So, if you’re a developer who makes kids’ games and you’re reading this right now, let me just ask you… exactly what the f*** is the deal with the difficulty levels?


Notice that none of these kids are angry or crying? Remember it.

Do you have anybody even remotely within your target age range try these games out before you ship them off to retail? My guess is, probably not.

As the parent of a soon-to-be seven-year-old, I have an absolute hell of a time finding games that my son can play. Automatically ruling anything out that has language, sex or violence, the number of available titles is minuscule. Of that minuscule number of titles, the number of titles devoted specifically towards children is even smaller, and of that smaller number, the number that would be fun and appropriate for kids of my son’s age range is practically nonexistent. I’m getting a little bit off-track here, but I think you get the point.

Anyway—difficulty levels, what the f***?


You want me to do what with what fingers while holding the stylus?!?

Do you seriously think anyone above the age of ten is going to give a second glance to Kung Fu Panda on the DS? This game screams “for little kids only!!!” So why is it that it’s so ridiculously hard in spots? My son started getting frustrated about 15 minutes into it, so the wife stepped in with some parental guidance. 15 minutes after that, the wife started getting frustrated, and the wife getting frustrated is not a good thing.


Don't let its friendly appearance fool you. This game is evil.

Boom Blox. Again, what the f***?

Although I do think the game is pretty fun, anyone who thinks this title isn’t aimed squarely at kids is fooling themselves. The characters are friggin' rectangles with faces, and you basically knock down brick structures for the majority of the game. Naturally, this intense kid appeal explains why the developers have crafted a number of levels which are stupidly difficult to complete, even for a person with my considerable gameplay expertise. Rather than being the gather-the-family experience I hoped it would be, it ended up being a “this is too hard, I need help” session on all sides.


I want to love Cars, but Cars won't love me!!

It’s not like these two games are the only offenders, either. The entire history of kids’ games is filled with titles that are geared with precision accuracy towards the young ones, only to crush their little hopes and dreams with absurd design choices and completely unrealistic difficulty curves that seem to exist only to make children cry.

As a parent, I absolutely do not f***ing appreciate spending money on a game designed to make my son happy and introduce him to the hobby that I’ve spent so many years in myself, only to have him walk away from a game system frustrated, upset, and discouraged.

So, if you’re a developer who makes kids’ games and you’re reading this right now, make your games EASY. Very few people (and even fewer children) will ever complain that a game was too easy. On the other hand, everyone complains when a game is too hard—and if Dad and Step-Mom who’ve got near-on forty years’ combined experience playing games think the latest kiddie title is too hard, then it’s WAY TOO F***ING HARD.


The new films may suck, but the games do just what they're supposed to.

You Lego games over there… Yeah, you. Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Your puzzles need a little tightening up, but otherwise you’re alright in my book. Good job on that can't-really-die thing.

Everyone else?

You piss me off.


Seriously, you think I'm going to buy another game from you that makes me look like this?

Get it the f*** together, playtest with the kids the games are actually meant for, and do every parent out there a favor by making your titles a source of enjoyment, not frustration and difficulty. If you don’t start flying right and cleaning up your act, I’m going to start taking it personal—not to mention the fact that your future audience is going to disappear if you teach them over and over again that games aren’t any goddamn fun.

Read more at Drinking Coffeecola blog.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
Brad Gallaway

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Max Thunder
Max Thunder
9 years ago

When I was a kid, I would play NES games. Many of these were pratically unbeatable, even for an adult!

I think children nowadays tolerate frustration less than they used too. Parents are richer so the kids get everything, information is more readily available, school is progressively getting easier and that includes graduate studies, video rental stores have a million copies of the movie you want and now video games are going to be easier.

Guess what, those children’s children are gonna find the video games too hard even though they’re going to be a lot easier than today.

Brad Gallaway
Brad Gallaway
12 years ago

>>I have a question for you: why are you buying videogames based on movies? DO you have kids? If you did, you might know that movie licenses have a tremendous draw on the kids they’re aimed at. That aside, the wife and i did the research and read reviews on Kung Fu Panda, and according to the reviewers (who probably don’t have kids, either) the game was short, way too easy, and a good fit for fans of the film. they were right about 2 out of the 3 assertions, but an adult’s view of difficulty doesn’t translate well into… Read more »

Matthew Graybosch
Matthew Graybosch
12 years ago

[quote=Harry]Hard games build character! I played teenage mutant ninja turtles and the simpsons and I loved it! :)[/quote]

And I played Battletoads as a kid. Even managed to beat it once, but I liked The Guardian Legend better.

Matthew Graybosch
Matthew Graybosch
12 years ago

I have a question for you: why are you buying videogames based on movies? Games based on movies were crappy when the Atari 2600 was state-of-the-art, and they’re crappy now. Yes, they’re poorly designed. Yes, they’re unnecessarily difficult, and it’s probably because of their poor design. However, it’s your fault for buying the game. If you’re a long-time gamer, you should know by now that movie tie-in games are garbage.

If you want to get him into gaming, why not stick with Nintendo’s offerings since he’s got a DS? Or get some of Square-Enix’s remakes?

Andrew Fletcher
Andrew Fletcher
12 years ago

Am I the only person in the world who finds the Lego Star Wars games to be poorly signposted, frustrating, and more fun to watch than play by an interstellar mile?

Harry
12 years ago

Hard games build character! I played teenage mutant ninja turtles and the simpsons and I loved it! 🙂

Anony Mouse
Anony Mouse
12 years ago

So you’re looking for kid-friendly games that have no sex, extreme violence, language and can still be fun?

It’s called old-school NINTENDO!

And if you can’t find the real thing, get an EMULATOR!

REMEMBER YOUR ROOTS!

legendarypegasu
legendarypegasu
12 years ago

Brad, I have a nephew and a niece who I am very close to, I have bought them kids games as gifts and I am always surprised by the difficult. I remember one in particular was Nicktoons: Attack of Toybots for the DS was really hard. I watched my nephew a few days ago and saw him getting really frustrated with Kung Fu Panda. It took me a decent amount of time to actually understand what they wanted me to do. I completely agree with you about the difficulty. Games made for 6 year olds should be able to be… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

wow, you’re an idiot.