Steve Gaynor on his Fullbright blog makes the case that gaming has become more popular, more successful, because it has opened itself up and become more accessible.

Way back when HM was kid, the video game industry was being formed by two different types of consumer.

There were the arcadies, the ones that were happy to put every spare coin into their arcade machine lovers – games designed to fail you, ever hungry for your currency. The arcadies wanted to get better and quicker and more efficient, to hardcore their score. They graduated onto consoles: Atari VCS, Colecovision, Intellivision and beyond  onto home computers.

On the other side, were the technomonks, the enthusiasts who saw computing as something to marvel at, something to study. The home computing industry was built on these people. They were happy to learn the foibles of the machines, to know their electron dance. They were hardcore in a learned way – and were more than happy to play games which required dedication and commitment. The flight simulators, the text adventures with impossible puzzles (unless you played Infocom, at least they were generally fair), the role-playing games supporting the full AD&D rules. And, unless you had floppies, these babies took a long time to load up in the halcyon days of fragile cassette tape.

It is then no wonder that the original gaming movement was the very peak of inaccessibility, dedication being the price of entry. While there were sedate or family-oriented experiences out there, the big sellers were the ones appealing to this psychotic masochism of heavy gameplay – whether mental or physical.

But it would not last. Machine interfaces became friendly and smiley, as the computing world developed the field of HCI; this fed into gaming. And, hell, it turned out that the more accessible the game, the more sales. Continues, checkpoints, save games became the norm rather than the exception. Games became more fun.

And now we are here. HM was once part-technomonk, part-arcadie, now he is all bitter old man. He waves his fist at the dumbing down of gaming with its automatic difficulty adjustment, its Valve-supertuned Half Lives, its tutorial levels. You should scorn him, tell him progress is good. The people are meant to play, not just the arrogant elite.

But pause, reader – it’s well known that hardly anyone finishes games any more. Maybe all this progress is illusion.

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