If you play MMO’s you will hear a lot of people talk about the experience of being old school. Take for instance a game like World of Warcraft, there are many players who feel if you did not play when the game was brand new you just don’t have the knowledge and experience to be one of the elite. Some go as far as to say that if you did not play an even older game, Everquest for example, then you don’t understand what it is like to play a really hardcore MMO. Since I played both I can understand that going through things in Everquest such as losing experience when you die, losing all your stuff because you could not retrieve your body and never getting to see that endgame boss because another guild was just better than you is something you most likely won’t experience in World of Wacraft.
It got me thinking about gaming in general. For those of us who grew up playing Atari 2600, Commodore 64 and the NES many of the games for those systems offered a very harsh learning curve. Take the first Ninja Gaiden, it was one of those games that could seriously raise your blood pressure. You had to perfectly time your jumps while slashing enemies that would re-spawn if you fell backwards. If you died you would start far away from where you were and you only had a limited amount of continues. Many of the games today you can continue almost exactly where you died and you can continue as many times as you like.
However, the case can be made that there were simpler patterns to games of the past and once you learned them they were just as easy. In Everquest many of the early enemies were defeated in the exact same way so once you knew the pattern it was not too hard to defeat. Today the AI offered can be tweeked to offer more of a challenge and even randomness to the encounters you face. In the end the question is are we only talking about learning a pattern that only takes time to master or are games today actually harder because there are more things to learn overall.
It could be said that if you learned jumping and moving on the fly in Super Mario Bros you could then apply that to Ninja Gaiden. If you were good at one vertical side-scrolling shooter then you could beat them all. Can the same be applied to an adventure game? If you were good at Resident Evil then would you naturally be good at Silent Hill?
Overall our experiences with games in the past be it twenty years ago or one year ago will affect how we play the next game. If your hand eye coordination is high then that alone will give you an advantage on the next new game. I can say from experience that learning to play Quake 2 with the hook and using only the rail gun made me a better player in Counter Strike so it is obvious that the more games you play the better you will become.
An x-factor could be age. If you were ten years old when playing NES games and are now in your thirties then going back and playing them might be a bit more difficult. This could be for many reasons from lowered hand eye coordination to a change in interest to that type of game. Today most gamers would not want to sit in a single room waiting to kill one monster that may not spawn and if it does may not drop the reward you want, that was how it was in Everquest. If that happened in World of Warcraft there would be a revolt. We all have changed over time and in addition new types of games have come on the scene. Women gamers and people over the age of fifty playing games are at an all time high and games have to adapt to the changing demographics.
My verdict is that because of the wide array of games available in the late eighties and early nineties that to be a true well rounded gamer took much more time and skill. There may have been your standard hack and slash games, but there were also many unique and challenging games especially on early computer systems. If you were one to try out every game you could get your hand on you quickly found out how hard some of these games really were and if you were able to beat them you were a much better gamer.
Want to test this out yourself? Load up a game like Battletoads. If there is one game that can test the frustration level of a gamer it is Battletoads. Next try and find a new game that matches that level. Honestly if you can beat Battletoads without flipping out and kicking your dog then you are pretty pro.