Will Collier at VodkaPundit highlights a talk by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, who said:
In 1982, he tells us, there were 44 million gamers. Today, there are 18 million. Where’d they all go? “Complexity lost the casual gamer,” he says.
I doubt the 18 million figure is accurate, as do many commenters to the post. But I'll agree that complexity has lost me as a player of video and computer games.
I grew up with video games, playing most of the offerings at countless arcades and the games at hotels, amusement parks, restaurants, and elsewhere. I had my "good" games, particularly Super Pac-Man, but many others. Yet I could drop a quarter in any game. These games in the 80's could be understood by reading a small box of instructions on the side of the screen; alternately, you could watch another person play and figure things out quickly.
Starting with the early 90's and Street Fighter 2, there came games where you couldn't simply play them. You needed to know secret moves and techniques. Worse, these games were head to head. I played a few of the fighting games, but then someone else would want to play head to head, and there's no reason I would want to do that, since I'd lose horribly.
Thus, in the 90's, I was left playing games from the 80's and several puzzle-type games: Don't Pull (a redone version of Pengo), Puzzle Bobble (a.k.a. Bust-A-Move), and the similar Puzzle de Pon!.
Today, I can't compete against a seven year old in any game, since I haven't played for twelve hours a week, every week, to familiarize myself with the game play.
Similarly, my taste in computer games is stuck in my college years, with turn-based games like Civilization 2 and Master of Orion. I don't like real-time games, and forget head-to-head play. I've found I don't even want to invest the time learning the new versions of these games, as I don't have the time.
My game system history: Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation, X-Box. Played several more at friends' houses, and used roommates' systems, so I have played most of the systems through the mid-90's.
There's a debate on which games are better. Many say the old games are better, since with limited memory, the game play had to stand out. I tend to agree, while recognizing that nostalgia plays a healthy role in my reasoning.
One commenter said, "I don't think there's been a truly original game idea since Tetris." I remember a JoyStik magazine that said the same thing back in 1983, lamenting that Dragon's Lair was the only unique game from that year. And as I think about it, there aren't a whole lot of original creative video games since then. Possibly the most unique is 720°, the skateboarding game. I'll give nods to Tetris (though there have been other puzzle games, it created the falling block puzzle game genre); Street Fighter 2 (though there have been other fighting games, it created the head-to-head fighting game with secret moves genre); and Super Mario Bros. (again, creating the side-scrolling platform game with hidden items and secret levels).