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->''"This is one of the hardest games I've ever played, but for '''all the wrong reasons!'''"''
-->-- '''WebVideo/TheAngryVideoGameNerd''', playing ''The Wizard Of Oz''

When you play a {{video game}}, you expect to be able to use your skills as a gamer to beat whatever challenges the game throws at you. If the challenges require a lot of skill, the game is hard to win. If it doesn't require much skill, it should be an easy game. However, some games that should be relatively easy are actually quite hard. It could be due to shoddy programming, a GameBreakingBug, poor implementation of gameplay elements or time constraints, or the developers threw in something which makes the game harder, but which has nothing to do with the player's or AI's skills. This is fake difficulty.

There are five kinds of fake difficulty, in addition to TheComputerIsACheatingBastard, a sub-category of this:
* '''Bad technical aspects make it difficult.''' Making a difficult jump is a real difficulty. Making that same difficult jump under an overly complicated control scheme, horrible [[JumpPhysics jumping mechanics]], or [[CameraScrew an abrupt mid-air change of camera angle]] -- and therefore the orientation of your controls -- is fake difficulty.
* '''The outcome is not reasonably determined by the player's actions.''' Unlocking a door by solving a color puzzle is real difficulty. Unlocking it by [[LuckBasedMission pressing a button until you get the right number]] is not.
* '''Denial of information critical to progress.''' A reasonable game may require the player to use information, clues, or logic to proceed. Withholding relevant information such that the player cannot possibly win without [[GuideDangIt a guide]], {{walkthrough}} or {{trial and error|Gameplay}} is fake difficulty. Also includes hidden UnstableEquilibrium (e.g. a later level is much harder if you do badly at an early level, and you're not informed of this ahead of time). In a 2D game with no camera control, hiding important details behind foreground elements or BehindTheBlack counts as fake difficulty if [[GameplayAndStorySegregation your character should]] [[RuleOfPerception be able to see them.]]
* '''The outcome of the game is influenced by decisions that were uninformed at the time and [[PermanentlyMissableContent cannot be undone]].''' (Unless the game is heavily story-based and unforeseen consequences of actions undertaken with incomplete information are legitimate plot elements, or the game offers some way of mitigating or eliminating those consequences.) A game that offers a JokeCharacter and is clear about the character's weakness has real difficulty. A game that [[CrutchCharacter disguises a joke character as a real one]] has fake difficulty.
* '''The game requires the player to use skills or knowledge that are either incorrect or [[UnexpectedlyRealisticGameplay have nothing to do with the genre.]]''' A football game that requires you to describe the position that Jerry Rice played for a power-up is real difficulty. A football game that requires you to describe the position that Jerry Rice played to get a powerup, and assumes the answer is "[[CriticalResearchFailure Quarterback]]", or one that forces you to do multi-variable calculus in order to train your starting lineup is fake difficulty, not to mention just plain silly. (Even if that last one would arguably be kind of cool.)
%%If you want to propose a new criterion, please [[FakeDifficultyDiscussion discuss it first]]

It is important to note that just because a gameplay feature is annoying and frustrating does not make it fake difficulty. For example, placing a large number of {{invincible minor minion}}s between the player and the PlotCoupon is extremely annoying, but they can be avoided by skilled movement -- thus, the difficulty is real.

Note also that fake difficulty is [[TropesAreNotBad not inherently bad]]. If used subtly, it can provide a satisfying challenge in cases where [[ArtificialStupidity the AI might be lacking]]. However, it is obviously preferable for the AI to provide a challenge by playing well than by getting special advantages from the programmer. Moreover, some games (notably {{Platform Hell}}s and Retroclones) get the majority of their comedy/nostalgia from Fake Difficulty and is much of the appeal of them; ''Tabletopgame/DungeonsAndDragons''' [[TabletopGame/TombOfHorrors most popular module]] is packed to the brim with Fake Difficulty and attempts to reduce it have [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks caused complaining from the fanbase]]. In these cases, it's perceived fair game because these games do not lie to the player about being fair challenges (or rather, about the ''nature'' of the challenges they provide), so a prospective player knows what they're signing up for.

