Monday, May 20, 2013 | 01:20 PM | by

I'll admit, at first glance it's kind of funny seeing all these people struggle with games that are twenty years old (an example, if you haven't seen these compilations floating around. Thanks to Neogaf forums for this one). My first reaction is similar to those found in the articles and comments accompanying these images: Gamers these days can't cut it in "real" games.

But let's be honest... if hints and tips had been quite so easily and freely accessible in the 80's and 90's, a ton of gamers from that era would have used them just as quickly. I don't think the lack of the option for this sort of help necessarily means our generation was better gamers. It just means we often had no choice but to smash our faces against the problem until a solution presented itself.

And there's value in that too... it forced the development of some critical thinking and problem solving skills I'm sure. But again, the Miiverse is likely a small cross-section of people playing these classic Nintendo games, and the percentage of those getting stuck and asking to be walked through could very well be the same as gamers in the 90's who bought strategy guides and called tip lines. It's just far more visible now.

With that said, though, I do believe there is a gap in difficulty between the generations of games. Todays games are prettier, and more complex, for sure. But they've all moved away from some of the core design mechanics that create a sense of challenge in favor of "the experience", and making sure everybody can access "the experience."

Infinite continues is a good example. When I was a kid, infinite continues was something you only got through a cheat code. But nowadays you're hard-pressed to find a game that A) features "lives" as an expendable commodity and B) actually ends the game when you run out of them. There are reasons for this of course, chief among them the move towards more story-oriented gameplay, but the result is still an overall easier experience. When you make failure in games trivial, and at worst a minor inconvenience, you take away from the challenge.

In the original Everquest, if you died, you lost experience. You also had to run back to your corpse to retrieve all of your gear, or risk losing it forever. Running through zones naked could sometimes result in additional deaths, and it was possible to lose multiple levels. Dying sucked in Everquest, but it added an enormous emotional charge to dungeoneering, because your life in-game was actually worth something: your time. A lot of it.

Nowadays when you die in an MMO maybe you have a stat penalty for a few minutes. A minor inconvenience.

I realize that this is the video game equivalent of "When I was your age, I had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways..." but I really find myself wondering how kids born in the past decade view their current games versus the classics. Do they perceive a noticeable difficulty gap?

Some games, like Demon's/Dark souls, throwback to the days of tougher video games, and find a large portion of their popularity because of it. I think a lot of gamers crave a hard and unforgiving experience, and the sense of achievement that comes with beating it that is above and beyond some arbitrary digital trophy or gamerscore. And it isn't just people who grew up in the 80s/90s either. The newer generation of gamer enjoys them too.

So I wonder if there isn't just something fundamental in a gamer that craves the real challenge most video games these days are shying away from.

Khloe and Korra

Monday, May 20, 2013 | 01:21 PM | by

It's been over a month since we lost Simon. I think about him every day, and I miss him every moment. There isn't a single thing I own that I wouldn't give up to have him back. It gets easier, as time goes on, to focus on all the good memories he left us with, and smile. Somedays it still hits me harder than others, though.

We've mourned in a variety of ways... we framed some of our favorite pictures and hung them. His picture is the wallpaper for both my computer and my phone, so that I can still see him every day. Next week I'll finally be getting a tattoo that I've been procrastinating on for years, part of which includes two little paw prints, one for Simon and one for Kaylee. Still though, I found myself looking for something more pro-active and constructive to do in his memory. With all of his health problems, we spent so much time and energy helping him. And now he's gone and we can't help him anymore.

But there are other dogs that need help. So in Simon's honor, Britanny and I have connected with our local no-kill shelter, and volunteered as a foster home for animals in need. Not all animals that come through shelters are immediately ready for adoption, and the shelters don't have the space to house them all. Some are too young, some are recovering from injuries, and some have been neglected and need a chance to socialize before they're ready to be adopted. This is where foster homes come in.

The permanant spot in our home and our lives still very much belongs to Simon, and it's going to be a long time before we're ready to adopt a new dog. However we love animals, and we feel that with as much love as Simon gave us, this is the best way we can honor that gift. We can be there to help these animals during a crucial transition period, and help get them ready to find a loving forever home.

Yesterday we were called in for our first assignment. This is Khloe, and her two-week-old puppy Korra.

Khloe is a maltese whose former owners were hobby or "backyard" breeders. She was surrendered to the shelter along with some other dogs after they had to vacate their home.

Korra is far too young to be put up for adoption, and still needs her mom. So they will be staying with us in our spare bedroom for the next six weeks while Korra grows up. Then both mom and pup will go back to the shelter to get ready for adoption. They're both incredibly sweet dogs, and I'm certain they'll find loving homes quickly.

Fostering can be a fairly big commitment of both time and energy, and is not for everyone (though if the idea interests you, I strongly urge you to look into programs in your area). However most of these shelters rely heavily on volunteers and donations for their daily operations, and the care of these animals. Everything helps, from volunteering to walk the dogs, or just buying an extra bag of dog/cat food to donate. Do a search for local animal shelters in your town to find out what ways you can make a difference in the lives of these animals.