Its not exactly the case that punishing games will not succeed. There's one game that is exactly successful because it is punishing. That game is "I Wanna Be The Guy". Every second of that game is an exercise in frustration that goes way beyond just being difficult. Yet it works. Now it is a free indie game so the terms for success for that genre of game is a bit odd to pin down but a lot of my friends and me played that game for hours. I still feel this is a discussion point.
That's not quite correct. From what I know, each individual one of IWBTG's challenges is something that most basic platformer-players could figure out to a reasonable extent. Each one gives clear reason for your failure (ie, you landed on the spike). It's the challenge of rote memorization and trained reflexes that makes games like that and Super Meat Boy interesting.
An example of a game that, say, doesn't identify your failure, is Uplink. It's a hacking game - if you leave logs of your IP address' access on another computer, then you don't fail right away. Instead, about a couple of minutes gameplay later, the company's security team arrives at work, discovers the hack, and then finds you through the access logs. All that happens on your screen is this:
You have been discovered attempting unauthorized access of a protected system. As per your agent agreement, the agency has now disavowed you and any knowledge of your actions.
Of course, that screen could come up any number of ways. It gives a certain appeal of authenticity, but to most players it might put them off for being difficult, rather than just challenging.
Its not exactly the case that punishing games will not succeed. There's one game that is exactly successful because it is punishing. That game is "I Wanna Be The Guy". Every second of that game is an exercise in frustration that goes way beyond just being difficult.
I recall the... Oddities... Being amusing until such a time they got old (And some are highly predictable - Of course some of the apples fall upwards in a game in the masocore genre), at which point they became boring.
I haven't read all the posts but just wanted to address that punishment can positively influence gameplay. For instance prince of persia (2008). It had a very short iteration time and only made you go back a few seconds. As a result there was no need to play carefully or plan. Even though some of the execution was difficult the game as a whole was very easy. It negatively impacted my enjoyment of the game. Its the only game i can remember feeling was boringly easy while still having over 100 deaths.
Couple of things to toss in here related to recent gaming experiences, related to the topic:
- Random number generator mechanics can be fun, but you need to be aware just how much of your core gameplay is reliant on them. They can be fun, but they can also be needlessly frustrating. XCOM 2012 is a fine example of a game that probably has a little too much RNG in the core gameplay, giving the feeling that your control over events is maybe a tad loose, especially on Impossible, where a single bad dice roll can result in the untimely death of a veteran trooper, even if you did everything "right."
Thing about difficult games for me is that they always get me angry. This has dissipated over the years, but when a game gets too hard, I tend to be turned off. True, I do want a challegen, but... well, a challenge I can complete.
I guess that came to a head when I played Super Meat Boy, where I could SEE how to do it, and the challenge was about me mastering the controls well enough to see it to the end! I didn't bother playing through some of the extra content, since I was satisfied in just beating the game, and it got REALLY insane after that, but I guess that's the kind of difficult I want to go for: where I can SEE how I beat the game/level, and the challenge is working up the skill to pull it off.