This never occurred to me, but it’s certainly an interesting point. I agree that the current generation largely has problems when faced with failure in the real world, but I don’t think I’d say that video games are the sole culprit.
I’d argue that video games play into it, as do the “participant ribbon--everybody’s a winner--all-inclusive” hypersensitive primary educations that kids are getting. Not to say that such morals are bad, by any means; but I’ve seen a lot of public discourse about how this generation has been largely shielded throughout childhood, and so is unequipped to deal with the realities of adulthood. I think it’s a valid argument, although older people too often draw false conclusions from it. (Tangent: Often times older generations neglect the socioeconomic realities that are forcing this generation to remain dependent on their parents for longer, and are all too quick to blame it on shoddy upbringing instead.)
When it comes to including video games in the mix of formative experiences for youth, I think two viewpoints regarding video games’ relation to success can be taken. One is yours, that they rob success of meaning by allowing easy and indefinite re-attempts, and thus foster a sense of “oh what does it matter if I failed, I can always re-do it”. The other is the converse: in some ways, I think video games can teach valuable problem-solving skills. Especially when it comes to strategy games, there are clear end objectives, and perhaps a variety of strategies that can be used to attain those objectives. If the motivation exists, players will likely try a variety of strategies until they find one that works, instead of just giving up after the first attempt. Very motivated players will probably try to plan out an actual strategy, rather than flying by the seat of their pants. I realize, of course, that porting this work ethic (so to speak) from video games to real life is a subconscious process that probably isn’t all that common, but I think it’s equally as valid as your point.
And, I would argue that the two often go hand in hand. A lot of times in real life, we’re faced with a complex problem and a limited amount of time in which to devise a solution. Both of the aforementioned points show that video games can instill a trial-and-error mentality which doesn’t work well on a limited timeframe. However, games can also nurture creative thinking and problem solving skills, as well as the ability to cope with small-scale failure (i.e. re-load). Success comes from finding a balance between the two. And unfortunately, I don’t think that that balance is very easy to find for a lot of people.
Now, to tie all this in with my previous point about the “feel-good” education system we have. This is the point at which I think everything comes together in a bad way. Messages at school about how failure is okay (“Everyone’s a winner in their own way!”) combined with video games’ quicksave-quickload mentality really can hamper young people’s ability to deal with failure. Together they teach that if you aren’t fully prepared for a task, it’s no big deal because failure is okay and you can always try again. Which is, of course, entirely not true.
Regarding expectations of success: I would argue along similar lines. As you pointed out, video games are designed to be beaten, and “Everybody’s a winner!” speaks for itself. I was reading an interesting piece a while ago about this, and what struck me is this: more egregious than the current generation’s bloated expectations of success is their expectation that said success will come with less work than previous generations have had to do. The author was arguing that older generations’ mentality was that success comes after decades of hard work, and that contemporary ideas of success are all but instantaneous, especially with all these Mark Zuckerberg/David Karp/etc types around everywhere. So, I think that this generation’s unrealistic expectations of success stems more from the apparent ease of success of internet millionaires, and less from the whole “feel-good” school/quicksave video game upbringing, although the latter certainly plays into it.
Suffice it to say that the relationship between video games and today’s youth is complex.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play video games on godmode, so I have absolutely no chance of failing, no matter how hard I try. Take that, adulthood!