators do (and should) have the right to choose whether or not their game is accessible. It’s just a quirk of the medium that they also happen to have the power to enforce that choice, whereas many other creative mediums allow for more consumer discretion.

  15. Mezelf says:

    we have this already. it’s called pay2win. it’s called micro-transactions. it’s called loot crates. it’s called “we’re just giving the people options!!”. it’s called the total abandonment of immersion. it’s called freepaid mods.
    this shortcut mentality is the new cancer of the industry. soon you’ll get your wish John Walker. I hope your wallet is ready.

    “b-b-but movies and books have a skip button”
    …and? this is video games. you want to take away the point of video games (hint: it’s the ‘game’ part), stick to mods and cheats. don’t expect all game developers to see it your way though.

  16. Horg says:

    John, I suspect you would enjoy gaming a lot more if you got over the idea that there is an entire sub-section of elite gamers working against you, trying to keep you out of ‘their’ hobby.

  17. Universal Quitter says:

    Instead of focusing on the supposedly common straw-man of gamer elitism, you could have brought some nuance into this topic.

    People have more reasons for opposing your demands for every game to have a “skip boss button” than “lol git gud,” and if you don’t know that or are willing to pretend like you don’t know that, that’s pretty shameful, John.

    • Dogshevik says:

      You don´t produce three pages of reader comments without at least hinting at previous (and ideally all-permeating) controversies in your article.
      That is no criticism, mind you. It´s part of John´s job.

  18. trevorg75 says:

    I’m really confused why people are getting all up in arms about this stuff. I mean especially with the AC series. These guys do a TON of research and put a whole lot of effort into creating beautiful, aesthetic, authentic environments. They are fun to play around in and explore. So what is the big deal having a toggle that turns that mode on and off? It doesn’t take away from the game. All of the content and challenge is there. Why should you get anything special just because you clicked the keys and mouse in just the right order to “win”. I mean come on. This is a VIDEO GAME. We’re not talking about a real accomplishment here. Meanwhile the REAL accomplishment is all of the work by the artists on these environments. I’m sorry but I really can’t rationalize the stripping of another opportunity to enjoy the game in a different way just to protect someone’s ego and “e-peen”. I’m pretty certain that no serious gamer takes issue with this. We have to be dealing with a special set of elitist gaming trolls who’s only accomplishments are their speedruns through Super Mario Brothers. These are the people that are perpetuating the negative “gamer” stereo type. It’s fine to have your opinion. I mean don’t turn that game mode on. Nothing has been taken from you. But when your “opinion” interferes with someone else’s ability to enjoy the content on a different level….you can just go get right fucked. Every single one of you who have raised an issue with this are mouth breathing retards who need to get a fucking life.

  19. MAXIMUM BURKEK says:

    If you don’t want to play the game, just watch someone else play through it.
    Simple.

  20. jssebastian says:

    I think “let me skip stuff I don’t enjoy” isn’t just about difficulty. Sometimes there are parts of the game that I find boring or annoying, and if game lets me avoid spending too much time with them I will continue playing, if not I’ll just leave it and play something else.

    Open world games are very good at this, typically. If I don’t like the plot of a questline, or it has annoying enemies (which may or may not be related to how hard they are) I can just leave it there and go do something else. I don’t like the horse races in Witcher 3, so I skipped all quests that focus just on that, and the few times the plot required me to run a horse race I mostly lost it and did not bother to reload: my Geralt is no horseman, so what? And regarding difficult bosses, also in the witcher, when I got annoyed by one specific damage-sponge boss I lost to a couple times after protracted fights, I temporarily lowered difficulty from “death march” to “my nan could do better” and moved on to the parts I did enjoy.

    So I agree with “let me play my way”, but I think “put a skip boss button in all games” is an overly restrictive prescription: it’s just one design among many to try and accomodate different people’s skill and tastes, and not necessarily the best one. Other designs can work, such as having difficulty settings, letting you avoid or cheese the boss through some in-world mechanism such as stealth or powerful consumables, letting you pick when to face the boss so you can out-level it, or just get rid of bosses if there’s no good reason to have them in that particular game.

    But at the same time I think it’s fair to acknowledge that doing any of these things right requires some good design and potentially a lot of work, so not all dev teams will choose to deliver this because maybe they use their limited resources for other features, and that’s also fine.

