No, no, you quite plainly missunderstood me.
I also find it interesting that I can't actually argue with you anymore, since you're not raising any points except "therapy". I -could- play at a lower difficulty setting, of course I can. I just don't feel that I should have to somehow neuter myself.
Well, the whole therapy thing was largely tongue in cheek, but not entirely... The fact that you consider playing on the highest difficulty level at which the AI doesn't cheat neutering yourself is absolutely ridiculous. Elemental is (or will be, anyway) a game. It's purpose is to be used by people as a method of entertainment - to have fun. Different people obviously have fun in different ways, and maybe in your case you have fun by playing every game trying to do better than you did the last time; always trying to improve. That's fine. The mere presence of cheating difficulties should affect that, though. You can still always try to improve on the non-cheating difficulty. But if somehow their presence is stressful to you, and makes you all of a sudden feel like you're being presented with two bad choices (even though one of those choices is exactly what you want), then you have a problem...
And I realize this is not your only argument, but it is clearly part of it. Otherwise you shouldn't have written:
"Cheating AI will result in me -having- to play against it at one point or another, to get a comparable relative difficulty level to my peers. It becomes a pissing match who's playing against the most unfair odds, rather than who's actually the better player."
"For the sake of argument, it's important that you realize the internal conflict of interest. One one hand, you want to play against "the hardest possible", but on the other hand you don't want to play against a cheating AI - you want a level playing field against the AI, just like you want a level playing field when comparing your relative "worth" to that of your peers, opponents, rivals, enemies or whatever."
And with regards to the whole thing about in order to really compete with other players you'd have to play on the cheating difficulties, there's this: if people get to the point where they can consistently beat cheating AIs, then chances are if said AIs weren't even there, most/all of the top players' scores would pretty much be maxed out. They would utterly destroy all opposition every game. What's the point in competing at something that isn't even a challenge?
Like the argument I raised before, it's the same basic argument that other retards raise in other mods or games;
"The flying sasquatch unit is way overpowered to the point where I'm not having much fun playing the Sargasso Pirates civilization. We really need something done about this"; "So don't play the Sargasso Pirates, or don't use the flying sasquatch unit. Duh!"
And yes, singleplayer games are competitions of the self. You get better and better as you play, for any variety of reasons. The only one you have to beat is either yourself, or scoreboards compared against other people. Wheter that's your piece of cake or not is another thing entirely, but not getting a comparable difficulty level to that of others is a problem, yes.
If for nothing else than for reference points between games and players.
There are plenty of people who enjoy strategy games because of the challenge. Unfortunately, after a fairly short period of time, many of those people get so good that non-cheating AIs don't pose any challenge for them anymore. If there's no way for them to make the game harder, they'll lose interest and move on to something else. If letting them up the difficulty by giving the AI all sorts of advantages will keep the interested and a part of the community, then I think it's more than worthwhile.
Pretty much all your arguments have to do with competition and ladders and the like. The regular singleplayer experience should never be limited based on ladders or multiplayer considerations, especially in a game like Elemental, where, let's face it, 92.35% of all games will be played outside of any ladder or competition.