Enjoying Failure

I suck at computer games, that’s a fact. Actually I’m not incredible at games in general with a few important exceptions. Weirdly there’s no consistency, I’m pretty good at chess and yet my strategic skills seem to fly out of the window as soon as I sit down to play any other game that needs them; luck does not favour me, my dice have shown me this, and only the presence of someone with considerably less luck than me can fix my dice.

So why, in the face of such constant defeat do I persevere? I’m certainly no glutton for punishment, and success is always preferable, that’s universal. Yet time and time again I will revel in my failures, and often they’re far more memorable than my victories… but in a good way.

Explosions

For those of you unfamiliar, Besiege is a game still under development that was opened for early access about a year ago (January 2015) in which the player is presented with a simple task, something along the lines of “destroy that building” or “get past all those things and sit there”. The challenge then becomes building the vehicle that moves and destroys.

Besiege_Screen4_big

You never really know exactly how much effort goes into making something steer until you’ve actually tried to build something that does. It’s also a fascinating process incorporating fire into a structure made almost entirely of wood. Time and time again I have scrapped the lot and gone back to the drawing board amidst a heap of burning rubble, defeated by a stationary windmill positioned infuriatingly on a ridge that I can’t quite climb, and yet still I will try again.

Now failure itself is an enjoyable experience in Besiege, watching the vehicle you spent better part of half an hour on shake itself to pieces the first time you attempt a turn, or gods forbid anything so radical as a trebuchet arm. Yet going back to the beginning repeatedly becomes a pleasure too, revisiting simple problems from the ground up leads to a process of trial, error, failure, tweaks, adjustments, failures, and eventual, accidental success.

I daren’t even attempt flying machines.

Platformers

There’s a recurring issue I have with platformers, and that is every time I fall to my death it seems to take me a long time to return to where I failed last. I’ve been playing Alice: Madness Returns, and I got increasingly frustrated with one very simple point. It wasn’t a puzzle to be solved, something hidden to be found, or a fight I found beyond my abilities, it was a couple of jumps that I was struggling to judge, and the walk back to the point where I could attempt it again took a while to get back to.

0
Also, the invisible platforms are kind of mean

Extra Credits did an entire video on the subject [skip to around 4:10], but the moral of this story is very simple: the faster you get to try again the more fun you’ll have. Platforming games in general tend to leave you with a long walk back to where you fell and you’ve usually managed to get through a few tricky obstacles in-between times.

Moreover, defeat in a platformer is rarely that fun. Instead of the wildly disastrous explosions of Besiege, we have disappointing falls as a result of bad timing. It’s a genre that finds a lot of love amongst people for whom skill is a pursuit and success is its own reward, but so help me I love a spectacle and a good story because I play to be entertained, and I prefer to tax my mind more than my reactions. A failure can be – and so far as I’m concerned, should be – as entertaining as a victory.

Experience

We fail so that we can learn, that’s a fairly simple fact. If we succeed at everything then we will be no wiser for it, although paradoxically our lives would be perfect.

Every failure is an opportunity to learn, trial and error, to see what brings you closer to your end-goal, and what takes you further away. This is true of everything in life, so each and every time your defeats become smaller it comes with the slight twinge of success, something that you carry forward to your next attempt and an opportunity for a new discovery.

These rules apply to gameplay, design, practically any skill you can name except for base jumping. It’s a learning process that is both enjoyable and highly effective.

I Wanna Be The Guy

Indie Freeware, now that’s a genre that makes most people run to the hills. Not because they’re bad, but usually because they come as a .exe file, which naturally scares people away. “Viruses!”, I hear you shout, but this is the story of a title about The Kid.

Indie Freeware, now that’s a genre that makes most people run to the hills. Not because they’re bad, but usually because they come as a .exe file, which naturally scares people away. “Viruses!”, I hear you shout, but this is the story of a title about The Kid. This title features no viruses, but a lot of frustration and a lot of pixelated red mist scenarios. From the never-ending spikes to the incredibly intricate jumps required, this is no easy task.

Whilst you are correct in assuming I Wanna Be The Guy is a parody game, that’s not all this title is about. From the get go, you’re met with a barrage of nearly impossible tasks. If you walk left then drop down the first hole and start to walk to the other, you’re met with a wall of spikes that tries to off you from the very start. This is the first in thousands of frustrating but well-designed traps.

I_Wanna_Be_the_Guy_title_screen

This type of game is known as a Rage Game, or (more accurately) a Trial & Error game and the genre dates back before I Wanna Be The Guy came out. But there was something so rage inducing about IWBTG that many people remember this as one of the hardest games of its kind. I, however, remember it as a way to test my patience and my endurance, for I completed it a long time ago. Amusingly, I consider this a crowning achievement of when I was 18 or 19… Somewhere around there, alright?

I’m tempted to start doing a full recording of me playing the game, getting through levels and have a death-o-meter. A recording of the time I manage to beat the zone, then a montage of all the previous failures before leaving the area. Why? Because I think it’d be rather amusing to watch at the very least. However, IWBTG isn’t the only rage game in existence and I’m looking to play some more of these, as I enjoy testing my patience.

i-wanna-be-the-guy-18

Bullet-hells are also in my radar too, as I really am into a challenge. Heck, my current main challenge is becoming platinum god on Binding of Isaac, but along the way I do like to do other games too. I’m not sure what’s given me the drive to become a gamer who takes on harder games, perhaps it’s the thrill in knowing that video games are designed to be beaten in the first place? Not all video games are designed specifically for this, but the vast majority are.

If there are any games you think I should go and have a crack at, let me know what they are. Perhaps they’ll end up on our YouTube channel soon enough, which I am working at bringing you all content on. It’s a slow process, which makes me fully appreciate people who do it full time and for a living. Running a website is tricky, running multiple channels for content is really tricky… But if there’s any way for me to share my passion for geekdom, which does include video games, then I’m all for it!

There’s a lot of games I’ve not finished… But this ties in nicely with my quest to get Perfect Games on Steam. Some of my games, sadly, are impossible to make perfect, but we’ll be covering this in our next GeekOut Podcast (Hear our previous one here), which can be heard this Sunday. Let me know in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter, if you’d like to see me trying some pretty tricky games in the very near future. I’m looking into getting an Elgato, as the little capture device I have isn’t quite performing as well as I’d have hoped, but I previously mentioned it’s not exactly a spectacular one.