Remember When Video Games Used to Be Tough?

Posted on by Jason Arango (jarango)
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At the risk of sounding like I'm sick of kids rough-housing around on my lawn, I'm going to date myself as an old fogey and make the blanket statement that kids today are overly coddled. I'm not talking about the douchebag kids that roll their eyes at any car without a video screen in the backseat...

Seriously though, what an a-hole.

Or even the kids who get a participation medal from their softball team despite spending the bulk of every game sitting in the dirt out in right field. I'm talking about the kids who think they should be able to beat every single video game they play just by picking up a controller and putting in enough time.

There was an era not long ago when beating a video game actually meant something. It meant you'd sacrificed countless hours perfecting patterns, honing your skills, and even gotten a few lucky breaks along the way. As a part of the 8-Bit Nintendo generation, I grew up being constantly bitch slapped by the harsh reality that sometimes you're just not going to be able to win.

At the age of 8, trying to beat the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game probably ate up about ten-percent of my life, and even then I was consistently destroyed within minutes of setting foot inside the Technodrome.

Disarming the bombs was annoying, but Shredder was nearly impossible.

That game was ludicrously difficult for a kid, and yet it taught not only perseverance, but the even more important lesson that no matter how hard you work, you can still fail. On top of that, games like Battletoads and Back to the Future instilled the value that sometimes things are so stupidly hard they're barely worth attempting in the first place.

Playing Back to the Future on NES was about as fun as chewing broken glass.

Unfortunately, in making the transition to higher quality graphics and more realistic gameplay, something got lost in the equation: the challenge. It's hard to argue that blockbuster games like the Halo series, Modern Warfare, Gears of War, and Bioshock aren't at least impressive to look at, but it's a lot easier to argue that beating them is an absolute breeze.

Instead of hopelessly lugging your injured body around the map searching for a med-kit that might have been overlooked, all you need to do is crouch behind cover for a few seconds and you'll be instantly healed. Sure, you can mitigate some of this by cranking up the difficulty settings, but even so, there's little reason you can't just keep trying over and over again until you get it right. It's not like your character has a limited number of lives or continues.

Compound the insta-heal gripe with the even more offensive idea of infinite respawns, in which the character magically reappears after each death but surrounding enemies continue to show damage from each previous attempt, and you've got yourself a game that's almost impossible not to beat. Most people who played it absolutely loved BioShock, and I was no different, but being able to go after a Big Daddy with nothing but a melee weapon over and over again until it finally keeled over in a combination of disgust and boredom diminished a bit of the fun.

Even if I suck, I'll win the war of attrition.

The bigger problem however, comes from kids thinking beating these games is actually an achievement. There's nothing impressive about spending 10 hours beating a game in which you literally can't lose.

It's not that great video games aren't still being made -- they most certainly are. It's just that the kids of today are being spoiled into thinking that when something's too hard you can either decrease the difficulty and try again or just keep at it until you win by default. Either way, that's probably not the best life lesson to instill.

Far be it from me to critique an entire generation based on almost no evidence whatsoever, but the next time I hear some bratty kid whine about how a level in Black Ops is too difficult, I'm going to sit them down and make them give Contra a try. At the very least, they'll learn a valuable lesson in cheating. And after all, isn't that what life's all about?

Have video games gotten too easy?

4188 views & 26 votes

Debate It! 4

OMFG - I remember Goonies for the NES. I must have spent HOURS trying to just get past the 1st level. That game was next to impossible.

Posted By Streko,

No question about this. Bubble Bobble was hard, it took patience and strategy. Bioshock's auto re-spawn really took some of the interest out of the game for me. Especially when I read a review, and the guy said something to the effect of "finally, someone realized that there's no point in lives or starting over. If you die, you're taken back to the last Vita-Chamber."
At first I thought, 'oh, well that's kinda handy,' then I played it, and one of the toughest/scariest video game atmospheres and monsters was reduced to simply being a task.
Games can have great stories and still be hard. I don't want to play a movie.

Posted By Syzlak,

personally i believe that game should be challenging, thats the point. BUT... Dara O'Briain makes a good point...

Posted By rd,

the family computer console brings back memories of wanting to crash the entire donkey kong castle

Posted By dylancayleb,

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