Compared to the days of Half-Life, I believe games are harder to play these days. I love the Stalker games and really enjoyed CoP but I am having trouble with Clear Sky. The same goes for Call of Duty MW2 which is a lot harder than BFBC2. Playing on easy or regular should not result in immediate death upon spawning or require saving games every ten seconds. I like the challenge but at least make it playable.
I found MW2 to be far to easy on normal TBH. I had to turn it up all the way just to get a challenge out of it. As for Clear Sky, I've played through it on the Master Difficulty level and found it to be an absolute blast. It's one of those games that just becomes more immersive when the risk is heightened and you successfully pull off a raid or survive and ambush from mutants. Again, like with MW2, the lower difficulties I thought we're to easy (though they are meant to be so I can't say I didn't see that one coming).
Considering all the things we have in games now that are practically mandatory (checkpoints, save system, difficulty settings, continues, cheat codes) I'd say games have gotten progressively easier of the last 10 years. 20 YEARS ago they were absolutely brutal. I can only think of a half dozen SNES games I've beaten of our library of 20 or so vs beating pretty much every game I've purchased over the last 10 years.