Because I obviously don’t have enough on-going projects, I decided to post my video game backlog to encourage myself to play more games more often (i.e. publicly shaming myself into finishing games). This series, assuming I can keep up with it after this week, is me attempting to get through all those games that I have overlooked for one reason or another in my personal library.
That list and this project are not necessarily about me playing the games most people consider canon that I have missed over the years (because that list would take years to get through), but more more about me trying to get through games I have bought and never, in the case of some games, ever bothered trying them out.
Part of the reasoning behind starting this was that, as I was looking at other people start projects to go through games and having several conversations recently about me missing critically acclaimed games, I decided that, instead of trying to keep up with whatever the latest game is — Mass Effect 3 — I should concentrate on the games I have and spend time finishing games before starting new ones.
Having heard good things about the BIT.TRIP series over the last few years, I have wanted to try them out to see what all the talk was about. Thankfully, several of them came to Steam starting roughly a year ago and, while I don’t exactly remember buying it, I was certainly looking forward to playing RUNNER first.
I consider it a mark against any game when I cannot change the volume settings. As far as I could tell, there was no way to do that with RUNNER. As I tried various menus, I was tempted to alt-tab out of the game just to see if there was some config file I could change. Ultimately, I had to physically change the volume for my whole system (something, by the way, I prefer not to do because it means, as soon as I am done playing, I have to recheck my sound levels again).
I ended up playing for about an hour and half total. I got up to the boss level of the first zone and then stopped. After trying that level a couple dozen times, I grew tired of playing. The simple kinesthesia that the game does so well had become, over doing the same patterns over and over again, rote. While I was loving the quantization and the smooth animations — Everything is animated! — the frustration of not quite memorizing the patterns became too annoying and I stopped playing. I’ll probably go back, but not any time soon.
Having stopped playing BIT.TRIP RUNNER, I was back again at my Steam list and, still having a short amount of time left before I wanted to get around to writing up my thoughts for the night, I decided to jump into Super Meat Boy.
Comparing Super Meat Boy to my experiences just minutes before with BIT.TRIP RUNNER was fascinating. Everything I liked in RUNNER, upon starting Super Meat Boy, I found again. It had that same pattern memorization and kinetic frenzy that I loved in both games but, I decided after a few levels, I liked Super Meat Boy more.
While I might fail several seconds into a run of a level of Super Meat Boy, I could see where I failed (there would be blood trails) while also knowing that a perfect run was possible. In RUNNER, I hit several spots where I could not figure out what to do. I then be reset, have to go through the same pattern again, and hit the same spot. There were, I decided, too many verbs to memorize to make it a simple experience. I was having to second-guess if I was pressing the right buttons at the right time instead of just perfecting my translation of the mechanics back at the game.
In 20 minutes of playing Super Meat Boy I was able to clear World 1 while it took me 72 minutes just to get to, and keep dying at, the boss level of the first zone in RUNNER. That does, of course, say something about me, but it also says something about both games too.
While I am willing to fail in order to learn, if I can’t read the game well enough to parse what to do, I will eventually stop playing. It’s what happens after I fail that matters the most to me. Will I lose a few seconds or nearly a minute of play? Relative to the level, is that going back 10% or 85%?
For me, that percentage matters. Just because I had some time today doesn’t mean that I will always have the same hours another day to devout to playing a game. If it penalizes me for not learning its grammar and patterns fast enough, I probably won’t play it often. It’s really that simple.