We want to believe that we are aware and peering into the “true colors” (to borrow from 18th century naval idioms) of the facts around us. Sometimes, however, we realize how blind we can be to the façades that face us every day. I had a moment of realization about this when I was playing Bit. Trip Saga a little while back.
The Big Moment
Bit. Trip Saga is a collection of arcade style games with various mechanics that range from dodging obstacles, to blasting 8-bit debris. Some of the games have a segment called “Nether Mode,” which the game transitions to when you are performing poorly.
“What is Nether Mode?” you might ask. Basically, all that happens is the music stops, the colors switch to black and white and all of the objects lose their dynamic gimmicks. The first time this happened to me, it opened my eyes (I mean, my eyes were open already, but you get what I mean).
It began to dawn on me that nothing had changed besides the flashy visuals and sounds. I was seeing the coded underbelly mechanics of this simple and fantastic game. When it really hit me, I was taken aback.
It became so much easier. Pieces slowly flew in my direction, and I instantly jumped from being in system overload to being in control. So much so, that my first impression was that Nether Mode actually became easier; surely there were fewer blocks coming at me, or they were slower? It began to dawn on me that nothing had changed besides the flashy visuals and sounds. I was seeing the coded underbelly mechanics of this simple and fantastic game. When it really hit me, I was taken aback.
Then, when I returned to the flashy mechanics, I played much better. Pieces that were spazzing and soaring from one side to the other, were easier to handle because I could mentally conceptualize them as simple blocks making around the screen just as everything else did. I was seeing through the elements of the game that aimed to confuse me much better than I previously had.
For me, the takeaway is both so very simple and yet layered in complexity at the same time. There are so many bridges to build just from the my reaction to this mechanic.
At the simplest level it makes me hunger to question what I am presented; question the who, the what, the where, the why, the when, and the how. Is there a beautiful core of simplicity that can provide a better understanding of the masking layers of complexity? And if so, how can I see through the disguise to ascertain that wisdom? Take the time to question and learn from the little diversions that distract the mind so easily. That is the simple takeaway.
Beyond that, so many branching ideas are begging to sprout forth. There is a discussion about whether the reality presented to us is any less of a reality than the one beyond the mask. My mind jumps to games like Super Hexagon where the flashiness is the very soul of the game. I ponder also about the opposite of my premise, considering how the flashiness of Smash Bros’ designs draws us into the world and lets us digest hitboxes in a way that ultimately holds more meaning than dealing with wire frames and geometric shapes.
But each of these yearns for a deep discussion over a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy day by the fireplace, and all I really wanted to convey with this piece was that big moment of realization. It was beautiful to me, and I wanted to share it.
So have you had any similar moments in gaming or outside of gaming, with a wonderfully unexpected flash of realization? Let’s chat!
Until next time, Game on and Learn On!