Elden Ring is the front-runner for 2022’s game of the year. Reviewers are fawning over it. It’s the title the entire gaming community is talking about and that everyone wants to play. The hype sounds like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild all over again, and that one ended up being so beloved it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. Elden Ring, however, will never achieve that status—the gameplay is just too grueling to appeal to every player.
FromSoftware, the developer behind Elden Ring, is responsible for notoriously difficult games, namely the Dark Souls franchise. They’re designed to challenge the player with constant death, something I—as a parent with limited gaming time—remain very uninterested in. But I wanted to try Elden Ring for a couple of reasons. First, FromSoftware previously addressed the difficulty concerns, noting that while there wouldn’t be difficulty levels (no easy mode!), the game’s open world wouldn’t be quite so challenging, because you could simply avoid a fight until you were ready. (Uh, OK.) Second, I was intrigued by the environment of Elden Ring, which creator Hidetaka Miyazaki built with George R. R. Martin.
Then I died five times in 30 minutes and gave up; the frustration completely negated any fun there was to be had. Elden Ring just isn’t for me—but I wish it was.
I want to explore this open world that people are lauding, to experience its story. I also wouldn’t mind a challenge. (Just because I like easy mode doesn’t mean I crave zero adversity.) But FromSoftware’s insistence on keeping the game nearly impossible for non-elite players feels foolhardy. There’s a lot more to Elden Ring than dying all the time; why not allow a wider audience to experience it?
In many ways, the discussion about Elden Ring isn’t actually about Elden Ring at all. It’s about who’s allowed to have a voice in gaming, and which segments of gamers are catered to. It’s about the very existence of difficulty modes being abhorrent to a small but vocal subset of gamers, and the toxic discourse over easy mode. If you can’t “git gud,” as they say, you shouldn’t be gaming at all.