Fake Difficulty was prevalent in many older games, when developers were still learning about how to make fair challenges. It took people to realize that sometimes, a game was hard for all the wrong reasons, before they could see how to make it hard for better reasons.[[UnpleasableFanbase The unfortunate side effect is that newer games seem easier in comparison merely because they're a fairer challenge.]] There are plenty of other reasons for this (such as players being aware of some persistent forms of Fake Difficulty and making sure to avoid them) but that's another article entirely. It still ''does'' exist today, mind you.

Fake or Artificial difficulty is sometimes used to refer to the raising of enemy stats without improving their AI or giving them new abilities. However, raising enemy stats may force the player to devise new strategies or execute their inputs with less errors. Trial and error and reattempting sections of a game are a natural part of most games, and only [[TrialAndErrorGameplay excessive or ridiculous examples of trial and error]] should be considered "fake". Also, difficulty is a measurable statistic that can be categorized into different kinds of player skills required to overcome it. Thus the term "fake" difficulty is a matter of opinion which can change from player to player, depending on which forms of difficulty they like or dislike.

See also FakeLongevity, ClassicVideoGameScrewYous. For its cousin, see FakeBalance. For the player variant, see NotTheIntendedUse.

Contrast AntiFrustrationFeature, where things are fudged in the player's favor instead. Also contrast NintendoHard, which is extreme, but very ''real'' difficulty.

[[Administrivia/ExampleSectionectomy No Examples, Please]].

* TheComputerIsACheatingBastard


!!Difficulty due to technical aspects of the game
* GameBreakingBug \\
A bug which renders the game unplayable from its current state (and sometimes, even future states).
* PixelHunt \\
When a plot-critical item is hidden so well in the scenery it's barely visible, and you might not even know it was there.
* SomeDexterityRequired \\
Games with unintuitive, complex, and/or difficult control systems.
* [[JumpPhysics Uncomfortable jumping]] or other physics. Especially apparent when the system the game is on [[FlipScreenScrolling doesn't support smooth screen scrolling]] (like MSX).
* RatchetScrolling\\
Non-continuous scrolling that only allows you to go forward.

!!Outcome due to factors beyond player control
* CheckPointStarvation \\
Absence or severe lack of {{Check Point}}s or {{Save Point}}s.
* EscortMission - Some of them. \\
The success of a mission depends on the performance of a non-player character you can't control.
* ArtificialStupidity - on the part of your teammates. \\
As you progress in the game, and the difficulty rises, your teammates become more and more incompetent, forcing you to pull more weight.
* InterfaceScrew \\
An event where the player's display or control scheme are screwed around with.
* LuckBasedMission \\
Skill matters not in this level!
* RandomDrop - if the dropped item is necessary to continue the game or achieve certain endings.

!!Denial of critical information
* AllThereInTheManual \\
If you don't know how to do a {{Shoryuken}} because you didn't read the manual, that's just you being lazy, not FakeDifficulty (or just a case of not having access to it or any reproduction of it for whatever reason). This is for games which refer to plot elements or instructions that are only in ANOTHER game's manual which you haven't purchased yet.
* CameraScrew \\
Problems with the camera in a 3D game.
* CopyProtection \\
Games with CopyProtection or {{Feelies}} that are not included with some nonetheless legal purchases of the game. E.g. ''VideoGame/{{Quest for Glory}}'' having only maps and pamphlets with certain versions of the game.
* DepthPerplexion \\
If objects that reside in the background or foreground layers can still obstruct and/or kill you by CollisionDamage. In isometric views, it's hard to tell what's blocking you or what's safe to land on. Your bullets are blocked by walls, enemy bullets don't have that problem.
* GuideDangIt \\
You'd never figure this one out without consulting some form of walkthrough.
* HitboxDissonance \\
Where the area around a character/enemy that registers hits doesn't match up with the actual appearance of the character/enemy – the game registers hits that don't visually connect, or fails to acknowledge hits that do.
* LeapOfFaith \\
A hole in a platform game which, despite appearances, is ''not'' bottomless and/or ''does'' have a safe place to land, just way off to the side. The only way to find out is to jump!
* {{Metagame}} \\
When joining an online game, there are a lot of unwritten rules that fellow players ''expect'' you to know that the in-game tutorials do not explain. Worst-case, the single-player game is patched to be harder, with the expectations that players will use unwritten exploits.
* NowWhereWasIGoingAgain \\
If you skip or forget information, you can't see it again.
* SelectiveMemory \\
When the player is denied information that the actual character should have.
* TrialAndErrorGameplay \\
When you can only figure out the correct path by trying the incorrect ones and dying, until you get to the right one.
* ObstructiveForeground \\
You can't see yourself or the enemies because some object in the foreground is in the way.
* TheComputerIsALyingBastard \\
Probably the worst cause of GuideDangIt. This is when the game gives you information, but it's not simply inaccurate. The computer is outright ''lying to you'' (and not for plot-based reasons i.e. the player has no reason to expect a catch).
* YouCantGetYeFlask \\
Where the text parser in old {{Adventure Game}}s can't understand what you're telling it. Especially if you're telling it something that's really common vocabulary and ''should'' be comprehensible to the average programmer.

