Patrick’s Hellblade article reminded me of something I’ve been wondering for a while now; at what point might a game’s difficulty (or, in this case, a construct like permadeath in a longer game) begin to interfere with its accessibility to certain audiences? Furthermore, is this brand of artistic gatekeeping (because I would characterize it as such—art that’s only accessible to people with enough time to either master a set of mechanics or risk a long playthrough on the possibility of never completing a game) beyond criticism because it’s “artistic” in nature?
To be clear, I love difficult games, and I want games take to artistic risks like, in this case, potentially threatening a player with lost hours of playtime as a thematic statement. I think that’s incredibly interesting and, as someone with probably more time to play games than a lot of other people, it definitely piqued my interest in a game I’d barely heard of before today. Moreover, it would be easy to compare games with a high barrier of entry (in terms of difficulty, potential loss of time, etc.) to the works of writers like Joyce or Dostoevsky that, hey, take a lot of time and effort to read, to the point where some people might never be able to.
But this is an angle that I hadn’t really seen discussed with regard to games, and I’m curious to hear this community’s thoughts. What do you all think?