Badly Won Trigon

I’ve finally been playing Sword & Sworcery EP for the last couple of days, which has been very entertaining in large part. I have various complaints, of course, but at a fundamental level the game is aesthetically beautiful and well worth experiencing for anyone thinking about it who hasn’t yet. Today, while I was playing, I had an odd experience with the game which made me think about the odd combination of superstition and digital technology.

Specifically, I got to one of the “boss battles” that take place throughout the game where you fight a trigon (basically a glowing triangle) in order to take ownership of it and… something. Anyway, the battle consists of surviving various patterns, which boil down to a kind of version of Pong and then some quicktime events. I was battling away with this particular trigon and had made it to the final sequence when I screwed up repeatedly and died without defeating it (it still had two hitpoints left or something). Except that after the screen cleared from my death, the game glitched over to the version where I had won the battle and was taking ownership of the trigon.

That would all be well and good, of course, except that when this happened I became deeply trouble about the nature of the trigon I had acquired. That is, I genuinely worried that it was an inferior trigon because I hadn’t won it fair and square. I even developed suspicions that this would come back to haunt me later in the game – as if this particular trigon would crack at a certain crucial moment and I would lose.

Obviously this is a fairly insane reaction to a glitch in a game. For one thing, you know as a player that those sort of things just don’t happen, and for another, as someone who now makes games quite often, it’s blindingly obvious that something like that couldn’t happen. Yet the superstitious reaction here was very strong, my mind was so taken with the game-as-world and the game-as-game that it completely ignored the game-as-software / game-as-technology and instead concocted a narrative explanation (and implication) for a glitch.

On the other hand, this is also kind of beautiful – these are the kinds of unpredictable and strange relationships we can apparently have to games and the materials they are made from. It’s heartening to think that an experience so organic could arise the from the malfunctioning of code.

Unlessit’s all part of the game!

No, it’s not.

Unless…

14 February 2012
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