  21. Germashko says:

    I don’t mind optional easy mode or even non-combat mode. It’s not touching me in any way, so why should i care. But what’s interesting to me is that, while Asscreed games is a super easy, to the point of boring, series – we still talking about optional easy mode instead of optional hard-modes. I like new mechanics in Assscreed, but i’m afraid of it being too easy and not having an option to make it harder, but all journalists seems want to talk about is adding easier and esier modes. I mean – add them, i see them just like cheats – i never cared if some other people used cheats in singleplayer games, why should i start to care now. But i want games to have hard options also, not only easy ones

  22. Bury The Hammer says:

    Human psychology is weird, and people are irrational. You assume that people will always opt for the ‘most fun option’. If they like a challenge they’ll never press the button! Except challenge doesn’t quite work that way.

    I love a challenge, but I wouldn’t have done half the fun challenges had I been given the option to skip them. Dark Souls is the classic example. I spent nights bashing my head against Ornstein and Smough. I had to – there was no other option! I was immensely frustrated. But the absolute elation at the end was incomparable. I definitely would have buckled sooner if there’d been a skip boss option. Dark Souls, like a cruel mentor, knew what was best for me. My stupid monkey brain didn’t.

    In theory, though, I don’t disagree. Games are for everyone. Previously someone brought up the idea that introducing the button will change game design. I agree completely. Save scumming would have *completely* changed Dark Souls for the worst. A skip boss button suffers from the same issue.

    I think there are probably better and worse ways of doing it, and it depends upon the game you have. Some games *could* introduce an easier mode at the beginning. It’d have to be carefully designed. I like the way Blizzard make different tiers of difficulty to World of Warcraft raids, for example. THAT SAID, raid finder (a bit like tourist mode) is nowhere near as enjoyable as getting a tightly coherent team and really cracking that challenge.

    However, there are lots of games out there. If you don’t like hard games, I’d say that’s similar to not liking scary movies. And insisting they make ‘less scary’ versions of horror movies so you can enjoy them too. Or that you can just ‘skip’ the scariest scenes and somehow get the same experience. Why not play/watch something else? A game’s difficulty and reward system is an inherent part of the design and enjoyment of a game.

  23. lyralamperouge says:

    ‘Because, the real nub of it is, it’s about exclusivity. It’s about keeping the Thems, the riff-raff, the outsider, out. THIS section of the game, this is special to me and only those as great as I am! I DESERVE this bit of the game! Those weaklings do not!’

    Yes. This is a straw man of what I think. I do not want people who don’t like video games polluting spaces where people who love video games talk about them, and if you skip important content-gates in games you do not love video games.

    I don’t want people who skip the experience being part of a community where people frequently congregate to reminisce about a shared experience, any more than serious bowling leagues might enjoy people who bowl once a year showing up at every team meeting. I do want them to be kept separate from us, and this isn’t an ugly way of thinking, it’s how people find peers with whom they can relate over some shared experience.

    It’s the human condition that people want to be around people they can bond with over fond memories, and shaming doesn’t work at killing baked in human needs like bonding rituals.

  24. LexxieJ says:

    I haven’t trawled through all the comments on this, but as far as I can tell, no-one’s brought up GTA V. Fail a mission a few times & it gives you the option to automatically complete it.

    In effect, one of the best-selling and highest-rated games in history basically had a ‘skip boss fight’ button..

    Where was the backlash? Where was the rage? What gives GTA V a free pass?

  25. Xenos says:

    @John Walker If you don’t like the difficulty curve, don’t play the game. People are upset with Assassins Creed because it outlived it’s golden days.

    Kinda funny how game journalists that don’t know how to play games preach to us about games, isn’t it?

  26. gabetheguy says:

    why not just kill the boss? boom. done.

  27. The_Mouth says:

    I find this article to be preening and pretentious. It attempts to talk down to everyone who enjoys games with a learning curve more intense than Farmville. A boss skip button dumbs the game down to a structured experience on rails. You become a tourist with limited agency experiencing a scripted and interactive story as opposed to a gamer playing a game that presents a series of challenges and hurdles to overcome. There is a consumer base for both products and we do not need to belittle gamers and diminish the games and content they enjoy for the benefit of digital tourists.

