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Musings on Challenge


I have probably sunk something like 20 hours into Super Hexagon. Probably more. On the first night I bought it I beat Hexagon mode. Last week I finally beat Hexagoner. Now I'm finally working constantly on Hexagonest and the hyper modes. I play it whenever my thoughts start to get so overwhelming that the only thing to do is to blast those thoughts away with the singular focus of Super Hexagon. I know I probably won't win anytime soon. I mostly play at this point because I like the way that “excellent” sounds when I beat my last record. I like the way that the game looks on Hexagonest when I'm able to keep up with. And I like having that impossible challenge.

I also recently bought Hotline Miami, another fairly brutally hard game. Again, loud techno turned up to the maximum of what my computer allows, blears for me the lines of reality until all that matters is the next kill and avoiding death. I learn the unforgiving rhythm of the game. Given, the game doesn't really support 20 hours of gameplay yet, but I have something like 10. Eventually, it clicks into my head the beauty of the challenge, the scoring of the game being opposed to the survival of the player. But with what might as well be the sound of “begin” from Super Hexagon, after the 1000th time I've died, I get up again, bash in the door and the guard behind it, grab the bat, hit the guard, and die to a dog I didn't turn around fast enough to hit. But I don't want to stop. I want to win, because Its suppose to be hard, and I want to prove that I can.

I also recently took a liking to a pair of rogue-likes, FTL and The Binding of Isaac. I think I probably sunk something like 20 hours into Isaac in a week. Which might not be that much. But I just had to try and try, again, and when I finally beat Mother, got my first run, I was so happy I took a victory lap. I have yet to beat FTL though. I can get to the last phase of the boss, sometimes, but that’s it. When I win, it will be glorious though, even on easy.

I also have a long habit of playing 2d fighters. I recently finally manned up and started playing persona 4 arena online, as well as UMVC3. I lose. A lot. At low levels. I don't have the reaction time or muscle control to win on a regular basis. But I don't want to stop. I think that maybe, if I just keep on playing this, keep on playing Hexagon, and Starcraft 2, and losing a lot and uselessly celebrating every little win. I'd probably spend way too much time on Dark Souls if I could.

Its pointless. It really is. I don't even have any friends who play the same games I do, so boasting of my achievements, while nice, is rather pointless. When I say challenge I don't even mean playing on the hardest difficulty or anything. I just mean having a conflict, between you and the game design or a player and another player, with an obvious outcome.

But recently, my rather new obsession with difficulty has spread out to other parts of my life. I took up Parkour soon after I moved on to campus. Again, I have method to remove reality out of reality. To put up artificial challenges and achievements for myself where none really exists. There is a very small probability that anything I do will involve properly getting the kong vault down, or being able to safely jump larger distances than I could before. And of course, I didn't exactly make a point to stay in shape before this as well. But after a couple months, My standing jump height is pretty good if I may say so, and sometimes I can manage to wall run up 12 ft or so. That's impressive to say, but is there a point to it beyond challenging myself? Is there a point to this challenge beyond seeing what I can do when I abandon the safety of common sense for the danger of the ridiculous? I don't really think so. But I do it anyway. And I don't think its just for the fitness either. There are gyms, and I can use them, but they don't have the appeal of instant satisfaction. Maybe I put myself in more danger in Parkour. But every jump has the feedback of having survived, while with traditional workouts, which I don't have the endurance to do anyway, are just meant to be trusted that you'll be healthier if you them.

I've found that the seeking of Challenge and feedback has bled into other places in my life as well. Whats my justification for studying math/computer science? Its a logical and mental challenge, and you know if you did it well faster than an essay. Why take Taekwon do over Tai chi? Because, even though I'm small and will probably get hurt, the Taekwon do class has a sparring element, which will put me at risk unless I figure it out and get better. If you take a look, I've only been writing for a couple months. I started because I began to understand that I only lurk because its hard for me to put up work to be judged by other people, to even have an opinion with the fear that I'm wrong. So here we are. Writing as self-indulgent personal narrative blog. Awesome.

But I only recently noticed how much this was part of my mindset. And honestly, I wonder if its healthy for me. I'm wondering if I'm gaming to many things, and if what I look for in games is starting to affect what I choose to sample. I'm sure, for example, that Journey is good. Everyone says so, and I'm inclined to believe them. But I don't know when I'll play it. Story and atmosphere are becoming less a part of I look for in a game, and are replaced with excitement and challenge. I don't even know that I would like a game like, say, Dark Souls, since I don't know what the time between inevitable death and the next attempt is.

Sometimes I wonder if the challenge seeking is to block out what I think is an underwhelming reality. I guess I'll pass the question on to you? Am I really impaired by not really being in games that offer little challenge or excitement? Does anyone share in such a life-view, or have one similar in scope but different in subject? I'm interested in talking. Comments are below.
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About SomeWhatGreyone of us since 9:00 PM on 11.20.2008

I've decided that I'm going to take a stab at this game analysis/Critic thing. It's gonna be rough. But lets see what happens.