Nowadays, something being “easy” is becoming a selling point more & more often. It’s happening everywhere - gaming, technology, etc. - & it isn’t always a good thing. Sure, things being easier for the user is generally a pretty good advantage (otherwise it wouldn’t have become so popular a selling point), but there is such a thing as a wrong way to make something easier. That’s what this blog post is gonna be about - looking at the good and the bad of prioritising ease of use in different types of products.

When Not to Easify

Normally, making something easier is an outright positive - especially for tools. Even if someone needs a tool, chances are if it’s too hard to use, they won’t use it. Making a tool easier is almost always an unquestionably good thing that should be strived for. Often, a tool’s difficulty comes from poor help resources or obtuse design decisions, which are just objectively bad (though not inexcusable).


Some tools can’t really be made easier or at least would take far too much effort to do so because making them easier would almost certainly require removing functionality from them. Sure, you can improve documentation & the like, but that doesn’t tend to help with people’s gut reaction of “this is too hard” because they now have to read in order to use it.

Safety Scissors

A great example of a tool that would only be blunted by easification is Vim, a text editor built around using the keyboard instead of a GUI1 & mouse movement by using different modes & commands. Understandably, normal people find Vim very hard to get the hang of, as its design is completely counter to just about every other text editor in the history of the planet that isn’t inspired by it (except Emacs & basically nothing else). It does have some advantages over regular text editors, with the main one being editing speed. Because you never have to move your hands away from the keyboard, you can edit text much faster than with a normal editor that uses the mouse - especially if you’re a touch-typist2. Despite this, it goes largely unused in favour of other editors almost exclusively because of how difficult it can be to get used to.

Wait, isn’t this just a clear-cut example of something that should be made easier?


It would be, but Vim’s difficulty comes from getting used to using it, not from any failure of its design. For Vim to be made easier, it would need to be simplified pretty heavily, which would only hinder its advantages, which is why it’s never been done. Easier Vim would be like safety scissors. Sure, they’re safer, but there’s no reason to use them over real scissors because the only thing making those hard to use is that you need to get used to not cutting yourself.

False Blunt-proofness

If blunting is a problem, then what about things that can’t be blunted?

Silly cat, did you not see what section we’re in? You may think that there are things that can’t be blunted, but the truth is that everything runs the risk of blunting from easification.

Oh yeah? What about games?

You fool! You fell right into my trap! This is all going as planned!

… Are you celebrating winning an argument against yourself?…

Getting back on topic, games can be blunted by removing a key factor in their enjoyment that sets them apart from others. To be more specific, some games are fun because of their difficulty, or at least due to something that directly contributes to their difficulty. For example, a lot of the fun in many fighting games comes from 🅱️ombos. While casual players will be satisfied with flashy-looking autocombos (see DBFZ3), more serious players are left wanting more from a game’s combo system. If the game can’t deliver on having executionally engaging combos, then no serious player will play it, and casual players will do as casual players do & move on once the next big thing comes out. This isn’t the only way a fighting game can be easified to its doom, but this is my blog & I’m choosing to focus on it.

There are 2 main ways of simplifying combos:

  1. Adding autocombos

    This is easily the simplest to understand. If combos are too hard for people, why not just do them for them? The reason why not is that, while autocombos don’t contribute nothing to the rest of the game, they don’t really solve the problem they set out to. Autocombos are usually balanced to not be too powerful by having low damage & bad Oki, which are good & necessary properties for them to have to prevent them from becoming overpowered. However, this also means that autocombos can sometimes be pretty damn useless - or they would be if it weren’t for their ✨ special properties ✨. For example, autocombos in DBFZ track to the opponent’s position & orientation. This does make them useful at all levels of play, but it has the unfortunate side effect of being ABSOLUTE TRASH. It solves the problem, yes, but it creates an entirely new issue, as is common by attempting to solve problems with what essentially amounts to a solve problem button.

  2. Removing/Simplifying motion inputs

    Motion inputs are a topic that’s much more nuanced than can be fully explored in one paragraph in a blog post that’s not supposed to be a deep dive into fighting game design, but I’ll try to explain it as best I can. For the uninitiated, a motion input is a command in which the player must move the control stick in a specific motion to execute the move - such as down, down forward, forward to fire a Hadouken. For speed (and because it’s better what I’m used to) I’ll be expressing them not by listing the directions in sequence, but as a sequence of numbers. A fireball4 motion like I just described is 236X, with the numbers representing the motion & the letter X being a stand-in for any button on the controller - called numpad notation. See the below GIF for an explanation of how it works:

    Motion inputs were originally invented so that arcade fighting games could have “secret” moves for players to discover, but they coincidentally introduced new nuances to move balance that cannot exist without them.

