The thing I really like about these games is that you get out what you put in; when you invest some time in improving a puzzle you usually learn something. My friends list is full of really good players so I don't try to be too competitive, instead I just enjoy the satisfaction of watching a well-designed machine perform its function perfectly. That's not something that I often get in my day job.
ThreadJonathan Blow is designing his own programming language for game development
Complaining about C++ is almost a performance art in the games industry these days but I have yet to see anyone seriously make inroads into replacing it. I think the situation would have to get a very great deal worse before there was enough momentum built up to start moving off it.
High performance computing still (often) uses FORTRAN and that language practically spits in your face every time you run the compiler. That's how much power inertia has.