Distractions from other entertainment and the broadening ages of gamers are making developers take it easier on players.
Recently, I was playing Nintendo's "Super Mario 3D Land" on the 3DS handheld system.
It was incredible, with beautifully designed levels and addictive game play. It's maybe the best handheld game I've ever played.
At one point, I died several times on a tough stage.
Then came a surprise.
When I returned to life, a pop-up box offered me an item that granted permanent invincibility. Essentially, the game was letting me stroll unimpeded through the rest of the level.
This is Nintendo, the company that once brought us some of the most difficult games in the world -- brutally tough fare such as "Mega Man," "Battletoads" and "Castlevania." In those days, enemies were plentiful and your character had the resiliency of a newborn kitten.
Forget invincibility: Most old-school games couldn't even save your progress. They had to be completed in one sitting (or not at all). Gamers still invoke the phrase "Nintendo Hard" as a nod to those hard-core roots.
Have video games succumbed to the modern "everyone gets a trophy" mentality?
"Games have definitely gotten a lot easier and just more forgiving," said Patrick Curry, CEO of game developer Fun Machine.
Why is that?
"My thinking is that it's not that people are more casual [players]; it's just that we have so many more gaming options and entertainment options," he said.
There are lots of free games online or available on smartphones.
"And so if a game starts getting really hard, then there's something else I can go play that's going to be just as rewarding, without all the head-banging on the wall," Curry said.
There has been a gradual shift toward easier games over the past decade.
A turning point was the 2006 debut of the Nintendo Wii, the first major console system with motion controls, said David Kaelin, who owns the Texas-based Game Over Videogames chain of used-game stores.
The Wii "is the console that turned the tide away from the 18- to 21-year-old male gamers and what really opened it up to people who are younger, kids, and people who are older -- parents, grandparents -- just people with jobs over the age of 21," he said. "In order to make something accessible for more people, you essentially have to kind of water it down."
Back in the day (meaning the 1970s and '80s), games had simpler controls, with only one or two buttons to keep track of, Kaelin said.
"You just run and jump," he said. "Sounds easy, but they're actually really hard, and they require a lot of repetition because it takes a lot of attempts to get through a lot of those levels and the bosses on the older games."
Anyone who has played "Donkey Kong" knows this. But newer games are the opposite, Kaelin said.
"They're harder to figure out. There's a much higher learning curve on just learning how to hold and use the controller and all the buttons, you have about 10 different buttons to figure out ... and so just getting the hang of it takes quite awhile."
Added Warren Spector, who runs Junction Point studio, "I think it's only natural that games would get easier as time went on. I mean, developers are better at this now than we were back in the day -- we were totally making it up as we went along -- and certain kinds of games just started selling better while others -- harder, less elegant ones, mostly -- started selling worse."
There are lots of examples of technology getting easier over time -- think of photography, he said.
Spector said he recently tried replaying the original "The Legend of Zelda," a 1986 Nintendo classic that's basically the "Citizen Kane" of video games.
"All I kept thinking ... was, 'Man, how did I ever get through this when it first came out ?'" he said.