It can't be a coincidence that the games I've enjoyed playing most in the past year have been games that consistently punished me. Trials Evolution, Dark Souls — playing these games becomes an interesting process of defeat, struggle, and ultimate reward. Speaking at IndieCade QWOP creator Bennett Foddy claimed that, by watering down the difficulty of your game, you are essentially creating an "easy listening" version of it.
"Video games now protect you from that kind of suffering," said Foddy, as reported by Polygon, "eliminating frustration and pain to increase the amount time you spend with a game.
"When you suffer in a game, it makes failure matter. You're going to try harder."
Interestingly, Foddy believes that implementing fail states is unique way for developers to play with gamers.
"[W]hy would frustration feel good? Why would confusion or humiliation be nice?” he asked. “I think one reason is it represents the developer playing with the player."
It's an interesting point of view. So many games are scared to truly punish players, but for something to be truly rewarding, there must be consequence. Being lost in games, or struggling against something with fair results, can often lead to bigger pay offs, and more compelling interactions. There's a balance of course but, for now, it seems as though its shifting in the wrong direction.
Foddy would like to take things to the extreme.
"I'd like to have an anti-ergonomic game where it's physically challenging to play the game," he said, "and you could say to your friends 'I played for three hours, and I had to go to the hospital.'"