    • kentonio says:

      Actually you’re being rather dismissive of gamers who enjoy the same experiences as you do, but due to real life commitments may not have huge amounts of time to spend endlessly replaying intensely hard sections of games. Ask a new parent how many hours a week they get free to game. Why should they be told to go play Farmville, just because you don’t want a change that wouldn’t even effect you?

      • pokeonimac says:

        New parents shouldn’t expect to have time to game. If they feel that they’re ready to have a child, they should be ready for the consequences a child will bring: less time on schedule, less money available for leisure spending, etc. Not a good example at all. You’ll get very little satisfaction from games if there is no challenge, if you just enjoy the experience of moving images, go watch a movie.

  28. BudHurt says:

    Can’t stand the heat? Stay out of the kitchen.

    If we’re truly talking about games as an art form, then I do believe it’s time for the “casuls” to bow out. Articles like this are written by “game journalists” triggered by the criticism they receive online, because – unlike some highly entitled commenters – gamers have certain standards. No one is demanding Johnny Walker or Social Justice Timothy become experts that can break speedrun records. I’ve beaten DS 1 – 3 on NG+7 and I have no desire to even attempt a speedrun. That being said, you should have to earn that endgame achievement. If you’re constantly skipping the actual game part of the game, you don’t deserve something you did nothing to achieve.

    Secondly, no, you cannot have a skip boss button. You can either ‘git gud’ or return the game for one that’s more your speed. You have no right to either demand game developers cater to a small minority of people only interested in the art, or expect every little thing cater to your personal preferences.

    If we’re to consider games an art form, then you leave the creator to do as they please; if you’re not interested in the gameplay (the key part of any game), then watch someone else play it or look up screenshots. At that point, you’re not a gamer playing games, you’re a virtual tourist gawking at all the pretty colors. (And, no, I won’t apologise for my dismissive tone – I give as good as I get, so as long as we’re being snide.. ) Which is fine but you don’t deserve an achievement for doing literally nothing to improve simple skills like hand-eye coordination. You don’t deserve a pat on the back for putting in less than half the work of this medium’s core audience, and you don’t deserve respect for demanding something you could look the other way on cater to your incredibly low standards, and you especially don’t deserve respect for hounding people for being better than you at the very topic you’re paid to cover.

    Which, as long as we’re talking about something as insipid as “skill-shaming”, aren’t you doing the same by debasing people more skilled than you? You do realize that your dismissive attitude just comes across as a bitter and envious child, right? Or do you honestly believe “hardcores” actually go out onto the streets demanding admiration for being skilled at playing videogames?

    The only reason games journalists are catching flak for being terrible is because they will often blame their own lack of skill on the game they’re supposed to be reviewing. Trust me, if you were John Walker from down the lane, I wouldn’t give two blue’s if you couldn’t make it through World 1 – 1 in the OG Super Mario Bros.. I was in Pull-Ups playing that game and I remember how hard it was growing up. But I grew up and learned how to play the game. I didn’t get mad at the developers for not letting me win. And I have pissed and moaned and raged at god knows how many games, but if I couldn’t skip a boss using the console on PCs or cheat codes on consoles, I either left the game behind or dedicated as much time as I thought responsible to getting better at the game. I didn’t hop online to claim a game was bad because it beat me. Nor did I go online to complain about, make strawmen of, or outright disrespect people that actually took the time to learn the game, dedicate effort to bettering whatever skills that game required, and overcame the same challengea presented to me by the developers. Not only is the former irresponsible for someone that influences people’s purchasing decisions, but the latter is insulting to people that genuinely care about video games as an art form, experience, and challenge.

    And here we can find some common ground.

    I care, deeply, about video games as an art form. As an aspiring writer, video games served as tireless sources of inspiration. The music and visuals of games like WoW, Dark Souls, DMC (original series), Final Fantasy, Halo, and Elder Scrolls have all left me with chills. I can appreciate the desire to experience the scenery and music uninhibited, and on PC, there are ways you can do that. But, fine, have your ‘skip boss button’. Just give up that endgame achievement you didn’t earn. No participation trophies. Sorry. I also think you should miss out on key story moments. If video games are a form of interactive storytelling, you shouldn’t expect to earn plot twists and payoffs for refusing to interact, and you should honestly admit to yourself and others that you are not investing in the full experience of the art form; that you are willfully passing up integral parts of the developers’ vision.