!!Punishing decisions made long before [[UnwittingPawn one could reasonably understand the ramifications]]
* CharacterSelectForcing \\
Where the game designs levels or enemies to only be beatable by a particular character or set of characters and doesn't require or at least hint at which characters you need to pick at the outset. Some older D&D modules that require a certain character class's abilities in order to advance the plot (but doesn't force a member of the party to be one at the outset) are like this.
* PermanentlyMissableContent\\
A "missable" item which, if you didn't get it on your first chance, will be unobtainable afterwards. Doubly frustrating if it's a very powerful item that will aid the quest, and sure to cause a lot of frustration if it's a ''key item'', primarily required for the [[GoldenEnding best ending]]. Extremely likely to cause controller-tossing [[{{Unwinnable}} if it's a key item required to get]] '''''[[UnwinnableByDesign any]]''' [[UnwinnableByDesign ending at all]]''. If the NonStandardGameOver screen/cinematic lets you know what you missed for your next go-around, then the Fake Difficulty of the situation is ''slightly'' lessened. It'd still be better if they told you about it ''before'' it was lost, though.
* ViolationOfCommonSense\\
When a game expects you to do something stupid or downright suicidal and punishes people who take the more "common sense" option. Forgivable in more comedic games, but it is fake difficulty when you lose the chance to get the GoldenEnding because you decided to make the entirely sensible decision [[WeHaveReserves not to sacrifice the lives of your squad]] to complete the mission of "get PhantomZone Cabbages for Mr. Maginty's stew".
* {{Unwinnable}} \\
A gameplay state in which it is completely impossible for the player to finish the game.
** UnwinnableByDesign \\
A gameplay design element that in the future will deliberately prevent the player from winning, but the player may not be even informed of the possibility until ''hours'' after it happened.
** UnwinnableByMistake \\
Either a bug or an oversight has rendered the game broken so there's no way for it to tell the player how screwed they are.

!! Requires or rewards counter-intuitive or irrelevant behavior or skill from the player to continue the game
* BladderOfSteel \\
If the Pause button doesn't apply to cutscenes. Have to go to the bathroom or answer the phone? Hope you don't miss the NPC giving you the secret combination to defuse that ticking bomb...
* ConvictionByCounterfactualClue \\
A game's solution requires an answer that is blatantly incorrect in the real world, causing players with the logical answer to get stuck at the puzzle.
* EmptyLevels \\
Where the stat gains from gaining levels aren't enough to beat the new, stronger wave of enemies that attack higher-level characters. This is only fake difficulty if it's possible to avoid gaining levels in the first place (and thereby enjoy the artificially lowered difficulty now or at a later date) otherwise it's just a game with a {{Parabolic Power Curve}}.
* UnexpectedGameplayChange in more extreme cases \\
[[VisualNovel/DanganRonpa What the—why is this]] VisualNovel [[VisualNovel/DanganRonpa suddenly making me play a rhythm game]]? I only have one arm, man, that's why I picked up the slow-paced game instead of one of those!