I’m working on a bit of original content here for the site, but I saw this and had to post and comment on it.
On Insomnia.ac they’ve just put up an excellent commentary on Arcade Culture. To briefly summarize, Japan still has an arcade industry that is thriving, unlike the US, and that industry and culture represent more about what games used to be about and in his mind should also still be about.
The issue comes down in many ways to difficulty. Arcade games are supposed to be difficult to make you loose. This way you have to spend more to play more. The difference between us and Japan – we continue, and loose quickly again, where in Japan, you play with one credit, and when you loose, you don’t continue, you start over at the beginning again.
I love this idea. I played with the pocket full of tokens when I was younger, playing just to keep playing and never really getting better at games because I didn’t think I had to. I always had more tokens in my pocket to play with! But with the one credit, no continue way of playing you actually are forced to get better at the game. To master it.
Think of it this way. When life is cheap, you are not focused on becoming better. Think of the Contra Code. 30 lives! And you needed them! Badly! Contra was hard. My wife and I were replaying through this recently (Merry Christmas Jess!) and after playing through it a few times with the 30 lives, both she and I found that we could make it through all of levels 1 and 2 loosing only 1 or 2 men. Contra isn’t so difficult that it cannot be completed without the plethora of extra men, but like many we rely on them with the later stages, but through practice we’d been able to finish levels based on skill, not 30 extra guys.
Many modern console games hold your had way too much. They make things easier, saves are quick and plentiful and truly there isn’t much use for “lives” anymore when you can always just load your game, or use your unlimited continues. This isn’t to say I don’t like that though. With family and work, you don’t always have the time to spend plodding through level 1 just to get to the point you were stuck at yesterday on level 2 again, but at the same time I want my games to be a bit more difficult.
I’ve never beaten Super Mario Brothers. Not even with continues. This is more to do with my skill level in the game, and my not putting the time in to improve. The game starts you from the beginning each and every time you play, and it’s up to you to have the skill to complete it. I’ve completed Super Mario World though. All I had to do with it, was continue from my saves and keep plugging away on the same level I left off at. There is a big difference.