    But, for salty bloggers like John Walker, they should never claim to be authorities worth consulting when it comes to buying decisions, let alone authorities on gaming and its current climate.

    There is nothing elitist in saying I’m better than someone at Dark Souls because I beat Gwyn whereas they rage quit at the Asylum Demon.

    It’s a statement of fact.

    But that’s fine. There’s nothing under the sun keeping most people from doing exactly what I did, and that’s precisely what happened once people wised up to FromSoft’s tricks. If they can find the time (and it doesn’t require months to ‘git gud’), they can beat the game – you just have to pay attention to your own mistakes (gasp) and stop treating the game like you’re going on a stroll through Skyrim. And if you still find yourself enraged by a game’s difficulty, fine. Time to quit. “Go hollow”. Surrender. Shake figurative hands with the developers and bid “GG”, but don’t get pissy at people taking personal pride in doing something you couldn’t, and don’t ever think you’re owed something just because you were dumb enough to vote against your interests by buying a game you couldn’t just breeze through. There’s already a market for “casual” gamers. Might I recommend Minecraft? Little Big Planet? Or how about Telltale games? Leave the “hardcores” to their market. The difficult games with unskippable bosses have their audience and they aren’t designed with the tourist in mind. And if you’re insistent on games as art, stick by that philosophy and leave the developers to tell their stories how they see fit. If that means you feel “excluded”, oh well. It won’t be the first bit of disappointment you experience in life.

    • kentonio says:

      Have you considered asking us developers how we’d like to make our games before insisting we shouldn’t change them? As for asking ‘casuals’ to move on, I can’t think of a single thing more damaging to the industry than that. Those casual gamers who you show such contempt for are often fairly new gamers that over time transition into more traditional games and bring in a huge part of the revenues we rely on. The massive explosion in new gaming has made even traditionally niche genres considerably bigger and allowed us to make games we couldn’t have even considered making a decade ago purely because of market sizes.

      Oh and I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but even in games you think of as pretty hardcore, the vast majority of players are playing on the easiest possible difficulty settings. The percentage of players actually finishing those (and indeed any) games is also vanishingly small. There’s a reason why final game scenes are often so disappointing. The are the section of a game who the least number of people will ever see, so when things are being cut down or scrimped on, the end of a game is usually high on the list.

      So ironically, allowing people to skip past hard parts of games, would actually result in a huge amount more people actually experiencing our full games.

  29. LagTheKiller says:

    Oh My God. U got it all wrong mate. The skip boss button its not evil as the rat is not evil bit spread diseases nonetheless.

    If we allow them to implant skip bosses it will lead to skip levels, worse optimization and balance bcs u can skip them. Even if the 2% of developers turns to this abomination it would be 2% less funding and work spent on creating games like present.

    Do you not see thousands of dollars spent on idle games and forge of grindpires? Its lotsa easier to build a movie. Thats why movie tocket is 5 , Dvd is 20, and game cost 50. Coz u can spent hours upon hours and u got still content to unravel. Imagine autoplaying DOOM.

    Skip boss button is not evil but it is hallmark of sthing worse than we can imagine. And coming closer.

  30. Otaku1988 says:

    Skip boss Button? No Thank you, The point of some games AKA Dark Souls is meant to have a challenge, and sorry but if you feel you need a “Skip boss” Button then maybe, Just maybe the Dark Souls/Bloodborne may not be for you, Also i read a comment about using Summoning signs, There in the game to be used and is no way a “Boss Skip” system

    PS Jahn Walker your a fucking idiot using the “Your eather with me or agesnt me” and putting words in people who disagree with you, Also Bloodborne and Dark souls have a Password system where you can summon help with boss with people who know what there doing, and way better skilled then you

    • kentonio says:

      Why do you get to decide who the game is for? Why does it impact your life in any way whatsoever if some people play it differently to you?

      • pokeonimac says:

        It’s the game developer’s choice to target certain audiences with their works, you can’t force them to expand their audience or vision just because you feel a game is too challenging.

