Game development over the last decade or so, has had quite a few drastic changes. These changes are not only revolving around visual improvements, but also about how gamers have changed along with their needs. Game developers have clearly changed the focuses of their creations.
90s gaming was all about top-down RPGs, Westwood RTS epicness, Square Enix masterpieces and the huge amount of FPS giants that many games build upon even today. In the 90s and before, and perhaps even the early 2000s, a ton of games were not only hard to beat, but also extremely long in play time. They had firm stories, lovable or hateable characters and environments not that were not beautiful because of fancy graphics, but because of their complexity and atmosphere.
Today, almost too many games have followed Blizzard’s “simplification” approach. It often seems like developers see gamers becoming lazier, and not open to discover things by themselves, but with a need to be told what to do and how to do it as fast as possible. There are always exceptions of course, but currently it feels like game developers have a main approach that revolves around two things: simplicity and fancy visuals. Background stories have been noticeably becoming weaker, as many gamers have started to ignore them completely and focus on competitive play and showing off achievements.
This is something that you can easily spot in the MMORPG industry as well, as the huge amount of titles that are pumped out every year often bring along an extremely weak storyline and feel like short-term ways to squeeze out money then shut down. If you look at World of Warcraft, or many other similar MMORPGs, the game’s system has been regularly simplified, making it “easier” for players to make choices from less possibilities, and sort of destroying the whole personalized character feel.
Are gamers getting lazier? It is hard to tell, and would be too much of a generalizing approach. Players are often happy about patches and updates that make processes in games easier and require less effort, but in a short while they will usually realize that if something is too easy to obtain or a boss is too easily defeated, then interest will be lost quickly. It would be really important for game developers to look beyond forum complaints about difficult content and complex play styles, and instead look back to the past where difficult games with massive background stories actually worked, even when they upset the players. Today, many games have become too easy to beat, short of content and weak in story.
I truly hope, that one day, game developers will be able to realize that some people will always complain, and it is in our nature that if we can’t beat something, it has to be nerfed, but this does not necessarily mean that if it becomes easier we will stick to the game. Storylines should not be additional side dishes, but should serve as the main idea that any game is built around.