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Are games really getting easier?

"Games were so much harder back in the day." Recognize that statement? It's probably one of the most common remarks I witness on gaming sites these days. Older gamers enjoy reminiscing about the hardcore days of gaming, and they're quick to point out how much easier we have it now. But is that just selective memory or are they correct? Being an older gamer, myself, I figured I'd throw my hat in, try to avoid the bias of nostalgia, and take a shot at this question.

Going back a few years, I remembered the killer games of my early gaming days. Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 (the NES version), Ghosts and Goblins, and even Super Mario 3 were ones I never could beat. Remember these bad boys?

ninja_gaidengoblins

No matter how much time I spent on them, I never finished them. Fast forward to more recent times and people rave about the difficulty of games like Demon's Souls for the ps3 and Ninja Gaiden for the original xbox. They certainly were challenging, but they had one thing in common. I beat both of them. So the answer to the initial question seems easy. Of course games are getting easier! But hold up a sec. Apply some critical thinking and suddenly a few problems pop up.

How do you compare the difficulty of games across different generations? Gaming back in the 1980's was a much different process than gaming in the new millenium. There are lots of confouding factors other than gameplay that contribute to how tough a game is to beat. So is gameplay really easier or is it something else? I figured we should look at some aspects of gaming that have changed.

1. INFORMATION

It's very easy to overlook this one, but it's probably the largest reason gaming has become easier. I can almost guarantee that each of you has gotten stuck in a game at some point. No matter what strategy you try, you can't figure out that puzzle or how to beat that boss. If that happens, you most likely jump on your computer, google it, and instantly have access to plenty of guides or strategies on how to beat that specific part. Problem solved. What if you couldnt do that? That's what gamers in the 80's were faced with. Hard to imagine now, but back in the 1980's they didnt have the internet (well not in its current and accessible form). If you got stuck in a game, it was up to you to figure out the solution. No guides. No walkthroughs. No faqs. No strategies on how to take down that pesky boss. Either you bought an expensive game guide or hoped you knew someone whohad the answer. Other than that, you were stuck.

2. SAVES

Any game becomes instantly harder if you can't save your progress. Checkpoints, save points, autosaves, etc. are LIFESAVERS. Try playing through call of duty or halo and having to restart the entire level after any death. Not so easy anymore, is it? That's what people were dealing with back in the early days of gaming. I still remember the dry mouth I'd develop as I'd try to navigate through some areas of super mario 3. One fall, one slip-up and it was back to the start of the level.

As frustrating as that was, imagine having to beat a game in one sitting! We take for granted that we can pick up right where we left off in a game, but that wasn't always the case. Save systems for games in the 1980's were rudimentary at best. Many games had no way of saving. If you turned off the console, your progress was wiped. So if you didnt beat that game in one session, you weren't beating that game. Other games had some way of saving progress, but it was cumbersome.

icarus

Remember inputting those codes? Not only was it time consuming, but it was prone to error. God forbid if you mixed up a zero with an "Oh" or a one with a capital "I". Frustrating.

The advantage of games today is that you can frequently save your progress - often times at will. Eventually, if given enough tries, you can get by most hard areas. Rather than having to go back through 20 minutes of gameplay to reach the point where you died, you can just reload and try that same area again. Massive advantage for the present gamer.

3. LIVES

Kind of similar to the above "Save" section. Many games had a limited number of lives.Run out of lives and you're not just restarting the level, you're restarting the entire game.

lives

4. ADJUSTABLE DIFFICLTY

Not going to spend much time on this as it is pretty self explanatory. Games used to have just one difficulty level. Hard. Now you can frequently adjust multiple factors to control the challenge. If you really cant get past a part, you have an alternative that wasn't there in the past.

So now the answer becomes a little less clear. There have been many innovations in gaming that make it easier to finish a game. Many of them without changing the difficulty of gameplay. If you control for those, then are games really easier than in the past?

Hard to say, but I'd still go with a yes - though no longer the resounding "yes" I had earlier. I believe there are lots of reasons that developers have to make gaming easier. From shorter attention spans to more competition from other developers, the reasons are many. Gamers are getting older and no longer have unlimited amounts of time to spend on one game. If they find it too hard, they'll likely move on. There are just way too many great games out there, to spend all your time on just one vexing game. Plus, from a creative standpoint, dont developers want you to see what they've made? If you spent all this time making wonderful environments, colorful enemies, etc., wouldn't that be a shame if no one could ever reach them? Well those are my thoughts, and I'm sticking to them for now.

