In one of my many nights of 1 hour+ before falling asleep, a topic crossed my mind that led to some fairly deep (for me) conclusions. Specifically, about failure states in games; difficulty got tacked on a bit at the end.
Much of my childhood was spent in front of some sort of screen - a television or a computer. We were a Nintendo family on the console side, and we didn't do much outside of shareware discs for PC. But, I was putting all of it through its paces every day. And we're not talking the kids' games of today - more like the mainstream (before it was such, of course), with core titles and various offshoots and strange licensed titles, all geared for young adults and adults alike; good and bad and downright terrible.
Of all of those, though, they just about universally shared a high degree of difficulty. Nearly non-existent were the times one could sit down and claim victory in a single session. Even for heavily-practiced titles (and as I believe I've made clear, they were heavily practiced) success was seldom achieved. And yet, I would go back time and time again, fail again, try again, ad nauseum.
So this got me thinking recently - just why did I do it? It's not much of a stretch to call failure a universally undesirable outcome, no matter who you are. And as a child, failure often carries with it so much more weight than we assign in our older years. I bet if you add up all the time I spent playing games, all the successes and failures together, victory and the celebration thereof would likely clock in at less then 1% of the total.
Think about that - less than 1%. And here I am, years later, still contributing to that figure, and almost assuredly still under 1%. Sure, now there's more cursing, but it's really the same kind of thing now as it was then. And you know what? I say that's probably the best thing that could have happened. I wasn't coddled by those games, I didn't have my hand held. They spat in my faces, tore my hearts out, trampled my lifeless corpses, then had the gall to say "game over" and (maybe the less merciful) "better luck next time".
What kind of a person would I be now, if the numbers were reversed? 99% victory, 1% failure? Would I be more confident? Would I feel entitled? And what would happen when I did fail? Would I so readily go back to it, give it another go? Probably not.
I've often considered myself able to handle failure (in- and out-of-game) fairly well, and now I have some understanding as to why - I've steeled myself for it all my life. It makes me smile, to know that gaming has had such a tangible, positive effect; and it also makes me a little giddy to know that I can pass on that same feeling, that same strengthening of character; and that many of the titles I play today still exude that same merciless, unforgiving charm.