Thursday, May 24, 2012

An Introduction to Failure

I'm back into the swing of recording Mega Man videos for my YouTube channel, and I am suddenly reminded of why I was so eager to take a break after finishing Mega Man 6. It wasn't just because I had spent almost two years maintaining a certain degree of focus on just one project; it was because I had spent almost two years on the kind of project that aggravates my perfectionist tendencies.

I don't just pick up and play these games; I practice extensively and retry excessively to yield the most impressive and unique videos I possibly can at this stage in my gaming career. I may be more experienced and arguably more skilled than the average Mega Man player, but that doesn't mean I can survive a battle with Slash Man unscathed.

There are enemy patterns I have yet to memorize, and creative solutions I have yet to think up. I push myself, sometimes painfully so, to achieve whatever goals I set for myself, regardless of how far out of my reach they currently are. It's only when there's some trick or strategy that is simply too difficult for me to consistently pull off that I admit defeat and try something different--but only after I've accomplished it at least once. Needless to say, my practice and recording sessions are often far more frustrating than they are fun. Especially when falling so far short of the mark on the intro stage.

Mega Man 7 kicks off with a simple introductory stage that involves a small area with four generic enemies, a miniboss who can be taken down in a matter of seconds if you're jumping and shooting quickly enough, a brief series of straightforward bottomless pits, and another miniboss fight that involves a pattern that is fairly easy to predict if you're observant. To add some flavor to such a mundane level, I'm going out of my way to come up with interesting and unconventional ways to tackle the challenges at hand. Everything I've come up with I can do with a reasonably high degree of consistency. The problem is doing everything consistently in one take.

I find myself sliding into enemies that, by my calculations, should already be destroyed by the time I move into the space they occupy. I'm misjudging timing and distance, causing me to stumble around and lurch forward awkwardly in a few sections. I know exactly how I want everything to look, and it's all within my grasp, but after spending an entire evening attempting to record, the only clips worth keeping were ones I could only use in a blooper video.

I recognize that I'm not always "in the zone" when I try to record, and that I often get the clip I desire within the first few takes if I step away and come back later. Ironically, I find that playing video games usually helps me unwind from playing video games. The problem this time around is that the only games I have going right now are Morrowind, which is becoming less relaxing to play due to the increased presence of a few enemies that really creep me out, and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, which would be much more fun if I wasn't failing constantly at missions that require you to complete the same challenge multiple times in a row, with a little bit more difficulty each time, for as long as 10-20 minutes if you're not playing like an expert, with parameters that can cause you to instantly fail the stage if you or the bad guys shoot the wrong thing. I seem to have picked the wrong time to start a high-stress recording project if other video games are my retreat from it.

That's why I decided last night to sit down and play Mega Man. The original Mega Man. One of my favorites. One that I'm good at.

One that still kicks my butt on occasion.

I got a few Game Overs. I wasn't playing for speed or to impress anyone; I just wanted a casual and relaxing evening of playing a game I love. I also tried out a boss order I've never done before, following my wife's helpful suggestion to fight Elec Man before Cut Man. (Pro Tip: Don't fight Elec Man before Cut Man.)

With some practice and experimentation, I finally settled on a strategy that allowed me, for the first time in my Mega Man career, to defeat Elec Man--arguably the most difficult robot master in the entire series to defeat without a special weapon--without a special weapon.

Well, there was that time where I beat him with just the blaster in Mega Man: The Wily Wars, but I chalked it up to luck and a few technical nuances unique to the game that made it easier to succeed than in the NES original. Still, my victory was exhilarating, and I definitely threw my arms up in excitement and let out a "woohoo" that you probably heard if you were anywhere near the east coast of the US last night.

I think I needed the break from recording, but I think I needed that sense of accomplishment more. I needed that reminder that I'm not a total failure if I don't succeed on the first try--especially when I'm attempting to pull off stunts a game neither requires nor encourages. And I needed to have that sense of accomplishment as the culmination of something I enjoyed doing. Video game success doesn't matter much if the path to success isn't any fun--the whole reason I've abandoned most of the tedious optional quests in the games I've played over the past year or two.

I'm recording these videos for fun. It's time to have some fun with that intro stage.


JoeReviewer said...

Oh yeah, I do remember the moon being rather close around the time just before you announced this on your youtube channel. I wondered what that sound was... :P

I was screwing around trying to be impressive on Stone Man's stage and get that trick where you slide into that Met with Charge Kick down consistiently. From my regular casual playthroughs I've got maybe a 50% accuracy on that trick, but suddenly I really start to try and perfect it and it all goes downhill! Ah well, it's not like there's a ton left of Stone Man's stage left to make look goodohwaityesthereis |:/

Ah well, MM5 is still fun to be playing, and wish you luck on your intro stage!

Flashman85 said...


I think that about sums it all up, thanks. ;)