“Masocore” is one of the ways that “games people” refer to devilishly difficult games that, basically, you’d have to be a masochist to want to play. I guess the second part, the core, comes from these games being “hardcore” and difficult. There are lots of other words for it, but I find that one nicely poetic. This week, the Curious Games studio explored some masocore games like “Kaizo Mario” and “I Want To Be The Guy.”
Actually, the most masochistic part for me was trying to get either of these to work on a mac (Wine, Wine Bottler, x11…what a nightmare)…and I’m only partially kidding. In the end, I just went and played on a PC instead. I decided to play “I Want To Be The Guy” and get as far as I could. I also didn’t install any of the mods that are on the site. After an hour (at least it felt like an hour), I finally realized that I had to go out through the top instead of going through the bottom of the level, made it through the first cherry tree screen pretty easily, then died disconcertingly often on the spiky cloud screen, remembered that I could change directions midjump and finally got past it, then remembered about the invisible blocks in Kaizo Mario and made it by the next screen. At the Game Over screen, it didn’t occur to me to go back the other way until, after spending about 4 hours with the game, I decided to watch YouTube videos of other people playing this game. I was trapped in the idea that the game should progress to the left because that was what I had done so far. I watched people cakewalk through level after level and turned off my computer, shuffling away sadly to get my scuba gear ready for the weekend as Charlie Brown music played in the background.
Okay. So. These masocore games: when things were working and I was playing well, it felt amazing. I felt like a totally badass gamer. When things were going wrong, I felt like I was some kind of fraud who couldn’t even make it past three screens of a platformer.
I guess what I’m used to doing is either having to solve puzzles or perform motor skill and hand-eye coordination feats – not both at the same time. The only way to prove a hypothesis about the puzzle/level that you’re working on is to try it and see, and if it doesn’t work, die and start over. I also don’t often play platformers, so my skills were definitely subpar. The last platformer that I played was Braid. The truth is, I usually don’t find platformers all that interesting, and given limited time, I’m much more likely to play something else.
However, my fiancé and my friend Colin love this kind of stuff, so I decided that instead of just giving up on “I Want To Be The Guy,” I’d take it to them. We played for a while, they agreed it was hellishly difficult, and I decided that it was much more engaging to play as a group. Then, since Colin has totally legally acquired every NES and SNES game ever, we decided to play other “difficult” (i.e: masocore) games. We played “Kid Icarus” for a while and “Goblins and Ghouls,” and a few others. There are so many dumb ways to die even in these games that are not billed as masocore but are just generally considered difficult that I felt better about the whole experience in general. If I ever have some spare time and “I Wanna Be The Guy” is the last game left on earth, I think that I could eventually get farther than I did – maybe even go all the way. For right now, I dedicated the time that I could to it, and “IWBTG” took me out like I was a total n00b.