Teach us about game design, that is. Gamasutra has the first part of a new series on 'Game Design Essentials,' a lengthy entry by John Harris on twenty difficult games (mostly oldies-but-goodies) and what their challenges illuminate about game design. It's an interesting (if lengthy) trip down memory lane.
The impulse to make video games easier can be traced to a fundamental change in perception over what a game should be. The older school of thought, which dates back and beyond the days of Space Invaders to the era of pinball, is that a game should measure the player's skill.
Arcade games, in fact, must make it difficult for a player to last for any great length of time in order to keep money coming into the coin box. The newer concept is that a game should provide an experience to the player. The player is to feel like some character, or like he's participating in a story, or that he's making some difference in a fictional realm.
I'm curious to see what other 'game design essentials' will be springing forth from this series. The really difficult game installment does make a point - if a game is really fun, ridiculous difficulty doesn't have to be a negative. On the other hand, I'm not so sure designers want to (or should) start shooting for the kind of difficulty that makes people fling down their controlers never to pick them up again.
Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games [Gamasutra]