posted on 6.4.13
Get It Right or Die a Few Thousand Times Trying: How Roguelikes Feed My Neuroses
I’ll readily admit that a lot of my favorite games are tremendously difficult. Dark Souls, Spelunky, Super Meat Boy—yes and hell yes. But I get a little squidgy when I’m accused of being a masochist for liking or loving these games, and that happens a bit more frequently than you might expect. I usually offer the same defense: no, I don’t enjoy dying or being punished, but I do appreciate when obscene difficulty is paired with elegant design that distills challenge into a small roster of basic choices that make the difference between a win and a loss. When even the simplest choices matter as much as the big ones.
But that’s the game designer answer, not necessarily the personal one, which is as follows: I think I scratch some sort of itch when I’m presented with a wicked problem and an inexhaustible supply of attempts to solve it.
First of all, read this just because my friend Aaron is one of the best goddamn writers I know.
This is fascinating to me because while I don’t play or think I’d enjoy the kinds of games he’s talking about, I can totally identify with the unique brand of perfectionist tendencies (in playing video games and in life) he describes.
I’m playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 like that right now. There’s a mode called Legends of the Majors, in which you’re tasked with matching great moments from golf history (sometimes, with recreating a specific shot). There are two levels of completion — one where you come close, and one where you match it (or best it).
I’ve sat on my bed for half an hour with one single event, trying to get the ball to fall into the cup, retry after retry. And it’s not a quest for some meaningless in-game achievement or something; it’s a compulsion that crops up in everything I do. And the idea of letting go of the obsession with “that perfect run” is something I’ve been trying to embrace lately, in life if not in games. Sometimes you get there; sometimes, you come close and just have to take what you’ve learned and move on.