Found this in the Guardian, via RPS:

It’s a fairly in-depth and comprehensive discussion about the role of frustration in gaming, including quotes from a number of prominent game designers.

I agree with many of its premises, including frustration as an inescapable and perhaps essential component of certain genres of games (a topic which I covered extensively in a previous post).  I certainly also agree with the idea that games which can have frustration also include alternate paths and outlets so that a particularly frustrating bottleneck cannot derail your enjoyment of much of a game (such as more linear games like some modern shooters).  I don’t agree, however, that the GTA games given in the example always do this well, as they are notorious for locking out huge portions of the game world behind a series of badly-checkpointed missions with arbitrary difficulty spikes – instead, I would point to Saints’ Row 2 and 3, which allow for generally complete game exploration at any time and missions are generally only necessary to advance the narrative and provide occasional bonuses.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t spend much time on an issue that I think is even more relevant with frustration: what it means in an industry that is competing for an ever-dwindling slice of entertainment time.  If indeed most gamers are those in their 20s and 30s at this point, then it means that between work, family obligations, continuing education, and a whole host of other things, leisure time is limited, and needs to be managed to allow for the most entertainment possible within that time.  While it’s true that books and movies can be bad, they have a fixed consumption time; put compulsive frustration into a game, and it can eat far more time than necessary, while providing you with a diminishing return on pleasure in exchange for that time.  Again, as I mentioned before, this is contingent very much on the game type: while I’m generally okay with playing pinball for long enough to enjoy the experience, whether I get to an endgame mode or not, replaying and failing the same awful mission in a shooter that prevents me from playing the rest of the game is frustration without reward.  As a result, my purchasing decisions have definitely changed – if I see that a game has issues with that sort of bad frustration, I probably won’t even touch it on sale.  Instead, I find that I spend my gaming time far more on open-world games with a multitude of options, and the ability to make my own fun for a while if I don’t want to tackle a particularly vexing mission.  The point here is that in today’s gaming landscape, hardcore gamers who are willing to jump on any challenge are probably a dwindling slice of the pie, and that for a game developer, it is very important to consider whether the elements of frustration in your game are enhancing or harming the overall experience.

Or, simply heed the warning, in this quote from the article by Mike Bithell, developer of the game Thomas Was Alone:

“… Players are pretty tuned into spotting when the frustration is through bad design rather than challenging gameplay, and it’s a very quick way to lose someone. I’d always aim for accessible complexity and challenge, rather than deliberately setting out to frustrate.”