Yesterday was a great day. The kind of day where the sun threatens to overdose one’s skin on that important vitamin D, and a small jaunt outdoors results in a longer trip where all friends are met and a good time is had.
But to be honest, after a recent game I made I needed it. I needed some happy.
On this walk, I was talking with my partner about games and game theory. Indeed, they not only support my writing here on Verboten, but admit to wanting to do this kind of thing themselves if only they were more knowledgeable about the subject and maybe a little dyslexic. And in this chat, I happened upon a new way to look at some of my favourite games.
A common theme in videogames, especially (but not limited to) arcade games, is that you as the player are generally the last hope for whatever the resolution to the game scenario is. The last R-9 pilot fighting the Bydo Empire in R-Type. The last remaining hope against the Robotrons. The one animal who can stop the tyrannical technological terrorism in Sonic the Hedgehog. One person versus a mountain of seemingly insurmountable odds.
And, to begin with in any unfamiliar game, those odds can seem immeasurably stacked against the player. Why even bother from that point on?
Personally, I like that I’m outnumbered. I like that everything is out to get me, because in most cases a game is designed to be beaten. A good game is designed with a solid ruleset that facilitates the player eventually learning how to best it. Psychologically, games as a medium come with the innate knowledge that they can be beaten. It may just be a matter of time, or rehearsal, or study. But games can be beaten. A game is never a problem, just an obstacle one can eventually navigate. Or leap over. Of find a weapon strong enough to smash into 8 bits.
My favourite games all outnumber me in a manner that I can beat. Eventually. And I love that about them.