One day last year, I visited my father's middle school math class for part of a day. He introduced me not just as his son but also as someone who wrote about videogames for a profession, guessing that would arouse some interest in the kids. He gave them a few moments of class time to ask me questions, and after what seemed like much longer than ten minutes of them mostly asking about my beard, they went off to lunch. After the little interview, I stayed in the room and spoke with my father about his job. He talked about the children's quick frustration with new concepts and their complete disinterest in, well, everything. They had nowhere near the patience necessary to learn and not even the most basic ambition to do anything in the future. Granted, these kids are in middle school, the Dark Ages between elementary school Antiquity and high school Renaissance. However, I couldn't help but find many similarities between my father's perceived change in children today and the game industry's current state.
Games have found new ways to squeeze in more reward while eliminating as much frustration as possible.
My father belongs to that first generation of gamers, the ones that honest-to-God enjoyed playing Pong, so naturally I love to talk to him about the ways the medium has changed. I was born only a few years before the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis console war began, but my first games were those my dad still had lying around: a graphic adventure game or two, arcade classics like Q*Bert and Crystal Castles ported to an Atari computer, and even that evergreen topic of videogame violence discussions, Doom. Needless to say, I wasn't very good at any of them. For one, I hardly had the motor skills to play, considering I had only just started walking. For another, games of that era were hard. I liked the arcade titles because they were just about score accumulation; they couldn't be beaten anyway, and without the real arcade cabinet punishment of quarter expenditure, I could enjoy them freely without appreciating their difficulty. But the other titles, especially some of the adventure games (which I only realize now that I've gone back to play them for nostalgia value), were cruelly difficult. Beating them requires unbelievable devotion and effort, and at some point, my father had the time to actually do just that. I tell him about games today and how the philosophy of difficulty could not be more different. Over time, games have found new ways to squeeze in more reward while eliminating as much frustration as possible.