Electronic Super Joy: The Fun in Losing
I’m not much of a gamer. I didn’t grow up with consoles. I didn’t play Pokemon on my GameBoy at summer camp. I didn’t really know what Halo was until my boyfriend in high school introduced me to it. Even without a formal introduction, I fell in love with games. I have loved everything about games since middle school. I would watch Let’s Plays until it was time for school the next day, sneaking my iPhone 3 into my room at night to watch a HankGames episode of Portal. I’d spend my lunches in the cafeteria next to teens with Nintendo DS’s, asking what they were playing but never daring to try it myself. Games were becoming mainstream quickly, and it was finally inevitable that I gave it a shot.
I eventually started playing games in high school, and boy, did I suck. In another piece I will discuss the intuitive nature of consoles, controllers and keypads, but for this I’ll just say I didn’t even know how to hold a controller when I began. I later got better, and started playing games on my computer (the Macbook Pro I’m typing on at the moment). One of the first games to really grip me, Let’s Play unassisted, was Electronic Super Joy.
This game is very good at a few things. The music is phenomenal, to the point where the soundtrack makes the same amount of money as the game does. The graphics are stunning, even with the warning that they may cause seizures and dizziness (this is no joke, spinning and flashing lights are one of this games fortes). But what may be the most important of this games traits is that it is frickin hard.
Electronic Super Joy was, and still is, one of the hardest platformers I have ever played. It’s fast, its tricky, the gravity changes, the enemies get harder, and the game itself was designed with the finesse of a Ninja Warrior course. It may be easy for some, but this game was the pinnacle of difficulty for me. It took 30 minutes to face harder levels, hours to complete a boss. Yet, the entire time, I sat smiling and laughing. Yelling in surprise and excitement from reaching a checkpoint. Cheering after striking down a boss. The neighbors even knocked on my door to make are everything was okay after my loud succession of “No!!!”s and “UGHHH”ing.
I was experiencing a feeling I can only describe as being a “Proud Loser”. Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t want to win, or that it was more fun to lose than to keep progressing, it is more so the phenomenon of not being a sore loser. I’ve played many, many rounds of Halo, Call of Duty, Destiny and even Forza. The experience of losing is harsh, at times even painful. “Gamer rage” plagues first person shooters for a short-tempered bad gamer such as myself. I hated losing. I would get the least number of kills, the highest number of deaths and be the ultimate anchor for a team. Respawning and dying, respawning and dying, over and over until the game ended. Losing was not fun. Nothing about it was enjoyable. It makes you feel bad, like you couldn’t ever get good.
ESJ was where I felt happy being a proud loser. The feeling of missing a platform, getting hit by a missile and falling to your death was an experience. It was an opportunity. You learned a little each time you missed and every time you were hit. You could try it again without consequence, study your moves and how the game works. You could try to be patient, or attempt to outrun your obstacles. The way to win was directly in front of you, it was obvious and you could do it. You didn’t need to watch a tutorial if you got stuck on a level, the only thing a walkthrough would tell you is to try again another way. The way to win ESJ is to try it until you do. Losing is still losing, but sometimes its what makes a game worth playing.