I recently finished a second play through of Fable 2 and Fable 3. I came to a realization shortly after finishing the games. Both games are virtually impossible to lose. Losing all your life knocks you down and you gain a scar and lose some xp. Sure there is an achievement for not getting knocked down, but you can easily spam your unlimited magic or infinite ammo gun.
I thought about all my 8 and 16 bit games from when I was a kid. Mario, Mega Man, and Zelda never had difficulty settings on the NES. You got one difficulty, HARD! I've asked younger gamers "Have you beat Halo?" and I always get a "Yes". I then ask "What difficulty?" and the answer is normally "On easy" or "Legendary with 3 other friends". I can only shake my head in sadness.
Plenty of 16 bit games came with difficulty settings, but "easy" on Super Empire Strikes back was still darn near impossible. I wasn't even able to beat it with Game Genie.
Nintendo seems to have done the best job of maintaining the one difficulty to rule them all, but most other systems have not. I was talking with some friends today about the topic and one of them mentioned that the difficulty of the game was directly related to the bad user experience of the games..
I think the one saving grace of this has to be achievements/trophies. I know that I've beaten Bioshock on it's hardest difficulty without vita chambers and I have an achievement to prove it. However, I think it would be an even bigger accomplishment if they didn't allow you to save at any point in time. How easy would it be to beat Contra with 3 lives if you were able to save every 5 seconds and revert back a save spot or two the moment you die?
I wonder if this trend is related to the recent (recent being the last 8 years) focus on "Casual Gamers" and attempting to expand the gaming community.
I guess this boils down to the fact I'm from a different era of gaming and the young whipper snappers don't realize how easy they got it.