At the beginning of time, before we knew what video games were, let alone addictive games, the emergence of video games in our lives brought about a series of demands to which we were not used to.
Especially as it was a form of leisure that included a screen, where until shortly before the arrival of arcades and video games, the only thing that was done on a screen, in a completely passive way, is to watch movies and television programs.
The combination of several factors made the difficulty of these early video games tremendously high. On one hand, technology was not enough for several stages or environments to entertain us with, much less to tell complex stories like the ones we can experiment with in the current systems; it was necessary to make the games fast, very demanding, that kept the player’s tension to avoid boredom. That turned it into extremely addictive games. On the other hand, the birth of video games was closely linked to the appearance of the first arcade games, so it was normal that the difficulty of these was high to increase profits. The first Pong arcade that was put to the test in a bar broke down the first afternoon it was running: its coin box got stuck. The balance between difficulty and profit was perfect.
It has always been said that “old-fashioned” games were more difficult and we could not agree more with that statement; the fact that games were addictive was a key element in raising money. The point is, for those of us who are already a little older, we have seen video games evolve from the extremely difficult Pong or Pac-Man, to modern titles, authentic timeless references, such as Dark Souls or God of War… Which are also examples of complexity and difficulty. The point is that between them, the world of video games has evolved and different trends have been set that were changing the difficulty in a very arbitrary way.
At a time when video games were sophisticated enough to tell stories, on the same level as a movie, the difficulty of allowing anyone to enjoy their narrative was set aside. Many titles of the PS2 or PS3 generation fell into this “error”, so to speak (there was a Prince of Persia game where you couldn’t die, literally), but they allowed many users who weren’t used to playing, and were afraid of “failing at the drop of a hat”, to get close to video games. At this point, most video games were no longer so complicated, but they attracted a different kind of audience looking for a story, beyond the addictive gaming fans looking for increasingly difficult challenges.
Now, with retro fashion at its peak, with those players who were afraid of “losing” already fully involved in the videogame world, and with titles that perfectly combine the most cinematographic narrative with a demand for the controls worthy of the recreation of the’80s, indie titles are born: simple in appearance, but with an extremely demanding mechanics.
Those coin-op games that emptied our pockets every weekend are child’s play next to them; the concept of “addictive games” makes sense again years after the 8-bit computers and the old classic arcade games.
The clearest reference to these titles is undoubtedly the coin-op games found at the arcades. Everything around you kills you, you have to measure every move, every jump… Every game is a test of your reflexes and your coordination.
And that, after having lived through the era of arcades and, later, of “being immortal”, is a real pleasure… even if it sometimes makes us desperate. If we succumb to these addictive games we can’t stop playing, but if we can’t manage our frustration, we may not want to play any more!
As we said, Dark Souls, BloodBorne, Nioh, even God of War are examples of a very high difficulty, but the real essence of the classics has returned in the form of indie games.
One of the first references in this sub-genre is Super MeatBoy: a simple-looking platform with 8/16-bit graphics, but where every mistake is rewarded with instant death… Something that, far from boring, makes it a tremendously addictive game!