Super Meat Boy is a platform game where you control Meat Boy, a red cube of meat. The main purpose of the game is to save your girlfriend, Bandage Girl, who was kidnapped by Dr. Fetus. On each level, you must avoid traps and things that can kill you while trying to reach the end represented with Bandage Girl. I actually bought this game when it was on sale years ago, but I never really put time into the game as I don’t really enjoy platformers. They’re usually too difficult for my liking. When I started the game, I fooled around with the keys and watched as trails of blood would drop as I moved my character around. The gameplay seems simple enough, move around, jump, and avoid things to get the end and save the girl. The first few levels were simple and easy to beat because it tries to teach you the mechanics of the game. Obviously, as the game progressed the levels got harder and you had to coordinate your actions better.
Caillois defines play as an activity which is essentially: free, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, and make-believe. Super Meat Boy is a game we can play that fits into all those categories. I can play whenever I choose and it’s not real. It has it’s own rules and is separate from reality. As a game, each time you die, you start again from the beginning of the level which is like nearly every game where you restart from the last savepoint. In this case, the save point is only at the beginning of the stage which you are on. As I start getting further in levels, I see myself at the starting point of each level more and more often. I’m waiting and thinking of my next moves more than I am actually playing the game now. I can see myself dying before I even start to move my character and it’s gotten to the point where I want to give up. This is not “fun”but then again, most platform games aren’t fun for me.
Raph Koster says that “fun from game arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun.” I am slowly gaining mastery of this game as I see each level and progress through the mechanics the game decides to throw at me. I’m starting to comprehend the movements of the things that are trying to kill me on each level as I spend time dying to saws or falling into pits. I’m solving each level like a puzzle and surprise, surprise, I’m still not having as much fun as I thought I would be. At this point, I want to stop playing because I’m just stuck on levels and about to bang my head against a wall. Nothing good would come out of continuing this session while I’m heated so I decide to stop and watch videos of people playing the game. I come across many videos of people either raging or having fun. There seems to be no middle ground while playing this game, you either enjoy it or don’t. As I watch the videos, I’m learning how others play and taking that in. I plan on using what I see on my next and hope it’ll give me better results.
On my last playthrough, I grab a beer because games should be fun and relaxing. I shouldn’t be frustrated every time I die to stupid mechanics that I can avoid. Surprisingly, as I stop thinking about it, the game gets easier and everything feels more natural. I’m breezing through the levels that I used to think were impossible. I think I’m actually having fun now. I can feel myself getting closer to the computer screen as every time I die, I’m just more determined to finish the level. Who would have thought that I just needed to relax and play the game instead of thinking it through. Every time I go splat, the game seems more alluring because I just want to beat the level badly. When I finish a level I’ve been stuck on, I feel so satisfied that continuing to play feels like the best option. In the end, I got to really enjoy the game to my surprise. Almost as surprised as Meat Boy in this picture.
I will definitely play this game again in the near future when I just want to have a good laugh.