  31. kentonio says:

    I wonder if people know the percentages of people who play games on the easiest possible difficulty level? On one title we developed we looked at the data and discovered that no less than 80% of players were choosing to play on Very Easy, a mode that to us at the time removed a lot of the challenge and ‘fun’ from the game.

    But then when you start to think about it more, you realize that what is ‘fun’ for one person isn’t necessarily fun for another, and that the thing that actually matters is that the people who are spending their hard earned money on your games should be able to enjoy them in whatever form they like. This also means of course that we sell more games, and get to enjoy the security that brings.

    I can think of a vast number of people who through lack of time or ‘skill’ would love the option to be able to skip past difficult sections of games. We could do this with no impact on the people who didn’t want to skip. So why not?

    • pokeonimac says:

      kentonio, I’d think of it this way. If you don’t enjoy reading scientific literature, you wouldn’t go out and purchase volumes of scientific journals, would you? To me, it seems that there are certain people who are averse to reading scientific literature out there purchasing volumes of these journals, and demanding they be simplified so that the layman can understand what is happening. A bit odd, to say the least. Even if more than 80% of respondents decided they prefer playing on easy, they should know what they’re getting into when they buy the game. To extend on my original analogy, if you aren’t well-versed in scientific jargon, you shouldn’t expect to fully comprehend the articles in a scientific journal. Those who wish to understand will find that they will incur less scorn from the scientific community by trying to learn the terms, rather than by asking for journals to be simplified.

  32. pokeonimac says:

    Should sports also have the challenging, competitive bits removed to make them more inclusive? Should fine art be dumbed down to make it more inclusive? Should we sacrifice scientific progress to appease those who don’t have scientific knowledge – to make science more inclusive? Video games have never been inclusive, even so, if anything, they’ve gotten easier over time. If you have difficulty playing games, maybe video games aren’t for you. Just as how people who barely make their way through science classes with a D don’t try to pursue careers as doctors or scientific researchers, people who have trouble progressing in certain video games, shouldn’t play them.

  33. vinion2000 says:

    Personally, I dont think there is a problem with the “riff-raff”, lol, having their fun in their own way. I say if its possible give them the option to play it as they want. No one says that there should be only one way to play a game. I get that the pet peeve of the OP that he hates “boss battles” and sees it as a game design decision. Is it really? That said the choice should up to the developer to make. There are going to be games that cater to all or cater to a specific audience and that should be ok. No one is bending someone’s arm to play a certain game and they can always “skip” that game as well.

    *Rant*
    Look having played games for some years there is something that I consider a personal fact. Everyone wants to play a popular game but some often never play it for why its popular. I say this because I feel some narcissistic entitlement coming from this article. Lets face it the OP wouldn’t hate boss battles if they weren’t hard. The fact that he is still plays Zelda even though he hates boss battles is a testament to it’s game design. Frankly standing behind the “Who are you to tell me how to play games?” position makes me say “who are you to tell game developers how to design their games?” and I’m pretty sure the answer is nobody. The answer had always been there since years ago. The three tiered difficulty levels always worked. At some point developers started to fear that having difficulties would scare casuals away and it changed. Suddenly games steadily got easier and easier. Games like Dark Souls are a dying breed. So it comes with no surprise when the masses set their sites on franchises like Dark Souls the response is “Git Gud” and various ranges of anger and toxicity. I think the OP does not understand how much the “riff-raff” is being catered to. It takes little to design a easy game minions and bosses. The complexity of designing a game that both provides enjoyment and challenge without it feeling cheap or patronizing is very hard and one that developers seem to be moving away from. In the end we will end up with games like Star Wars Battlefront. A game so devoid of skill that even the “riff-raff” won’t play it.

  34. orochi_kyo says:

    With this kind of journalism and these articles I just remembered why I did stop visiting RPS from a long time ago.
    Not being agree with RPS journalist or devs = Toxic.
    Trying to counter the argument of the journalist = Toxic.
    Thinking that actually make the game a challenge matters = Toxic.
    Criticize the criticism = toxic.

    LOL, what isnt toxic these days is not having an opinion at all. Even the top comment chose for the article is dumb. It seems people informing and reading about things they dont agree is “toxic” too. LOL.

    Reading the main rule for posting “Our main commenting rule is “be excellent to each other”.” What happened when journalists arent being excellent to others?