    The ‘motion’ part of a motion input can be used to dictate when a move can & can’t comfortably be used, like forbidding DP5s from being used while blocking by giving them a 623 input. Removing a 623 usually means that DPs will be given 214 or 22 inputs instead, which are much safer (and 22 is insanely easier to mash), making DPs indirectly more powerful. I’m not saying that we need more pretzel motions, but I am saying that inputs shouldn’t be simplified to the point where inputs can no longer be used as a form of balancing & characterisation. Just look at Guilty Gear Strive’s Goldlewis Dickinson with almost every special move being some variation of a half-circle motion through his Behemoth Typhoon variations (41236, 63214, he’s got just about every possible variation of a half-circle). Yes, the inputs are hard as fuck hell to perform, but it makes Goldlewis a far more unique character in the roster and makes his optimal combos doubly impressive because of how executionally challenging they are. It serves to characterise both the character himself and his player, all by allowing the game design to utilise slightly fancier than usual motion inputs.

Both of these methods run the risk of blunting a game’s enjoyment by limiting how unique different characters can feel & how players are able to express themselves through the system mechanics, so you should now agree that games aren’t unbluntable. But these don’t only affect a game’s combo system. They have effects on neutral, offence, defence - even movement! This is why you should be very careful when implementing any of these strategies - they can have vast effects on many different parts of the game that can end up being a detriment to the overall experience.


Sometimes, something can seem like it’s successfully been easified, but it actually hasn’t been made any easier. For example, chess.

What the hell are you talking about, chess hasn’t changed in centuries!

That may be right, but how people play chess has changed quite a lot in this century. Whereas before people would need a physical board, pieces, & clocks to play chess, people nowadays mostly play using sites like or the superior Lichess. This shift is just about completely positive, since people can now play on basically anything anywhere at any time, but it does slightly change the game of chess. The new digital mediums allow people to see all legal moves by each piece while playing, which should in theory make chess easier to play. After all, you don’t need to think as hard now! However, although this does remove some mental overhead from the game, it doesn’t remove nearly enough to make a difference in how easy chess is to play. This is the case for 2 reasons:

  1. You can only see current legal moves
  2. you can’t see your opponent’s legal moves

This means that legal move highlighting doesn’t help all that much in actually evaluating a move & plan because it only gives you whether or not the move is allowed, which takes very little mental stamina, and doesn’t help you evaluate the opponent’s options, which is more difficult than doing the same for your own.

But playing over the board changes a lot more than that!

I fully disagree with that, so I’m gonna quickly counter some of the most common arguments I’ve seen:

  • It’s 3D

    This changes less than nothing. You might have to mentally adjust if you’ve been playing significantly more digital chess than OTB, but the same is true of the reverse, and all your pattern recognition & study carries over because it’s the exact same game. Being able to move your perspective around while playing also doesn’t change anything. Sure, it might help someone focus, but that’s an effect specific to them & not to the entire game. (Plus, Lichess lets you use a 3D board if you really want to so you can get the same feeling digitally anyway)

  • Mental game

    This is a factor that can greatly affect how good someone is at chess, but it’s not due to physical chess specifically. You can just as easily play chess digitally right in front of someone & get the exact same experience as OTB. Yes, the mental game is a large part of chess, but digital chess isn’t what removes it because that’s not the only way to eliminate the mental aspect. People used to play correspondence games by mail - which eliminates the mental game far more than digital chess, since just about every website & app allows players to communicate mid-game.

  • Time controls

    This is a nothing argument. Yes, fast time controls won’t help you improve at longer ones, but you can just not play short time controls. If you want to practice classical, just play classical. This has nothing to do with digital chess aside from not needing to hit the clock as it’s done for you, but that’s just better because the timings are more accurate.

However, chess websites do show an excellent way of easifying something, and it has nothing to do with the gameplay or its presentation. They make chess easier to learn. This is how you easify something properly - don’t mess with the thing itself, make learning resources more accessible & pleasant to use. Do that and, assuming the thing is worth using, people who need/want it will learn. And resources don’t have to be made by the creators of the tool/game, they can also be made by the community - sometimes even more than the creators. This is how people learn difficult tools or games. Even when the official resources are lacking looking at you, Tekken, the community can & will step up to fill in the gaps.

What if they haven’t?

That’s where you come in! If something you like doesn’t have good learning resources, make some yourself! Even if they aren’t perfect, it’s better to have more resources available for newbies to learn. You do have to learn the tool with what’s available, but once that’s done, what’s available is in your control. If you have the knowledge to potentially help someone, why not do it?

  1. Graphical User Interface ↩︎

  2. Someone who types purely using their muscle memory rather than sight ↩︎

  3. Dragon Ball FighterZ ↩︎

  4. A standard fighting game projectile, such as a Hadouken ↩︎

  5. ‘Dragon Punch’ - a move that’s invincible as soon as it begins ↩︎