There's a lot of hand holding in games these days. There was a time when developers would go out of their way to make their creations as challenging as possible; they'd be purposefully obtuse and impenetrable for all but the most skilled players.
Over the years these types of games have been forced to step aside and make way for what developers would probably brand as 'approachable' or 'user friendly' experiences.
For most one thing or another has facilitated this change. Some of us would rather be told an engrossing story or explore a well-crafted world. While others simply don't have the kind of hours a challenging games demands. And in those situations the last thing developers want to do is deliver difficult experiences.
It makes perfect sense. But we can't help but feel like we're missing out on the 'challenge' and 'satisfaction' feedback loop that games are uniquely equipped to provide. You can probably guess what's spurred this...
From Software's Dark Souls has received almost universally positive critical acclaim, with the majority of review scores landing in the 9/10 range and focusing on its overwhelming difficulty and the incomparable satisfaction it offers.
'Challenging' and 'gratifying' are inexplicably underused accolades these days. When pushed to think about it we can't really recall very many recent games that have left us feeling fulfilled.
Barring the floaty numbers of dose-of-drug RPGs and shooters such as World of Warcraft or Modern Warfare, most games are either entertaining but rarely challenging cinematic experiences or going-through-the-motions multiplayer offerings.
Which begs the question: Are games too easy?
We understand that not all games can be like Dark Souls, nor should they be. Its brand of difficulty is prohibitively sadistic by design and it seems to have been created appeal to a minority of gamers, but that doesn't mean developers should ignore what it's brought - or brought back - to the table.
Every once in a while a game will come along and really put our skills to the test, and it's usually these titles that are the most memorable.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Meat Boy are easily two of this generation's hardest titles, but both have achieved critical and sales success by cleverly balancing difficulty with accessibility.
Both games, along with classics such as Mega Man and Contra, rely on simple gameplay mechanics but use thoughftful design to put the player's mastery over these basic gameplay mechanics to the test. This means that pretty much anyone can pick up and play the games but the real fun lies in pushing through to overcome the challenges.
At their cores both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls are the same, and rely on these classic design sensibilities. The mechanics of both games are easy to get to grips with, it's the world around you and how you navigate through it that you need to be mindful of.
These are proof that it's possible for games to be challenging without being pull-your-hair-out difficult. With a little more thought paid to design games could do the same without resorting to being overly difficult like Dark Souls or incredibly cheap like Call of Duty's Veteran modes.
What say you readers? Do you think games are too easy, do you feel they provide enough of a challenge, or are you content with what they offer? Let us know in the comments below.