Are video games easier than they used to be?

contra1 - are video games easier than they used to be?

you were around for the original video game revolution sparked by Nintendo back in the late 1980s (or have at least taken the time to backtrack, for those of us who weren’t there), then you probably think that some of the most challenging games from that generation deserve top accolades. In fact, it’s probably a safe bet that this same sense of challenge is not only what drew us into gaming but also what has kept us hooked. Battletoads, Contra, and even the original Super Mario Bros. were more than enough to keep us glued to our TVs, determined to win what seemed like a battle of life and death.
Fast forward about 10 years or so. While video games as a whole have advanced into a medium more revolutionary than some might have imagined, the challenge — specifically, the level of difficulty — that brought us to gaming in the first place may or may not be taking a backseat to a friendlier experience. Could this be an attempt to attract a larger crowd as the medium continues to grow in popularity? Don’t get me wrong — none of us are able to finish modern triple-A titles with a snap of our fingers, but we can’t deny the stark difference in difficulty when we compare them to many classic games. Some may see this as pure speculation while others can point out countless instances of decreasing difficulty in recent years. Something is holding video games back from satisfying those of us who seek a good challenge.
Tutorials are regulation
You want a real challenge? Try booting up a game from the last five or so years that doesn’t have an extensive tutorial within the first hour of the game. Nearly every title put out nowadays uses a tutorial mode to help the player along.

While these modes may have originated as optional missions separate from the main campaign, lately they have worked their way into the opening levels of our favorite titles. They’re now no longer an option. Take note that this may not be a bad thing in any sense. It’s actually quite convenient at times to be coached on the basics of a game before jumping into the danger zone.
If you remember, most games of past generations completely lacked a tutorial mode of any sort. We were given paper manuals (which have vanished in favor of the mandatory in-game tutorial), but unless we were willing to take the time to read through them (and, let’s face it, many of us were not), we had to figure things out all on our own. The tutorial in itself is a prime example — and perhaps the most obvious one — as to how video games are becoming easier for players to handle. Just keep in mind that many modern releases have also given us the option to turn off tutorial messages in the settings.
Short, highly scripted narratives
Something we can’t ignore whether we like it or not is that many of the big-name releases of the current generation use scripted events almost relentlessly at times. Not only that, but what used to be the 6-12 hour average has sunk to 3-5 hours for many titles.

While scripted events have existed in gaming for quite some time, never before have they been put to as much use. How hard is a game really if it holds your hand from start to finish? It doesn’t completely, of course. We can still lose, but there is almost no sense of strategy — no need to put your skills to the test nearly as much as we were required to in games on the original Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or even the PlayStation.
Then, there’s length. Many games are, without a doubt, much shorter than those not too long ago, to the dismay of many. Again, how hard is it to beat a four-hour game, especially when scripted events guide you swiftly through the narrative? Some may not see this as a bad thing — it’s not the end of the world — but there is a reason why a game receives a huge amount of praise today when it reaches a maximum of 12-48 hours in content.
Overall easier gameplay
Remember when it was hard to complete a task as simple as jumping over a pit of death? As these objectives grow more and more commonplace, their initial impact begins to wear off, and what was once a feat to be reckoned with is now second nature.

For instance, remember when you needed to use a cheat code to bring a second player into your game because shooting an enemy from a reasonable distance was almost impossible? Now, many shooters of this generation feature an “aim assist” as a way to nudge players’ crosshairs in the right direction. What about the generous amounts of loot and ammo found in many open-world shooters? Many of you may remember a time when supplies were scarce, and the little that you had needed to be used sparingly. How about the skimpy amount of health given to your character in old games, where taking damage a few times — or even once — would lead to certain death? No such dilemma exists in many modern games, where regenerating health is a standard feature. And let’s not forget the many overpowered weapons within arm’s reach. We had to work hard to obtain what were once considered “power-ups.”
I’m not just talking about shooters here. Gameplay in general has become much easier to master. As video games continue to rise in popularity, developers continue to adjust their formulas to create something that almost anyone can do. Some of us may not like it, but we still have our tried and true difficulty settings available for when a game becomes too easy.
It really seems as though video games don’t present the level of challenge that they used to, but is this necessarily a bad thing?

Tutorials are convenient, gameplay tweaks can often be disabled, and short, highly scripted narratives are in fact a welcome addition for those simply looking for an entertaining and memorable experience.
Let’s try not to be too bitter about the increasing popularity of video games (that’s not what we’re here for). After all, there will always be a sense of community within the gaming universe. For those of us who still have a soft spot for a hardcore challenge, select titles such as Super Meat Boy serve as a tribute to what we treasure about our favorite, most challenging games. And I’m sure that titles like Dark Souls — games that go out of their way to revive that classic sense of frustration and determination — have not left our consciousness just yet.

Let me remind everyone out there that in many cases, a game is only as fun as you make it. While some titles may not always present us with the best challenge, our senses will never fail to assist us in finding new and improved ways to test ourselves. It’s one of the greatest aspects of playing video games.

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  • 3

    I find the games i buy to be fun and that's all that matters to me.

  • 2

    I think you can really see this in the elder scrolls series. I played them all and in the first I didnt even got out of the prison and it took me like 10 tries and actually I didnt even really do it I just ran through it without killing one enemy. Morrowind was a bit easier and oblivion was pretty much the easiest thing ever, skyrim got a bit harder though but only because the monsters dont level up with you anymore. But still pretty easy.

