Video games have gone through several evolutions throughout the years, and difficulty level is one of the most obvious changes.
When I turn on a retro game like Dig Dug or the original Super Mario Bros, I can barely get past the first level. The entire game consists of struggle and frustration.
Nowadays, I find myself completing newer games in a matter of days (which makes them almost boring). At this point it’s obvious that video games have gotten ridiculously easy—but why?
The Truth Behind “Hard” Games
We all know that older games are harder. I’m talking about games like Contra, Ninja Gaiden, and Battletoads. You can’t tell me that you didn’t want to rip out your hair when playing those.
I can understand why the developers back in the day made arcade games painstakingly difficult. They wanted you to put more coins in that machine.
In their eyes, the more times you got a game over, the better. You’ll just end up spending more money once you feel you’ve got the hang of it—but you’ll just keep dying over and over again.
When gaming consoles started coming out, the games were still just as hard, but you didn’t have to keep spending money to get one more try. It just ended up costing you your sanity.
So if gaming consoles couldn’t collect money, then why were old-school console games still so difficult?
The truth is, video games were hard because game developers didn’t have the experience to make them any easier.
In the early days of video games, developers were mainly mathematicians and computer science experts. Video games were built entirely from scratch, which doesn’t encourage an abundance of creativity.
Developers also had technical limitations, such as the tiny storage space on game cartridges. They weren’t able to create eye-catching games with tons of useful features.
Instead, they focused on the gameplay itself rather than graphics and ease-of-use. When you can only fit five levels on a cartridge, why not make them worth your time?
Game Developers Want You to Win
Today, developers have entire engines, plugins, and pre-packaged development kits at their fingertips, making it easier to design user-friendly games with lots more content.
These days, developers want to show off what their amazing technology can do. Developers can produce video games that are hundreds of gigabytes now, giving them tons of freedom in terms of graphics and content.
Developers actually want you to finish their games now. They spent too much time and money on that content to have you quit out of frustration after the first level.
The only way for game developers to show off their work—and make that development time worth the effort—is to make it easy for players to complete.
You no longer have to play games where you spend one hour trying to jump over a single gap in a platform. Every game function has been refined, allowing you to run, jump, and fight with ease.
Combat systems have become more lenient. Your character typically has more health, more actions, more power. Such improvements allow you to run through games much faster.
Attracting the New Wave of Gamers
I don’t want to attack the younger generation, but it’s a known fact that our attention span as a society has been getting worse.
With smartphones, streaming services, and the expansion of the internet, we now have immediate access to information, communication, and entertainment.
Kids don’t have the motivation to play games that don’t offer instant gratification anymore. To accommodate this shift in societal expectations, games have been dumbed down.
Easy games give young gamers confidence, making them want to spend more time and money on the game. When AAA games today are all about microtransactions, developers start pushing out games to satisfy the cravings of young people.
The people who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to gaming difficulty.
Games were hard, and you had to deal with it. When that’s all you have, you’re forced to put up with all the faulty mechanics and outrageous obstacles in a game.
Hard Video Games Still Exist Today
Overall, games didn’t necessarily get harder. They just evolved. Developers have the technology to make games more attractive to every gamer, and some decide to use it.
Some modern games still keep the spirit of retro games alive by creating challenging levels. You just need to know where to look.