It happened more than a dozen years ago. I was playing a new PC game called Diablo II with some buddies and liking it very much. About an hour into the game, my character was killed by an arrow-shooting monster, and my head dropped to my chest. Damn. I’d have to start over.
“But, wait,” my friends said. “No need to start over.”
When a character dies in Diablo II, he or she simply reappears back in town without any of the equipment or items previously accumulated. And the lost equipment and items remain on the ground where your character died, so while it can be tricky to get back there without any weapons or armor, it is doable. And you have all the time in the world to accomplish it.
In short, the game has no risk. There are no life-or-death battles taking place within the game. It is simply a means of item-accumulation.
While I kept playing because my friends were playing with me, the joy in playing the game was gone.
It’s why I eventually became a griefer, finding a way to circumvent the rules of the game in order to kill players (also not normally allowed) and strip them of the items that they had spent hundred of hours accumulating.
The game needed genuine risk to be worthwhile.
So when I came upon this graphic illustrating the difference between the video games of my youth and the games of today, it made sense to me.
There was a time when dead meant dead in video games. When finishing a game was only possible for the most skilled players. When you would literally be drenched in sweat upon defeating the game’s boss.
Hell, there was a time when every game cost 25 cents to play. That made the stakes extraordinarily high.
But as video games moved exclusively into the home and the video game industry looked to expand beyond its base of hardcore gamers, it sought to create games that would appeal to a more casual gamer. The new games allowed players to experience the fun of playing the game without having to make a serious commitment in order to become good.
The risk-reward was removed from most games, including Diablo II.
This is probably why I play significantly fewer video games today. It has nothing to to with age.
It’s all about the stakes, or the lack thereof.