    Of course you should consider that nowadays you usally have different difficulties and if you take the hardest difficulty, in my opinion, it is harder than the games back then.
    Also the games back then seemed harder because we were younger, well at least for me it seems like it. When I was 5 years old or so I played sonic for hours and never got past the first eggman fight. Now I can play through the game.
    And of course many games were arcade games which were supposed to generate money, so they were extra hard ;-)

    • Vans
    • January 4, 2013, 9:11 pm
  • 1

    tl;dr, but I'll add my thoughts to the question in the title. The simplest answer is yes, they are. VERY much so...

    Anyone who played the original DooM found that Nightmare was a difficulty beyond challenging and it took a lot of wits, ammo, and luck to get through even a few levels. It's possible, but very, VERY time consuming and frustrating which is what makes the victory so much sweeter. As time goes on, we all get better at games and we go back and play our childhood games and find them to be far less of a challenge than we originally thought, but they still have a tough spot here and there. Jump forward a decade and a few years to when DooM 3 was released. Shit was fun as hell, but the Nightmare difficulty was disappointing to say the least... I played through it and beat it in less than a week where as it took me over a year to finish the FIRST DooM on Nightmare. It lacked the challenge of not knowing when or where your enemies were going to show up. Even then... DooM 3 still had some challenging parts that took a while to get through. Jump forward another few years to games that came out within the last 5 years. At first... they seem hard when the difficulty is set on high... but when you get the hang of the mechanics of the game, it becomes dull and boring and hardly a challenge. Take for example Skyrim. Amazingly brilliant game. Had tons of fun... but the single most disappointing thing about it was that I could set the difficulty level on Master after having only played it for two days and I was completely fine. Skyrim's predecessor, Oblivion has still been an extremely difficult challenge for me when having the difficulty set on anything beyond 50%. I've made it a point to play every game on its hardest difficulty because there is currently almost nothing out there which catches my interest that is even considerable as a challenge. Back when I was still playing Halo, I never thought I would be able to beat it on Legendary without some kind of help... but after realizing there were simple things I could do to avoid the enemy until my shields were back up, it became a simple game of hide-and-seek with guns and grenades. I got Dishonored a few weeks ago and I beat it in three days without even bothering to try a lower difficulty setting. While it was still fun and I enjoyed the game, I always felt like it was missing the thrill of the hunt.

    We're paying $60 for a story told in the form of an interactive puppet who has a hard time making the game fun. The challenge of a game is what makes the game more exciting and it makes beating it feel so much sweeter.

    • Disco
    • January 2, 2013, 12:42 pm
    dark souls is about as close as i can get to DooM on new consoles as far as difficulty
    - MIKYTEY January 4, 2013, 8:28 am
  • 1

    Hmm. I think you all might be playing the wrong games. Sure, games like COD and Borderlands aren't the most difficult things ever, and often don't require much strategy (no matter how unbelievably entertaining B-lands was. At least it got difficult eventually). However, go back and try and have no strategy playing through Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. It doesn't work. Give Ninja Gaiden 2 a try. Super difficult. This might be less an issue of games overall declining in difficulty, and rather a reality where the gaming public has declined in skill, so "popular" games' standard difficulty is a cakewalk. My advice? Play better games.

  • 1

    Games are easier now for a very simple reason. There is more a game can be than difficult. Back in the earlier era of gaming hell even last gen there was only so much you could do with characters and story. In the earlier days studios and publishers had significantly less resources to use so they couldn't pay writers as much to work as long on games. Yes you did get standouts here and there that had those things but today almost every games has at least a good if not great story. If games were as difficult now as they were then players would get frustrated that they couldn't move on to the next bit of story. Most games in the early eras only had that going for them, the only reason to continue playing was to brag that you could get farther than your friends. Now you keep playing to see what happens to characters you like or if the villain you have come to hate with all your being gets what he deserves. That's not to say games are not difficult either, one of my personal favorite games, Skyrim, has a wonderful difficulty curve. It rewards you for training so that you can clear out a dungeon or horrible ass rape tough zombies, and punishes you if you are not ready. Finally most of us remember playing those games as kids, Contra, Castlevania, some Mario levels, Doom, try fitting the time you need to memorize some of those jumps and attack patterns of bosses into your days now. Developers grew up with the same games as we did and they know these things most gamers now would not appreciate a brand new IP that was that punishingly difficult and required that much time. They are a niche market and they have games for them, Dark Souls, Demon Souls exist just for them, they will never be big sellers but they will sell enough for a few games like them to be made and thats fine. I personally only have an hour maybe 2 of free time on a normal workday I and most gamers dont want to spend an entire week of that time fighting one boss over and over trying to memorize his attacks, i want interesting affecting characters and story framed by good solid smooth gameplay that is challenging but not frustrating. I and many others dont want the punishing difficulty of older eras we dont have the time anymore.

  • 1

    4310642  cf0c289c4fc205e04f7ab6d0ffc6ebde - are video games easier than they used to be?

  • 1

    What? Who uses tutorials as a sign of games getting easier. So part of the difficulty was having to figure out you pressed A+B+Select+Start to cycle weapons all on your own? Or grinding your way up to level 60 to not get 1 hit koed by the boss? It's not that games are easier now, it's that there is better game design.

    If you think games are easy nowadays go play Diablo 3 on inferno difficulty with monsters tuned to power level 10. On hardcore mode. Let me know when you beat it.

  • 1

    The hardest game of all time is Ghosts and Goblins. You will be stripped of pride and armor and then killed after you fail 95% of all jumps you attempt.

    Doesn't look so hard.
    - casper667 January 4, 2013, 8:57 pm
  • 1

    Most games have a difficulty selection. If it's too easy, turn it up. Skyrim may be a cake walk on novice, which is what the master setting is for. :D

    That aside, there are other factors. Having the internet to look up skill builds and techniques will make any game less difficult.

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