When Games' Fake Difficulty Forced You To Buy Them
We asked readers to name something about old video games that they're glad new games don't have. Their answers varied a lot, because "old video games" is a very broad term and can mean a lot of different things depending on when you grew up. To Daniel G., Resident Evil 4 is an old game, and he's happy that companions have better AI now. To Leigh H., on the other hand, an old game was the sort you had to load using a tape drive.
Rebecca M. recalls the chore of having to clean off corrosion from cartridges, the sort of corrosion those unfamiliar with that era might still know from leaky batteries in remote controls. Kristen W. picked "that awful sing-song electronic music that just repeated a short set of musical tones over and over." Thanh Huynh points to the cost of 16-bit games. People are complaining now that mainstream games are getting their first price increase in a decade, but games used to be much more expensive, once you factor in inflation.
"I'd rather tell you what I dislike about what new games have that old games didn't have," said Ryan W. "Microtransactions." You might notice that this is the exact opposite of what we asked for. But Austin C. swept in and pointed out that arcades were the original dealers in microtransactions, and as Bryan W. noted, "Can't forget that they purposefully made games harder and added extra sections just because of the rental market."
It's true. Renting games used to be much more of a thing in those days, and if you could finish the whole game in the weekend you rented it, you probably wouldn't buy a copy of your own.
In fact, you didn't even have to finish the game to reduce your chance of buying it. In the mid-'90s, Disney Software believed that most kids who rented a game didn't expect to finish it. But if they even made sufficient progress in the game, the kid would consider that they'd got a satisfying experience and would skip on buying it and playing the rest. For that reason, the company demanded that programmers keep players from getting very far at all in their first several play sessions.
We get that info from Louis Castle, creative director for 1994's The Lion King SNES game. The Lion King was an especially punishing platformer, hard for anyone to play, let alone the young kids to whom Disney marketed it.
It’s possible that, even today, some games are artificially hard just to pad the length. That's why, today, all such games should include Easy Mode, a statement that we trust should cause no controversy whatever.
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