Challenge Gaming and “8-bit masochism”.

Since this blog is getting next to no attention for the obscure video game related stuff, I figure now is my opportunity to go several levels deeper and talk about an obscure “indie” game that is driving us all mad. I referred to “challenge gaming” a while back, suggesting that it is a bug that a few gamers have, but many are glad they lack. If you want to truly test yourself (and your patience), check out I Wanna Be The Guy.

I started playing it for the same reason that one climbs a mountain: because it is possible to do so. Obviously playing a hard as hell video game is considerably less manly than climbing a mountain, at least I’m realizing one of my callings in life and not freezing to death.

I Wanna Be the Guy is an extremely well made freeware game made by a dude named Kayin that makes nods to many 8-bit classics. Unfortunately, it’s only available for windows, but if you have an intel chip in your mac, it runs just fine under “wine” emulation, which is a beautiful thing. I’ve had access to a spanking new mac with an intel chip (or a “that chip” to some), so i’ve gotten halfway through the game and died 596 times already. 

My roommate referred to it as “a theoretical exercise in gaming”, and that’s kind of exactly what it is at times. As you space out and try 50 times to make the perfect double jump between two moving spikes, you will probably end up reflecting on what exactly makes a game a game, and what the relationship is between you, the player, and the game designer. It’s downright unfair in many places as well. Just when you think you’re safe, you get blindsided by an unexpected spike that comes out of nowhere, a falling block, or maybe a killer bird. Still, if you have the right mindset, you will press on… because the game compels you to. Sometimes it’s really glitchy too and your game will crash and you’ll lose your progress. This only seems to fit with the nature of the game itself.

I said it’s really well made, and it is. It’s full of hilarious references for those who are willing to look for them. Often you will be caught off guard by some really lame way of dying, only to laugh about it later. For the player, it presents a weird mindset where you know you are constantly being fucked with, and you’re trying to consistently expect the unexpected. It’s purposely bad in many places, but it’s an extremely nostalgic and well designed bad game… if that makes sense.

You probably don’t need me to tell you if you will like this or not. Enjoy it, it’s difficult, but rewarding. The struggle will be one of the greatest you will ever face. This also means that when you do achieve something in this game, it will feel better than most other gaming experiences. Maybe you’ll forget for a minute that you are sitting in the dark, listening to the same ghouls ‘n’ ghosts music loop over and over again, and think for a second that you did something incredible. Of course, right after that you’ll get smacked by a falling tombstone and scream at the top of your lungs.


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November 2008
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