Early platformers were all about that climb to the eventual top or the end of the stage, and challenged you in so many ways. I’m probably dating myself here, but I can recall many hours spent trying to ensure that I could make it to and beat the boss of any NES Ninja Gaiden stage, try to climb my way up to the top of the tower in Bionic Commando, and carefully bounce my way up into hidden heights in Metroid.
I’ve always been a fan of games that use another medium that on its surface appears to be one type of game but is really sending or communicating another message through its mechanics. With one of the concepts of this series being that most of it has to be non-verbal and speak through the way that it’s presented, it makes this little practice even more interesting in terms of the kinds of ideas that can be communicated to players.
Identity has been a big thematic part of many developers’ entries into the Meditation Games series, and much of some of the identity exploration has not surprisingly surrounded sexuality or gender in some form or fashion. These are, before most anything else, one of the markers of how someone tends to identify themselves as, and the journey, trials, and tribulations that those that are non-binary go through as a result of society’s default need to place in one box or the other is the part of the subject of today’s entry. The other part of this identity discovery is the result of finding out how you operate, how you are mentally wired, and what, if anything, you need to do in order to cope with and accept that wiring – a common theme for those that deal with the stigma of mental health issues.
These days, I’m all about having games be as accessible and easy as possible, and most of it might be the fact that I’m well and keenly aware of the fact that I’m older, have less time for games and tend to fall asleep more than stay up for night time gaming sessions. But back in the good old days, I relished a challenge, and there was no greater challenge that occupied by younger days than a STAR WARS game.
A bunch of people I know aren’t much for JRPGs due to the amount of mindless grinding they can sometimes require in order to reach your goals. It’s possible that part of the reason that I can play and enjoy them is because I have an understanding that the genre, for all of its bland repetitiveness in terms of doing things sometimes, may have nothing on the grind that people can sometimes find themselves in when they’re going through a job that isn’t really doing anything for them.
There’ve been a few Meditation Games entries that have taken the outside/nature element to include in their games, sending a message that an epiphany of sorts is waiting for those that go out into the natural world and take in its wonder and beauty in order to gain that insight. But the 122nd entry in the series kind of turns this the opposite way, putting forth that sometimes it is something that is manmade that brings out that sense of insight and self-reflection about one’s nature.
This meditation games entry, to me, speaks for itself, and that’s probably not a surprising thing considering my close proximity to the games industry through all the work I’ve done it in for the past decade plus or so. While there’s a bit of comedic absurdity in presenting what at first seems to be a slapstick way of displaying a rough work environment and the literal consequence of working until your hands fall off, there’s also a bit of dark undercut as far as the mood and the presentation is concerned, and it surrounds two systemic issues in games that many studios struggle with today – that of a volatile, stressful work environment and the dangers of enforcing practices such as crunch in order to get games developed and out the window.
ometimes the value of creating something has much more benefit than on the surface. Making something is like being a god in a universe of your choosing. We have the ability to make something of nothing, put it where we want to, shape it how we want to have it shaped. We have complete and total autonomy over the thing that is formed and we bring it into being just as we have the ability to destroy it and start over.
A lot has been made of some of the previous entries in the Meditations Games series for putting things together, grabbing parts and combining them, trying to solve puzzles. This entry, however, puts things on its head by embracing the fact that while there are times for the puzzle to come together logically there are times when this is not the case, that we should embrace differences and the way that pieces don’t fit together, or even leave holes.
There was an interesting dual goal with this entry in the Meditation Games series, and it wasn’t as obvious from the launcher quote or the gameplay at first – but with good reason. The biggest of these reasons would be the fact that we’re conditioned to overcome obstacles in games or “win” the game at the end of the day. We see something we have to get past and we try to push through it. We see an objective (even an optional one) and we have to work our way through it. Even when we complete games, for some of us they aren’t really “complete” until we do every single thing there is to do in them, even if some of those things require a ton of extra effort and work.