A long, long time ago, I can still remember when video games were actually challenging. By today’s standards they were simplistic graphically, pong, pac-man, and F1 pole position were the games of my childhood. I ran the blue bomber (that’s Mega-man to most of us) through numerous levels and defeated the evil Dr. Wiley after conquering his creations with names like “Cut man” and “Elec man”. I charged across the plains of Hyrule, to save Princess Zelda from the evil Gannon, all the while wondering if every 3rd step I would trigger a random encounter. I helped Tera escape the clutches of Kefka with his Bevis and Butthead references, nearly destroyed the world in the process only to later redeem it from Kefka’s rule. I discovered the negative levels in Super Mario Brothers, and defeated the evil Mother Brain. To sum it up I’ve been playing games a while now, they make up some of my earliest memories. From playing pong, all the way up to bashing monsters in the latest MMO’s games have been a constant in my life.
One of the changes I’ve seen has mirrored the cultural changes we see in the world around us. More and more games are given towards instant gratification of the player. I started playing SWTOR during closed Beta, and was surprised (though thrilled) to see Force Lighting as a lvl 2 skill. Needless to say Sith Inquistors were and are very popular, but it doesn’t stop there. The majority of the Jedi and Sith classes, gain “Master” and “Lord” titles fairly early in their story line. They have tons of more story to complete, and they have already been granted high ranking titles to gratify the player. The entire concept of “Achievements” in games is geared towards instant gratification, you go out bash a few bunnies and this pop up appears “Achievement unlocked ‘Wabbit Slayer'”. Leveling used to serve much the same purpose, though it created a backlash as power gaming became popular. These days mechanics and puzzles have been simplified to the point where people eat through content in a matter of days on what was intended to be a multi-month endeavor.
I’m not blaming it all on Developers, a large part of the issue is the internet itself. It is so easy these days to find out how to get past that tricky scenario or the best strategy to defeat a boss, you simply go to Google, or Youtube. Players these days especially those that are most passionate about gaming often are the one’s that are the most “tech-savy”, yes some of us that were Gen-X gamers are pretty tech savy, but what kids are taught in school far outstrips what was available to people my age (Mid-30’s). I remember when programming in school was limited to QBasic, these days kids are learning Java, C++, and C# in class. I wonder what would happen if I set one of todays 10 year olds down with a copy of Oregon Trail or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Would the enjoy the game as much as I did? What about Pac-man? I know even half a generation down the pipe respect for Final Fantasy VI is much lower than for Final Fantasy VII, even though story, character, and depth wise FFVI is almost always rated superior by professional journalists.
Maybe I’m just cynical when it comes to games these days, maybe in another 30 years I’ll be yelling at some damn kids to “Get off my Lawn”. Who knows.