A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how roguelikes and other difficult systems-focused games foster the “good death.” Games like Spelunky are harsh but satisfying. Their rules are consistent and understandable, so each death is an instructive experience. Each death is also a clean end to a singular story. You start the game, build up supplies, and eventually your adventure comes to an end. There is no need for mental gymnastics when faced with respawns in story-driven games.
I think these aspects explain much of the current roguelike renaissance, but there’s another phenomenon that is equally important. We’re tackling challenging games in a more socially connected way than ever before. We don’t mind dying because we’re dying together.