265/366 – The False Good Old Days In Gaming
Every so often I hear about someone lamenting that games aren’t as good as they used to be, usually in the context of something new that they are struggling to get used to or seeing something get easier or simpler that they feel shouldn’t be.
The argument is that either mechanics and skills were harder to learn, and thus better and more rewarding to accomplish, that gamers “have it too easy” or have it too good these days, and that games that didn’t hand progression on a plate to gamers were better games. The conclusion sometimes made is that this kind of decrease in difficulty or mechanics change can be attributed to gamers being built a little softer than the ones that had to go through the brutality of dying without checkpointing by default.
On the one hand, I can see why some people might make an argument for the good old days of gaming, because games were perhaps a bit easier to plan in terms of design, and the black and white nature of how to present challenge to a gamer was a simpler affair. If you died, you went back to the beginning of the leve. If you didn’t have continues, you had to start the game over. If you couldn’t pass a boss fight efficiently, you didn’t deserve to go to the next level. This sort of binary thinking meant that binary solutions were easier to come by, and you were either good enough to recognize them or the skill needed to pass them or you didn’t.
But that’s not how games, and gamers, are today. There’s a bigger gaming community, for one, which means that there is a lot of nuance in how that community plays and enjoys games. As far as difficulty, the fact that gamers are now most assuredly a generational community means that the older generation of gamers, like myself, value their time spent a lot more, mostly due to that annoying adulting thing. This means that we can’t afford to spend hours at a time trying to beat a level or boss without checkpoints, or to build a character without a simplistic method for leveling skills. We just want to enjoy the game. The fact that a wider audience has an opportunity to enjoy games that are built for that very reason, instead of to just be frustrating, is why the good old days in gaming weren’t always good. Given the choice between easier and simpler entry into games versus the more challenging, yet more time consuming element of some old school games, give me the former every time.