Super Bowl

NY Giants vs. New England Patriots. Who ya got? I'm thinking the Giants are the more complete team, but NE defense has really stepped up. Should be a good game. I'm leaning toward the Giants, but anything goes.

Finishing some old games

With the relase of Assasin's Creed Revelations, I finally figured it was time to start Assasin's Creed Brotherhood. Got it cheap for 20$ but hadn't yet opened it. So far it's been decent, but my assasin's creed skills have definitely gotten rusty. I've also forgotten some of the backstory as it's been a while since i played AC 2. Call me slow, but I still cant figure out all the subtle new world order stuff the game throws at me. I guess they don't like Henry Ford cause he is always portrayed as some sinister and nefarious figure. LOL. I thought he just made cars and the assembly line.

Skyrim finished

Or at least as finished as you can be. Over 200 hours and 2 characters later, I banged out every achievement and did every interesting quest I could find. Made myself a nord battlemage character and an argonian assasin. It was fun to mix it up with both characters. My first guy was more of a frontline, toe to toe, brawler. Good armor and good magic buffs made him a stud. My second character was quite different. He was more stealth like and got most of his kills by sneaking up and daggering his opponenet for the big damage multiplier. Not too good in a straight up fight as I went for light armor on him, but fortunately, he didnt have too many of those.

I could see myself coming back to this game later in the year, but as for right now, I'm all skyrim'd out.

Happy New Year

Hard to believe another year is gone already. Hope you find success and happiness in the new one. Happy New Year, friends.

Road Rage

Drove home this holiday to visit the parents and family. Usually about 370 miles each way, so it takes me about 5+ hours of driving. Nice thing about Michigan and parts of Ohiois the 70 mph speed limit. Given that most of the roads I take are about 3 lanes each way, you would assume that traffic wouldnt be bad. You would be wrong. Call me inpatient but I hate discourteous drivers. I still have no idea why people stay camped out in the passing lane when they aren't passing anyone. You would think they would get a clue when they look in their rear view mirror and see a line of 10 cars backing up behind them. You would think they would get the idea when everyone starts passing them on the right. You would think they would use the other 2 lanes to drive 10 under the limit. Once again, you would be wrong. I swear this is what backs up traffic - if people would just yield to faster moving traffic it would be an ideal system.

One other thing that drives me nuts is when I pass somebody and they speed up. I usually drive the same speed - about 10 over the limit - so my speed doesnt change. They pass me, then slow down and I have to pass them again. Repeat cycle. Annoying.

Well, what's your peeve about driving?

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays

Hope everyone is spending some good time with their families and friends for the holidays. I made it home to visit my family in Pennsylvania this year. No snow but a little chilly. Lots of good food last night and looking forward to a nice dinner tonight. Enjoy the Holidays!

Skyrim - 140 hours and counting.

At least that's what my saved games seems to suggest. Not sure if I've actually played that many hours, but I often leave the game on pause when watching TV and such. Fun game. I've beaten the mainquest and most of the guild storylines - though the thieves guild achievement takes a while even after beating the last quest in that line. Despite all this time, I've barely scratched the surface of all the content. Tons of little quests and easter eggs in the game. Plus, I now have a strong desire to go back and play through with a different character using a different strategy.

Couple of bugs here or there, but nothing too bad. The occasional dragon on crack that goes whizzing around, but it's more amusing than annoying. Especially when you put dragonrend on them and they land 30 miles away - at rocket speed.

Happy Thanksgiving, Turkeys

For those of you who celebrate, have a good holiday. For those from other countries, enjoy your respective holidays and feasts.

I'm up in NYC for this one, visiting some family. Left on Tuesday to avoid the massive traffic rush. Looking forward to a good meal with family and then some US football games - the Lions are actually decent this year.

Half Marathon Finished

Just did the Detroit Half Marathon - all 13.1 miles of it. Lots of fun. Starts in detroit, but you cross the bridge into Windsor, Canada and then loop back into Detroit through a tunnel. Good crowds on both sides of the border that helped to cheer you onwards. Turnout was great despite the gloomy weather, but fortunately no downpours.

Ran about 1 hour and 33 minutes for my time which beat my personal record, so I'm pretty happy with the result. Now if only I could walk . . . . My legs are so sore right now.